Yesterday, my boyfriend Jai and I went in hard at the Pizza Hut buffet in Parrs Wood. I married croutons and thousand island dressing on the salad bar, and he proudly devoured 16 slices (a modest amount considering his record is 23/4 apparently). Having not been to said Hut in about 20 years, we were both pleased that it smelled and tasted exactly the same, like a barbeque-based blanket of teenage nostalgia.
Now, Manchester is abundant with trendy pizza places - ‘why on earth were you at Pizza Hut?!’ I hear you cry.
For the funeral of Jai’s father of course.
Except he is not deceased, he is alive and well and in Preston, and as a proud Gujarati man I doubt Pizza Hut would be his first choice for a wake.
Let me explain…are you sitting comfortably?
No parent gets given a manual on how to raise a child. They each do the best they can with the tools they have, desperately trying not to inflict the hardships that they have experienced on their children. These good intentions however, can often have the power to give the child a whole new set of problems or issues. Fear of keeping the thing you love the most safe can express itself in some weird, and frankly pretty rubbish ways.
In Jai’s experience, this showed up as his father publicly insulting and belittling him. He dismissed his talent, creativity (Jai is an artist, click to see what he does) and sweet nature as a lack of aptitude, telling him he would not amount to anything.
As we well know, words can cut as hard as any knife, and this constant badgering has cast a dark shadow over the majority of Jai’s adult life. He became obsessed with proving himself to his Dad, putting everything into his work in the hope that he would acknowledge something, anything of value.
In no way excusing this behaviour, when looking at his father’s background, you can see that he is a very fearful, risk averse man, with his own deep seated trauma.
For many of us, our parents simply did not have the tools to compare what good parenting was. From my own perspective, two generations back I have my paternal Nan. Born in the 1940’s in the roughest part of Walsall, she lost her mother when she was very young, her little brother died ‘falling down the stairs’ at a young age, leaving her and her sister with their father, an alcoholic who earned a living playing piano in the local pubs. They were alone, occasionally being looked in on by neighbours and an Aunt. She married my Grandad, who had also lost his mother very young, and they had my Dad. Neither of these people had a reference for parenting or even how to show love. This was very obvious in the fiery arguments I witnessed between them growing up, and this showed up further down the river in how my Dad parented me.
I can write this from a very objective space now, only because I spent many years working through the pain I experienced because of this. It has not been easy, and is an ongoing process, but I have chosen to break the cycle, as has Jai.
Ever heard sentences that sound like these -
‘I will feel better when they apologise’
‘I can heal once they are gone’
‘When they do x I can move on’
I know I have. For years I would ask my Mom the same question about something from my childhood that had really hurt me, thinking that the moment she acknowledged it I would feel better. But she never did. I never got the answer that I thought I needed. It was only when I really went deep on the healing process that I realised I needed to stop asking the question. I was never going to get the answer that I wanted, and even if I did, what difference would it make. It puts the onus on her for my healing, and that is my responsibility.
If you are reading this and thinking that I am excusing bad behaviour, I absolutely am not. All I am saying is that once we let go of the need for someone else to validate our healing process, it goes a lot faster.
This is exactly what Jai is doing too.
During a particularly dark phase in his life, Jai would often dream about going to Pizza Hut after his father’s passing, as this was a place he had been chastised about visiting when he was young.
So following a long week of realisation and upheaval, as the dust settled he decided this is where we needed to go.
He is emancipating himself from the actions of his father. The bonds that once held him are falling off, freedom is coming.
He has made it this far chasing the approval of his Dad, and he has become a very successful artist. Imagine how far he can go without the weight of that on his shoulders…
That surely deserves a bottomless refill celebration.