John Inverdale, BBC Sports commentator, put both feet in his mouth when he started to describe the looks of Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon Women’s Singles Winner.
He said – and I quote from The Guardian - “I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker… You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5 feet 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that… You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen.’”
Oops. Okay, maybe he was trying to say that winning Wimbledon requires effort not looks – and that today’s Media is obsessed with each player’s appearance. I’d expect a commentator to get his words right but live TV does strange things to people.
Marion Bartoli’s father leapt to her defence and stressed his daughter was beautiful and he had always had an unbelievable relationship with her. Well said, Dad.
I think my little girl is beautiful, in personality and looks. The positive, caring way she acts around others fills me with pride. Okay there may be the odd falling out with friends but that is part of growing up – and a small child has to learn by her mistakes. She did not ask to come into this world. It was a choice Kate and I made, wishing to be parents.
With no mother or father on the scene, I grew up looking longingly at my friends. They had Mums and Dad and loving homes to go to. Meanwhile, I had a children’s home that favoured beating children with wire brush handles or filling their mouths with bars of white soap.
It’s with that in mind that I strive to be a good Dad. I want to encourage my daughter to try new things, to express herself freely and to empathise with others. I really don’t care what job she does when she grows up, rather that she is happy doing it – whatever it is. I am keen to help prepare her for the Big Bad World after school – to give her experiences that build her confidence and communication skills. I want her to aim for the stars and not to worry if she only gets as far as the M8 outside Glasgow.
If my daughter does her best then that’s all I can ask. There is no point pushing a child or young adult in one direction as they’ll only go in the other, or end up feeling resentful. Obviously, Marion Bartoli was encouraged to try tennis. She excelled and is now at the pinnacle of her sport. She seems very happy with that – as does her father.
So John Inverdale really got it wrong when he imagined that a father would point out all his daughter’s faults as a way of offering encouragement and support. Any Dad stupid enough to criticise his daughter’s looks would only have to glance in the mirror to see where they came from.
When my daughter is in her teens I will dig up this blog post and invite her to read it. I want her to know that whatever the future holds I will be there. I will challenge her to try new things, to push herself and to see things from the point of view of other people.
Most of all I will say -
“Go For It. Whatever it is. Be the best you can be. Be yourself. Be happy. Know that we are behind you, ready to support you if you fall. Know you are loved. That you are never alone. That Life is for Living.”
Then I will say Dad stuff like - “Tidy Your Room Before Your Mother Sees It, Do You Really Need A Boyfriend/Car? Are You Actually Going Out In That?”
And she’ll just say. ‘Oh Daaaaad!’ and get on with her own thing.
Like she does now