Steve Jobs Denied His Daughter For Years, Leaving Her To Ask 'Was I An Ugly Baby?' After State-Forced A Paternity Test, He Said, '28% Of The Male Population Of The United States Could Be The Father'
In a 2018 interview published by The Guardian, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, delved into the complex relationship she had with her father while discussing her memoir, where she details the emotional landscape of her interactions with him. This intricate dynamic was punctuated by Steve Jobs’ initial denial of paternity, a denial that forced a state-mandated DNA test and his subsequent reluctance to provide for Lisa.
One of the emotionally charged recollections shared by Lisa was her questioning her worth in her father’s eyes — “Was I an ugly baby?” This question arose from a painful interaction where Steve Jobs seemed disinterested in her baby albums, an anecdote that sheds light on the emotional distance that often characterized their relationship.
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The state-enforced DNA test to establish paternity did little to change Steve Jobs’ stance, who, in 1982, made a startling statement to a Time magazine journalist when he said that "28% of the male population of the United States could be the father."
Lisa also highlighted instances of her father’s refusal to provide for her, even as she matured. At age nine, when Lisa asked about inheriting her father's Porsche, Jobs said, "You're not getting anything. You understand? Nothing. You're getting nothing." This financial indifference persisted into her teenage years, marked by Jobs' reluctance to mend the heating in her room or fix the dishwasher when she lived with him. The disregard extended to her education when Jobs hesitated to cover her college fees at Harvard, relenting only after wealthy neighbors intervened, although he reimbursed them much later.
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Jobs set rigid rules for Lisa to be acknowledged as part of his family, including following a strict curfew, limiting interactions with her mother and yielding to his absolute authority. A poignant scene in a restaurant further showcased the tense father-daughter relationship, with Jobs harshly criticizing Lisa’s teenage cousin, Sarah, for ordering a burger, saying, "Have you ever thought about how awful your voice is? Please stop talking in that awful voice."
Reflecting on the past, Lisa acknowledged that her need for a conventional father-daughter relationship might have been somewhat naive. She surmised that her father’s engagement with her and her mother seemed to correlate with his professional standing at Apple. "When he wasn't doing well at work, he'd come find us — his heart would open enough to allow us in. So, in a way, it felt like we were in competition, not necessarily with his work, but with the mindset that veered away from family. Being perceived as a hindrance to the work everyone adored was not pleasant," she said.
Lisa elaborated that despite the emotional turmoil, she never harbored any ill wishes towards her father’s success. She yearned for his affection and a semblance of normalcy in their relationship. "I couldn't elicit the typical fatherly doting from him, which of course, felt personal," she said. Her longing extended to basic parental interaction, which seemed elusive. "All I craved was warmth and a genuine interest in my life. The simple question, ‘Well, how was your day?' followed by attentive listening seemed like a dream. Given his stature and the adulation he received, he found it challenging to create a nurturing space for me," she said.
Lisa also touched upon a sense of envy towards her three half-siblings, who came into the world during her teenage years. She said, "I used to wonder if maybe he was more conventional with them." Yet, she harbors doubts, unsure if Jobs was more present in their lives compared to hers.
In a biography of obs by Walter Isaacson, published just days after his death in 2011, Jobs acknowledged his absence in his children's lives, saying, “I wanted my kids to know me.” He said, “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
Through her memoir and the interview, Lisa unravels the complex tapestry of emotions and experiences that defined her relationship with one of the tech industry's most iconic figures, illuminating the profound impact of Jobs’ ambition and complex personality on his familial relations.
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