The public fascination on the ugly divorce between Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger goes beyond the tabloids – even the chattering classes are chiming in on the heels of the notoriously bad-tempered Baldwin’s tell-all book A Promise to Ourselves, in which he rips into his ex-wife and divorce courts in general.
Controversial social critic and writer Caitlin Flanigan has penned a lengthy article in the May issue of The Atlantic in which she likens the father-daughter relationship that Baldwin (and all fathers, in her opinion) has with his teenage daughter* as “a kind of romance, one kept well in check by a variety of forces, not least of them the sexual flattening that prolonged domesticity does to all potentially erotic relationships” and likens his book to a “love letter to his daughter.”
The premise is cringe inducing, to say the least, but Flanigan attempts to clarify her stance by explaining how “a romance doesn’t need sex to flourish, of course, and in his daughter a father discovers a person whose very bloodline ensures that she will be charming to him …”
Ergo her point seems to essentially boil down to this: father-daughter relationships are driven by something akin to a universal Electra Complex, and dad’s initial romantic image of mom is gradually supplanted by a quasi-romantic fixation with his daughter– a conclusion I imagine most dads, including this one, would vehemently disagree. I have a strong feeling most daughters out there would feel the same way**.
Freudian psychobabble aside, there is a side to Flanigan’s thesis that rings true. We dads do have a love affair with our daughters – but it is as distinct from the romantic as it is from the platonic.
In fact, I contend that it’s mostly narcissistic – when I look at my own daughter, it often feels like I’m watching a reanimated version 17-month old version of myself – except now I’m a little girl in Beijing with a bowl cut, rather than the tiny, bowl-cutted terror I was in my birthplace of Houston, Texas circa 1974.
There are, of course, parts of our daughter’s personality and appearance that she gets from her mom (and grandparents, and even her aunt), mixed in with her own distinct traits – but the predominate resemblance between us is uncanny.
It seems to be no small coincidence that baby girls tend to physically resemble their fathers – perhaps nature’s way of keeping delinquent dads in check, or simply a matter of statistics. No matter the case, it does indeed engender a powerful and protective instinct in us dads when it comes to our daughters – but I’ll be damned if it’s got any other implications.
*The very same one he so infuriatingly chastised as a “rude, thoughtless little pig” via voicemail when he couldn’t get a hold of her on the phone – a message that was subsequently and presumably leaked to the press by Basinger.
**Although some theories suggest that we tend to find mates who resemble, at least in part, our parents(!)