When I looked this up on Wiki, I was presented with many different examples and explanations. A term called Avoidance Personality Disorder appeared. I looked further into it. Socially inept was a term I could easily use to describe my father. I had never heard of this disorder before but nowadays there is a name for everything. It describes as similar to social inhibition, something my father often displayed in my company. However, around others, my father reveled in social situations. At his church, he appeared as a confident and friendly man. He never gave the impression that he was really a nervous and frightened little man, incapable of talking to a stranger or asking for help. These tasks were impossible to him. He hated doing them and when possible he would avoid it at all costs.
That’s where I came in handy.
Enduring his endless abuse and insults were the least of my problems, I also had to contend with his incapacity to talk to anyone unknown. I became his voice. I fought hard not to but resistance was pointless. He could argue all night if he had to. He had these problems for as long as I could remember.
The worst social situations that he just couldn’t handle were:
- talking to women: Women were below him. He had no respect for them even when he liked them. So how could he talk to them?
- Speaking to the authorities: A genuine fear I think of his. He hated the police yet he never explained why. Doctors were all “idiots” who “didn’t know anything”, dentists were “imbeciles with no qualifications”.
- Restaurant staff: He never asked for help. In restaurants with me, well it was my “job” to order the food even at the age of sixteen. Worse off – it was my job to find the male toilets for him also at the age of sixteen.
- Neighbours: The worst social situation for my father.
Many a problem occurred as did many an argument about talking to the neighbours. My abuser would not even give our next door neighbour (a woman he had known for pushing thirty years) her Christmas present! The neighbours that bordered our back garden were the bane of my father’s life. Their garden was incredibly unkempt. Weeds grew freely as did the ivy at the bottom of the garden. The dreaded ivy had made it’s way up the side wall of our house much to my father’s anger. He ranted for months about the “morons next door” unwilling to actually speak to them about his worry. The more he left it, the more it incensed him and the more furious he became. Eventually, enough was enough. My father was at the end of his tether. It was time to face the neighbours. Not him of course but me. He handed me a letter one day to post through their letterbox. It was only two doors down but he was refusing to do it himself.
“If they open the door and see me then they will harass me, they are probably racists you know”.
What do you say to something like that?
“You are young. You are not threatening”.
His arguments never made sense which made it harder to refute him. He lavished in his utter nonsense. He was the only one who understood his madness. I often questioned him, encouraging him to speak to them but he saw it as patronising. I was not the parent. I was not allowed to reprimand him or tell him what to do whatever intention was behind it.
I was forced to approach these neighbours that I had never met to demand that they remove the ivy from our house. Thankfully, they were never at home. I wanted to just pretend I had seen them and lie to my Dad but the cynical and ruthless abuser would wait at the bottom of their driveway to ensure that I was doing “exactly” what was asked of me.
When the letters did not work, my father wanted to move onto the next step. A phone call. He knew the landlord of the property already so spoke directly to him. I was relieved that this was something he was willing to do. The landlord reassured him that he would take care of it.
Months went by and still the careless ivy grew.
My father was seething by this time. Insults would fly out of his mouth towards our thoughtless neighbours. It was time to take action himself. Armed with a large garden tool used for cutting branches, my father decided he would cut them off himself. He would climb over the fence and clean the bottom of their garden too so no more weeds would encroach on us. Excessive? Just a bit. Obsessive? Definitely. That summed him up.
I was horrified at the prospect of being a part of his madness. Again, it was my duty as a daughter to talk to the neighbours.
Every few years, the ivy would grow again and every few years the same arduous procedure would take place.
Even when I left home in 2010, my father would call me up to come back to tackle this unwanted problem. I became sick of it. I did not want this role he had thrown over me. I stood up for myself.
“You disgusting, piece of scum!” screeched from his mouth. I had broken rule number one. I had dared to disobey him. I had the audacity to say “stop” “enough” or worse still, “no”.
I learnt quickly to always be “busy” when he needed me to save him from his social ineptitude.