Father’s Day fraught with peril for dads
Since this column is coming out on Father's Day, it's probably too late to give pointers as to what most fathers want on this joyous occasion. (Sorry, dads. I should have written this a week ago, and then you wouldn't be feigning rapturous appreciation for that gift bottle of Old Spice cologne at this very minute. Not that I have anything against Old Spice. Wait. Yes, I do. I hate the swill. I think it smells like a boiled-down vat of pimps and aluminum-siding salesmen, garnished with a couple of dead dogs and wrung out into a bucket of clove-infused embalming fluid. But that's just me.)
I think I speak for all dads when I say that what we want on Father's Day is a beer, peace and quiet, and a nap. What we don't want is drama, a big pile of dirty dishes and a tandem parachute jump. In fact, it's a good rule of thumb to never plan something for dad on Father's Day that he never would normally do: jump out of plane, take a glider ride, go on a shark dive or hike any farther than to the refrigerator. I understand there is pressure on the family to show dear old Dad how much you love him on this one special day. But you don't do that by putting his life in danger or subjecting him to any activity that could result in a twisted back, pulled hamstring or large tip. It's also not a good time to try to start him on a new hobby. So don't present him with the archery set, the mountain bike, the pottery wheel or even the home beer-brewing kit. Yes, he likes beer, but that doesn't mean he wants to make it himself. He also likes cheese, but you don't see him milking a goat.
Most dads are practical. So if you are deciding between getting him a 3,000-piece model shipbuilding set and new underwear, go with the underwear. If you are looking at the tie with palm trees and the underwear, go with the underwear. On Father's Day you can almost never go wrong with a gift of new underwear.
WHEN I WAS a kid, getting Dad something for Father's Day was easy. Our schoolteachers presented us with a 35-cent heavy glass ashtray to which we would glue a photo of ourselves. If your dad smoked (just about all of them did back then), you attached the photo to the bottom of the ashtray. That way, dad could snuff out his cigarette in your little face. (I never quite understood the "specialness" of this.) If your dad didn't smoke, you glued your photo to the inside of the ashtray so that it could be used upside down as a paperweight. (A paperweight ashtray was a classy addition to any dad's office desk.) That was the extent of our Father's Day decisions. Life was simple. An entire generation of fathers have a big box full of ashtrays and/or paperweights stashed somewhere.
Many dads, including this one, have mistakenly used Father's Day as a day to force family members to do things they never would otherwise. It's like, "This is MY day and we're going to this, damn it. And I want to see nothing but cheery faces."
That explains why I dragged my wife and young daughter several years ago on a 2-mile kayak paddle in Kaneohe Bay to a remote island. I don't know why I did it. When we got there, I just had a beer and took a nap. And then we had to paddle back. In a storm. Bad move. I haven't done such a silly thing since.
If you force your family to do anything on Father's Day that they wouldn't want to do regularly, they will just resent you for it and make the next two weeks a living hell. ("Ha, ha! It's not Father's Day anymore, big man! Get in there and do the dishes!") Trust me, dads, your one day of total control is not worth the total aggravation to follow.
Just remember: The more time you spend in your comfy chair or lying on the couch on Father's Day watching TV, the happier you and everyone else will be. Enjoy the new underwear.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org