My Father’s Daughter: A Job Description

by Pamela Denchfield
Because the child does not have the power to withhold consent, she does not have the power to grant it.
–Judith Lewis Herman

The bridge out of shame is outrage.
–Maureen Brady
1. Duties
• Listen, smile
• Sit on lap when called
• Study the family patriarchy
• Pay attention
• Be submissive
• Don’t speak
• Switch off cartoons when asked
• Doubt anger
• Laugh on command
• Learn to Honor Your Father
• Stay awake
• Let it happen
• Watch your pieces fly away
• Forget later
• Never tell

2. Skills
• Agrees at five nods per second
• Bolsters the ego at 10 strokes per minute
• Knows how to stop crying
• Carries passed-on wounds in secret

3. Qualifications
• Female
• Shared DNA preferred but not required
• High capacity for hand-me-down trauma
• Small in stature, under four feet preferred

4. Compensation
• Improved observation skills:
o maintain focus on surroundings
o notice the smallest details
o navigate power dynamics
o stay awake
• Opportunities to:
o examine learned helplessness
o unpack tamped-down stories
o chase wisps of memory
o start trusting anger
o find bits of peace
• Prospect of merging child selves with middle-age self
• Unending chances to put the pieces back together

Pamela Denchfield came of age east of Seattle, in project housing on the banks of Cedar River. She continues to live in the Seattle area despite her historically impetuous decisions, such as irrational rafting trips and eating questionable Cambodian delicacies. The river visits her often in her dreams.Find more from her at

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