I eavesdrop on a lot of conversations. It’s a bad habit of sorts but eavesdropping on some verbal exchanges helps me determine how some of my characters may or may not interact with one another. It gives me material to pull from when I have to write those verbal interactions.
Today, as I shopped my favorite store, I couldn’t help overhearing an exchange between a group of young women. Young being old enough to know better. They were lamenting men and fathers and sperm donors--- "baby daddy" being the term of choice. One of them was bemoaning her boyfriend’s other lover forcing her child into the neat little package that was now his life. The current girlfriend had issues with him and his responsibilities.
One of her friends had the audacity to comment that were that man stepping up to the plate to be a decent father and take responsibility for the child that was his child, then that baby’s mama wouldn’t have to force anything on any of them. After their terse discussion I didn’t get the impression that the two women would continue to be friends.
It made me revisit my book The Right Side Of Love. There was a father in that story who didn’t want to be a father until it served his own personal needs. The main character was a woman who didn’t force him to be responsible for his son, not wanting to be that kind of woman. This father turned his back on his family, moved cross country and suddenly set down roots with a new wife and new kids, proving himself to be quite the paternal figure, all the while ignoring that he had another child who also needed him. It was one of my best books and, of course, there was a very happy ending.
The young woman with the issues couldn’t seem to grasp that if her man could so easily dismiss one child, then her own children with him might not stand a fighting chance. Heaven forbid if her children might one day have need of a father and his new woman needed him not to be.
Her friend tried to make her understand that if the boyfriend were half the man she thought him to be then he would be gladly making himself emotionally and financially accessible to all of his children, their well-being first and foremost in his heart. She stressed again and again that it should only have been about his child, who didn’t ask to be born in the midst of all their mess.
But girlfriend wasn’t hearing any of it. As long as her man was playing daddy when she needed him to, she wasn’t concerned about any of his other offspring. She couldn’t comprehend wanting better for herself, and more importantly, wanting a better example of a man for her own children to one day admire, respect and emulate.
Sadly, for her, having a small piece of a man was better than not having a man at all.