A Short Story for Father’s Day – by Linda Phu

I came home today with a brand new haircut and style – a treat to myself for surviving the recent stressful months. As I walked through the front door, my significant other was there to greet me –

Me: (primping and smiling) Sooooo ….. what you think?

Him: (hug, then signature wrinkle between the eyebrows) You know I always think you look great no matter what, honey. I’m just not used to seeing you with bangs … (that’s boyfriend-speak for “I don’t really like it, but I love you, so oh well.”)

How amusing … the last time that I confused a man whom I love by choosing to get a hairstyle with bangs was when I was four years old. Allow me to elaborate …

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When I was three years old, my biological mother left my father to return to her former husband. For a couple of years thereafter, it was just Dad – a struggling blue collar refugee from Vietnam – doing his best to raise a little girl on his own. I was almost four years old when Dad decided to move us from Nebraska to California so that he could attend auto mechanic school while we lived with his brother’s family. Uncle was the only relative and moral support that Dad had in the United States, and Uncle’s wife could help with child care while Dad pursued a new career.

Dad and I shared a room at Uncle’s house, and I can remember staying up while the rest of the family took their afternoon nap, waiting for the sound of Dad’s car turning into the driveway as he came home from school, so that I could run out to greet him and tell him all about my day. Dad was my world, but as a child, my mindset was that the entire world revolved around me.

A disruption came into my world in the form of That Woman – willowy, with long black hair, styled with bangs – who started coming over to dinner with increasing regularity. Dad was only in his mid-thirties at the time, and was a fit and fairly good-looking fellow, still in his prime. Also, as a single father – what the Vietnamese affectionately call “gà trống nuôi con”, or “a rooster raising a little chick on his own” – he generated a sort of attraction for a certain type of woman.

That Woman would bring me sweets, then would take Dad away from me for what would normally be our nightly father/daughter TV time. The breaking point came one evening when I was told that I would have to sleep in my cousin’s room for the night. How could my father do this to me?!

That night, I talked my cousin into finding her mother’s kitchen scissors. I then took the scissors and went into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. As my cousin watched in fear, I began to cut my own bangs. I can assure you that as a four year old, my ability to eyeball “straight” was quite skewed. Not to mention the “oh, just a little bit more here to fix that … oops … just a little more” …

I’m sure you can imagine the horror in Dad’s face when I presented myself in the morning. When asked why I had done it, I yelled, with all the righteousness in the world, “because you love That Woman more than me!”

Soon after, That Woman no longer came to the house to visit. I’m not sure what happened, but my little four-year-old-self liked to think that I was instrumental in removing her from our lives.

When I was almost five years old, Dad got back in touch with a sweetheart from his high school days in Vietnam. This former girlfriend, who would eventually become my Real Mom, was currently living in France and also searching for her own path in life. Their conversations via long distance phone and letters sparked feelings that led to a marriage proposal and scrambling to get papers in order for her to immigrate to the United States.

By this time, Dad and I had moved back to Omaha, Nebraska. Dad had gotten a job at a paper manufacturing company and was fixing cars on the side. I was starting kindergarten and realizing that my world could expand beyond just the two of us. I was proudly boasting to my friends that my Real Mom was coming soon, and that we were “importing her straight from France”!

Real Mom helped to raise me as if I had come from her womb. She and Dad never had anymore children of their own. Sometimes I wonder if I was such a handful that they decided that I was more than enough.

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Now back to the hair. Aside from the obligatory “Asian grade-schooler with bob cut and bangs” look, I have never felt confident enough to wear bangs as a grown-up. That is, until now – when I felt I could, being at a certain age and station, carry off a soft version of the “wannabe femme fatale” look. And this time, the haircut as a statement is all for me.

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On this Father’s Day, I’d like to say – Thank you, Dad, for all the sacrifices that you have made for me to have a happy childhood and in raising me to become a strong, independent woman. And thank you for not leaving your willful child somewhere on the side of the road between California and Nebraska. ~ LP

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