How ‘The Walking Dead’ made me realize I’d married my dad, but only a little

I’ve always heard that we marry our parents. It’s why children of abuse often find themselves with abusive spouses, why those of impossible-to-please moms or dads find spouses who never find them worthy.

” … (O)ur earliest relationships … not only influence how we are able to connect to others as adults—in romantic and other contexts—but also create internalized scripts or working models of how relationships work.” ~Psychology Today

I always found this thought interesting. As a kid, I imagined what it’d be like to marry Mom or Dad, and I’d inevitably end up giggling and shaking my head. Naaahhh, why would that happen? In fact, when I look at previous boyfriends, I don’t see either of my parents in any of them.

And then I met Jeff, who gets along with my father in a way that is almost eerie. Dad can talk sports with Jeff in a way he could not with any previous beau. Anytime Dad is in the mood for a stogie, he need only hold one up to Jeff, who will all but prance over and accept the invitation. My relationship with my dad was formed, truly cemented, by going to movies together throughout my adolescence. Jeff is such a movie buff, his parents suggest terrible movies to him just because they know he will enjoy dissecting them.

I really need some more recent pics of my dad and me.
My adorable daddy

About two weeks ago, Jeff and I started in on “The Walking Dead.” (We are partway through the third season, and if any one of you spoils anything for me, I will hunt you down and go all walker-hunter on your ass. Or just be really ticked, one of the two. Please be nice.) I am not a fan of zombies–much as I love horror and the supernatural, zombie flicks just never did it for me. I don’t find them exciting or interesting, and in most cinema, they rely upon BOO tactics to make the viewers jump. Yuck.

However, Jeff has been wanting to start the series, and I love watching shows with him. We tend to get seriously enveloped, and the stories form the basis of our conversations for weeks and/or months to come (please see: “Game of Thrones,” “Breaking Bad,” “Girls,” “American Horror Story” [though not so much this season, the story kind of blows]). Plus, while I do not have a weak stomach, “The Walking Dead” clips I’ve caught show so much gratuitous gore, I just couldn’t get excited about the story.

But I decided to give it a go. I made it through the first episode fine, but not 30 seconds into the second episode–the theme music hadn’t even played yet–I ran from the room, sobbing. “I can’t watch this,” I told Jeff, went into our room, and shut the door. (For those who watch: It was because of Merle. Frickin’ MERLE and his anger-turned-fear at being chained to the roof. As his fear became panic, I just couldn’t. It’s a testament to Michael Rooker as an actor that he affected me so much.)

Merle, making this weeny girl cry since 2014
Merle, making this weeny girl cry since 2014

As soon as I shut the bedroom door, I heard the theme music start, and I thought, “At least it’s over. Oh man, is Jeff gonna let me have it.”

Because I was thinking about how my dad would react if I were to start blubbering and race from the room because of a television show. He would pause the show and find me. He’d sit next to me and start elbowing me. “Awww, were you scared?? Did the show scare you?” And he’d give this big, good-natured laugh and elbow me some more so I fell off whatever surface I was sitting on.

Dad does not do this out of any meanness or malice. He’s simply trying to lighten the mood. I know this, in my guts. But I get embarrassed. I don’t like to cry in front of anyone for any reason, least of all for something as silly as a TV show. But I’m a sensitive beast, and can’t do anything about that.


When Jeff came into our bedroom, I felt my back stiffen, and I prepared myself for the ribbing I was about to get.

Then Jeff sat down next to me, and he said, “It’s over. Are you OK? Do you want to keep watching this?”

“Did he cut his hand off?”

“Not yet.”

“So after the music, they might show that?”

“Yeah, they might. Do you want to keep going?”

The conversation was held in hushed tones. And I realized: Jeff was not going to poke fun at me. He was not going to laugh at me, and if at any point in the future this was brought up, it would be ME poking fun at MYSELF for being a big fat baby. But Jeff just doesn’t have that in him, at least where it concerns me.

I adore the things about my husband that remind me of my dad. They’re all traits I find masculine, because that’s the example of masculinity I grew up with. But I found a specimen with a softer heart. Which is pretty damn cool.

(Also, “The Walking Dead” is the greatest show to binge watch ever. And the gore I was so worried about? It makes me laugh like a loon. Jeff usually ends up shooting me dirty looks for being too loud, but I find it all hilarious. I guess I like me some dark comedy.)

(And Deryl is my boyfriend. I know, I’m like No. 3,485,003 in line.)



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