My Embarrassing Father

I hate being at a social event with my father. He boasts continually about his achievements both academic and at work, even though he has now retired.   

He often says: ‘When I was at Cambridge students were like me so much more hard working and respectful than today’s lot.’ The truth is, that he went to a Polytechnic in Cambridge, twice failed the first year exams and was asked to leave. He also talks about running a ‘vast’ successful furniture business and comes out with several stories about the deals he made and the rich customers who came to ‘his empire.’  In fact he was a salesman in a modest furniture shop.   

I can just about bear it when close family are involved as they know him and take what he says with a several pinches of salt. I find it very stressing when my in-laws are around.  They are very polite and ask him lots of questions and I sometimes feel I want to punch him when I hear one exaggerated untrue tale after another.   

I, on the other hand, am a modest man and work as a nurse in an old age home.  He can’t bear my job as he sees it as demeaning and when he’s had a few drinks and really gets going he makes lots of sarcastic remarks like:  ‘Unlike my son who doesn’t mind wiping old people’s bottoms.’ Even worse is that he has recently set up a website looking back on ‘the good old days’ and full of advice about life based on his own ‘broad and multiple experiences.’  Most of which are made up.  There are several occasions now when I don’t know who to feel most embarrassed for, me or him.        




It is a shame when people feel they have to exaggerate what they have accomplished in order to look good.  It would have been much easier if your father had been honest about being accepted by a Polytechnic, which was considered a good enough achievement in his day.  He could also have said that he found he liked dealing with people more satisfying than being an academic.  If he kept his job for years, he must have been a good salesman, and that should have made him feel proud.  Instead he’s chosen to live in a fantasy world which of course is embarrassing for you. 

You seem to have chosen to follow a modest path and are happy to have a  worthwhile job caring for others.  There may be something in your career choice that echoes your father’s and contributes to his tendency to criticise and demean you.  His desire for recognition has led him to set up his website.  You  don’t have to read it. Or you could see it’s funny side.    

Be firm and proud of your own position and don’t let your father’s attempts to belittle you get under your skin. At your age you don’t have to socialise with him more than is absolutely necessary so steer well clear. Your wife no doubt knows of his tall tales so perhaps one of you could explain this to her parents.