It’s Easy To Pretend You’re Fine When An Estranged Father Messes You Up. It’s OK If You’re Not

Molly Moorish-Gallagher said in an interview with her dad, Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher and two half-brothers, that she is "not bitter" about his 20-year absence from her life. It's fine if you're not so cool about estrangement, says Zoë Beaty

Molly Moorish-Gallagher with her father, Liam, and half-brothers Gene and Lennon

by Zoe Beaty |
Updated on

The last time I met my real dad in the flesh, he was on the phone. I hadn’t seen him in some years, I can’t remember how many – his presence in my life had been little more than punctuation marks in long, rolling treatises since he permanently left the country when I was 15. I was 27 this time, waiting patiently for him to finish his call. Minutes later he hung up, said hello, looked me up and down and said “Cor, you’ve put on weight, haven’t you?”

I laughed at the time, and he did too, as he explained he meant it “in a good way!” He didn’t like it when I was “too thin” – “no daughter of mine”, he’d once told me, pointing at my bony body, aged 13 when I lost so much fat that I rendered myself invisible to him. Over the years I had slipped in and out of his eyeline for various reasons – being too studious, being unable to “get a boyfriend”, for wearing a brace on my teeth. In the end I learned how to play this hide and seek game very well. In order to make him see me again I joined him in laughing about myself. I made sure that I appeared grateful for his attention, in whatever form it came and his presence, however infrequent.

I thought of that hollow little laugh I became so used to feeling on the surface of my chest this weekend when I read about another woman’s unconventional relationship with her father. In their first interview as a family, Liam Gallagher and three of his children spoke to the Sunday Times yesterday. Gallagher, 46, is the father to Lennon, 19, from his first marriage to Patsy Kensit; Gene, 17, whose mother is All Saints’ singer Nicole Appleton; Molly, – his first-born, who Gallagher fathered during an affair with Lisa Moorish during his marriage to Patsy Kensit – and Gemma, six, the result of another affair with journalist Liza Ghorbani who he slept with while married to Appleton. The interview, with Gallagher, Molly, Lennon and Gene was well-received – a curious insight into the familial life of one of Brit-pop’s most famous exports. I found it a little uncomfortable.

Perhaps it was very natural that the headline act emerging from the interview was Molly Moorish-Gallagher’s alien relationship with her famous and infamous father. Now aged 21, she met the Oasis frontman just one year ago following a 20-year absence from her life. “I’m not bitter,” follow-up headlines repeated from her input. “I don’t have any anger. I’m actually thankful for how I was brought up with my mum and how my life’s been,” she said. “I wouldn’t be who I am now if… it’s all happened the way it was meant to happen. We just got on and I’m happy to have him now.”

I would like to be clear that I have no reason nor intention to belittle or question Molly’s feelings – that she is well-rounded and emotionally astute enough to have accepted Gallagher’s behaviour is not only encouraging but admirable. Parental relationships form the basis of so much of our psychological wellbeing; finding peace with this has little to nothing to do with anyone else. And, as she rightly says, often the most positive aspect of difficult familial situations is the closeness of the remaining few; the way it shapes a person and makes us thankful for the people who are there.

Still, I found Molly’s protestation that she is not angry, not bitter, not emotional about her father’s lifelong absence, uncomfortable. Her response made me squirm and hold my breath because I saw myself in it, just a few years ago – and, I presume, many, many others with estranged or absent or toxic or damaging or unreliable or fuckwit fathers did too. It wasn’t particularly her admission that she’s happy with the setup now – more her protestation that she is not angry, not ashamed. There is no reason, on the face of it, that she should be. But then, no one wants to be the embittered abandoned child who hasn’t “grown up” enough to “forgive and forget”.

Because women especially are taught to seek the affections and respect of important men from childhood, no matter the personal or emotional cost. We are also taught that there is no greater or more important man than our father. With that in mind it is therefore up to us, societal procedure rules, to move past their actions, up to us to chase affections (Liam Gallagher told the Mirror in 2018 that he'd "never heard she wanted to meet me" of Molly, while confessing he'd never met or tried to meet his first born) and often prove ourselves worthy of them. In this scenario and many more it is up to women to publicly appease or correct the choices men make which hurt us. Generally, children are expected absorb the humiliation of a rejection so brutal it leaves a life-long imprint, to laugh along at the haplessness of a dad who just couldn’t get it together.

I have only recently learned to reject that narrative and to hold my own dad accountable for the very conscious decisions he has made, time and time again, which have sent me spinning into self-hatred. The thing is that fathers are often elevated to an unattainable level in our lives and so their absence (and I am speaking primarily about absence through their own choices) becomes something very difficult to reach and replace. It’s hardly insightful to point out that in Molly Moorish-Gallagher’s case this idea is blown up and stretched to unfathomable proportions: speaking about a world-famous dad in a world-famous publication – with power and money and dignity at sake – is an issue in and of itself.

Still there are certain things that seem to transcend even the chaos of fame when it comes to parental relationships. And reading Liam Gallagher’s account of parenthood – “we don’t talk about feelings, we just get pissed,” he said – and his eldest daughter, Molly’s proclamation reminded me how much happier I am without the weight of that sort of relationship lowering itself into view every few years, and leaving me the emotional debris to clear up afterwards. I hope that Molly is OK – I hope that things really are fine and that she is well and balanced and at peace with her father’s actions. I also hope that she knows it’s ok to be not ok – it’s ok not to give people, even if they are parents, a place in your life; it is ok to be bitter and angry about being discarded or ill-treated; to ask difficult questions, expect answers and to demand apologies and, if necessary, to cut them out completely. The world is such a better place when you can stop wondering if you were good enough, this time, to make them stay.

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