(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published June 9, 2002.)
Father's Day is coming, and millions of children and/or wives are thinking: ''This year, I think I'll get Dad a nice casual shirt.''
Fine. Go ahead. Although you might want to ask yourself a couple of questions first, such as: Does Dad WANT another nice casual shirt? Have you noticed that Dad currently OWNS approximately 73 nice casual shirts, and he wears only two of them? And that he wears one of those two only when the other one is really dirty? Do you honestly believe that Dad is thinking: ''Boy, I wish I had ANOTHER shirt, so I could not wear it!''?
Of course not. Dad is thinking ...
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... OK, never mind what Dad is thinking. Nobody ever really knows what Dad is thinking, including, much of the time, Dad. But trust me, he does not want a shirt.
''But,'' you say, ''when I gave him a shirt last year, he appeared to like it!''
Of course he did. Like all fathers, he has learned to simulate sincere appreciation for gifts that he has absolutely no use for. That's why Dad always responded so positively back when you used to give him -- and I hope you no longer do this, although I understand it still happens, even in 21st-century America -- a tie.
''Wow!'' Dad would go. ''A piece of cloth to knot tightly around my neck, strikingly similar to the numerous other pieces of neck cloth wadded together in the back of my closet!''
In my entire life, I have met two men who were genuinely interested in ties. Both of these men were in the tie industry.
Dads are so good at feigning appreciation that they even were able, years ago, to pretend they were happy to receive cologne. This was back in the dark days of cologne-giving, which mercifully came to an end after the horrible 1986 tragedy in Cincinnati wherein a 72-year-old man's house collapsed under the weight of the estimated 2,000 unopened bottles of Old Spice that he had stored in his attic.
''OK,'' you are saying, 'then what SHOULD I get for Dad? If I ask him what he wants, he always says, 'Oh, nothing.' ''
That's because he knows that if he told you what he really wants, you wouldn't give it to him. For example, let's consider the area of clothing. The nicest Father's Day surprise of all for Dad would be if you handed him a box, and he unwrapped it, and there, inside, sitting on a bed of folded tissue, was the pair of his undershorts that somebody threw away six months ago (without asking Dad) because they had reached the stage where they were 3 percent undershorts and 97 percent holes. Dad misses those undershorts. They were his Faithful Undershorts Companion.
But of course now they are in a landfill somewhere, along with Dad's Led Zeppelin T-shirt, which Dad bought and wore at a 1972 concert during which he stood on his seat and sang ''Whole Lotta Love.'' (Yes! Dad did this!) Somebody threw the shirt away two years ago (without asking Dad) because it had a bunch of stains, which happened to have great sentimental value to Dad, because ...
... OK, never mind about the stains. The point is that you cannot give Dad these things for Father's Day. But you know what you CAN give him? You can give him what he always tells you he wants: Nothing. I mean it.
For Dad, the perfect Father's Day would be one in which he didn't even realize that it WAS Father's Day, because nobody was making him appreciate gifts he didn't want, or read greeting cards filled with lame Father's Day poetry (''When I was just a little tyke, you showed me how to ride a bike; And you were sweet to me the day, I drove your car into the bay; Dad, I think you're really grand, I'm praying for your prostate gland'').
There would be none of this, on the perfect Father's Day. There would be just Dad, wearing his oldest surviving undershorts, free of pressure, maybe just sitting in front of the TV, watching the NBA playoffs. There would be no conversation, other than Dad periodically observing that these players today could carry the ball across Montana and never get called for traveling.
That's how you can give Dad the perfect Father's Day. Of course, that's not all. You'd also make a restaurant reservation, and at the end of the day, you'd dress up and go out and have a nice dinner, during which you'd propose a toast to Dad. Who would be back home, in front of the TV, happily asleep in his veteran underwear. That would be PERFECT.
But you're going to get him a shirt.
© 2008, Dave Barry
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