‘Isn’t your dad Mr. Kyles?’

Story by Molly Kyles, staff writer

Cheery faces in the hallway wave hello and classmates make easy conversation, blissfully unaware of my secret identity. It haunts me, changing the way I act, hoping, praying I won’t be discovered. Thinking maybe if I blend in, they won’t find out what I really am, who I really am. But time after time, my cover is blown. My careful hiding is demolished by a single terrifying question.

“Isn’t your dad Mr. Kyles?”

Yes, he is. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

I’ve been “Mr. Kyles’ daughter” for as long as I can remember. Texas High School was the playground of my youth. I could navigate the halls like a pro by the time I was 10 years old, but I never expected the relentless torment that would come with high school.

As soon as I walked through those orange doors, “Molly” died and “Mr. Kyles’ daughter” came to life. Teachers, administrators and any upperclassman I met knew me only by that name. Suddenly and without choice, I found myself carrying a legacy I could never overcome, and unlike a cool older brother, my dad wasn’t going to graduate anytime soon.

“So what’s it like? You must love being his daughter! I wish he was my dad!”

Let’s ignore the answer to those questions for a moment and think about how weird it feels to hear that someone wants your dad to be theirs, especially when the students saying this only have his class two or three times a week.

But of course, I must respond with the standard reply, assuring them that they’d love to be his kid, trying not to show the heart-wrenching pain in my eyes. At this point I’ve probably gotten this question a hundred times a day with no variation, and it gets a bit frustrating after a while. To really answer the question, yes, I do love my dad, of course, but how many times on a daily basis does someone ask you if you love your parents? (After a while you start to doubt that you do.) Alas, these inquires are merely the tip of the iceberg of my pain.

Suddenly and without choice, I found myself carrying a legacy I could never overcome, and unlike a cool older brother, my dad wasn’t going to graduate anytime soon.”

— Molly Kyles

“Is he as funny at home as he is in class?”

The answer I typically choose for this is “No!” and I usually receive a few laughs as reciprocation, but those few giggles feel like empty feelings merely pretending to be meaningful emotions. Is it possible to have a conversation with someone who knows my dad without him being the subject? I have yet to find out.

But realistically, of course, my dad is different at home around his family than he is with a room of 25 teenagers. If I’m lucky, the person interrogating me on my paternal figure might compare me to him and say that I have his sense of humor. In those moments, I feign thankfulness that a peer my age thinks I’m almost as funny as a 40-year-old high school history teacher.

As a sophomore, I’ve been graced with a few upperclassmen friends who don’t know my dad, and it is a surreal experience. Suddenly my soul isn’t so tormented by my dad’s presence, and I’m not so irreparably traumatized. But always, they find out, and much like the sensation of stepping on a Lego, I feel a sharp pain that could easily be avoided if I simply moved to Antarctica. There’s no Legos in Antarctica, and none of my dad’s students either.

Ultimately, after many years of practice, I’ve learned to live with this shameful secret identity. I no longer cry audibly when someone yells “Kyles!” in the hall and they are talking to my dad, not me. I’ve learned to scream in silence when upperclassmen discover whose child I am. But I’ll never escape it, because he’s going to be here for the rest of my high school years. My options are to make a name for myself and overshadow him, or to move continents, and plane tickets to the South Pole are hard to come by. But no matter how hard I fight to be my own person, I’ll always be haunted, traumatized, and destroyed by a single question.

“Isn’t your dad Mr. Kyles?”