“Men…who above all, desire power” – JRR Tolkein

It was a Saturday night, after ten, and I was listening to music with my project partner’s sons.

“Watch, watch, watch,” one of the sons gestured with a pursing of his lips to the teenage girl who had been talking on the phone in the yard. She was walking slowly across the yard, cell phone in hand, towards an angry looking man.

Coño, give me that phone!” She handed over her cell phone and without even glancing at it, the man whipped it at the ground, shattering it.

He slapped her across the face.

“Get in the house! Now!”

She held her face in one hand and obediently walked to her home.

 “He’s a notoriously jealous dad,” the sons explained. One time, they told me, he had discovered her making out with a neighbor boy. He had punched him in the face.

Using the word jealous to describe how a father feels about his daughter’s romantic interests grosses me out, and I took a moment to be grateful that I’ve only ever had to deal with jealous boyfriends and never a jealous father.

“My dad would never do that,” I said after a while.

“Well, what would you do if you had a 15 year old daughter and she was with a 27 year old?” they asked, genuinely curious.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. I tried to imagine what my parents would have done if I’d been going out with a man 12 years older than me when I was 15. I don’t think they would have let me leave the house. But how would they have controlled me?

I thought about the dad in the street who had, without hesitating, broke an expensive cell phone that he had probably purchased for her and would probably pay to replace and hit his daughter, hard. His job took him away from her for a couple weeks at a time, returning only for a weekend.

How can he control his daughter when he’s not here? Unfortunately for her, she has to bear the brunt of it, a concentrated dosage of paternalistic protection, once a fortnight. Desperation leads to a lot of ugly things. If I’ve learned anything in my young life it is this: A man who feels his power is slipping is the most dangerous kind of man.