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I don’t really have much of an emotional connection to Father’s Day. It’s basically just like any other Sunday for me, and before social media provided an explosion of Dad-exalting posts every June, I’d often forget about it altogether, only to feel awkward when asked by a too-cheerful Trader Joe’s cashier if I had called my dad yet that day. I have a fraught relationship with both of the parent holidays, which is something I didn’t even notice until, every May and June, Facebook flooded with heartfelt praises of parents and their unconditional love. I don’t really have that, but being inundated with everyone else’s parental appreciation made me feel like I was missing out on something.

As a queer woman, I’ve channeled most of my adult life into subverting a heteronormative patriarchy to work for me: into celebrating my sense of self, into searching out creative ways to get my needs met, into honoring my own ideas of family. Oftentimes, my way out is through a consensual power dynamic with a romantic partner. Thanks to my gender and erotic identity (femme and submissive, respectively), and my sexuality (butch-oriented), this occasionally takes the form of Daddy/girl play.

I experienced a dearth of calming masculine energy in my early years, the natural consequence of which seems to be that the presence of dominant butch dykes makes me feel, at once, fluttery and relaxed. Folks who play with kinks of any flavor know the satisfying click-into-place feeling when two (or more!) people’s energies form a perfect circuit. It has the effect for me of filling this space where I feel alert and fucking on but incredibly centered and grounded. It is genuinely when I inhabit my ideal self.

And although I’ve also played with more generalized D/s roles, I recently settled into a particularly delicious Daddy/girl dynamic that inspired me to reexamine my relationship to Father’s Day. Exactly what makes this dynamic so good is too complex to succinctly describe, but it’s also not the point. I suppose, if anything, what makes this one unique is that I was the one who started it. I’ve played with plenty of Daddies before, but always because it was what they liked to be called and how they wanted to relate to me.

During less evolved iterations of my feminism, I’d bristle when partners called me “girl.” I had a desire to feel seen, to be respected, to get taken seriously in a way that letting someone call me girl seemed the enemy of. For whatever reason, the first time this particular top used the word, I calmly responded, “When you call me girl, it makes me want to call you Daddy.”

“You can call me Daddy,” they shrugged. And we were off.

Around Mother’s Day this year, when I was feeling characteristically left out of the internet’s collective love-festing, I began to wonder if anyone was using the day to celebrate their Mommy/girl or Mommy/boy dynamic. And it occurred to me that I could totally repurpose Father’s Day for myself in the same way. Wouldn’t it be completely sweet and adorable to take my Daddy out to brunch? To give them a goofy Dad gift? And wouldn’t it be super fucking hot to surreptitiously celebrate our kinky, “taboo” relationship in public with actual fathers and their daughters celebrating their perfectly mundane, vanilla Father’s Days? (Spoiler alert: I am also slut-identified, so this was an especially alluring idea to me.) I shared the idea with my partner and they simply replied, “I mean, that’s what I did with my Daddy when I was a boy.” (At which point, I physically transformed into a puddle of goo needing to be scraped off the floor.)

This Daddy wisely (as Daddies are wont to be) once said to me, “The cool thing about being an adult is that you can ask people to show up for you in the ways that you need them to.” That person can obviously opt out or in, but if they do opt out, you can leave them behind and continue searching. You aren’t stuck with parents or at a school or in a community that can’t meet your needs and never will in quite the same way as when you’re a kid.

I think part of what had once been so difficult for me about leaning into the girl role (besides, you know: ugh, patriarchy) is that it was scary to admit that I craved nurturing. I had always been seen as capable — I didn’t need help to get good grades, I didn’t need help to follow rules, I didn’t need help achieving — and so I was often denied support because that precious resource was reserved for people who needed it more than me. Or perhaps more accurately: it was reserved for people who needed it differently than me. But just because I was the first kid in the class to read doesn’t mean that I didn’t need help fostering my learning skills. Just because I could self-soothe and manage my behavior doesn’t mean that I didn’t need help recognizing and expressing my emotions. Just because I was capable doesn’t mean that I didn’t need to be nurtured.

But I had adapted so spectacularly to doing without that I told myself I didn’t need it. I was obsessed with my success at becoming a whole-seeming human, in spite of my circumstances, even though what I had actually become was a smoothly-running machine that never required others for maintenance. But receiving a little (or a lot of!) maintenance from another person can feel really good! And, in the classic conundrum of invulnerability, masking my deficits to attract someone only succeeded at leaving them oblivious to the maintenance I so desperately required. It was simply untrue that the way to get someone to like me was not to have any needs at all.

So the idea of taking Father’s Day and using it to celebrate someone who actually nurtures me, who sees me, who makes me feel safe, who cultivates vulnerability and never uses it against me, feels totally right. It makes the day feel like it can be for me again. It makes me think that I may have a hope of feeling included. One of the best things about living queerly is that you get to make up your own rules, and one of the best things about submission is reaching seemingly impossible expressions of flexibility. Bending the rules of this holiday to fit my needs has become my gift to myself.

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