This year I decided to write my Father's Day column a week early, as a service to all the fathers out there, including myself. The rest of you should consider this a shopping guide.
Yeah, yeah, I know. 'Tis better to give than receive. But this ain't Christmas, folks. We fathers have been giving for 364 days, and this is our chance to receive. Unfortunately, what we usually receive is what somebody else wants us to have or thinks we might like, rather than what we really want.
For instance -- and I hate to break this to you, kids-- dad doesn't really want a new tie for Father's Day. If he's the kind of dad who has to wear a tie every day, then a) he probably doesn't need any more ties, and b) the last thing he wants to be reminded of on Father's Day is that tomorrow morning he has to put on a tie and head back to the office.
And if he's the sort of dad who rarely wears a tie, then what's he going to do with it? I'll tell you what: he's going to hang it in his closet until it's completely out of style, then donate it to a thrift shop.
Instead of a tie, or a brightly colored golf shirt that no one of his age, coloring and girth should ever wear, or some other article of clothing of your choice, why don't you get dad a gift card to his favorite store?
Speaking for dads everywhere, one of the things we feel most guilty about is spending money on ourselves, when the kids need new shoes, mom wants new drapes, the dog has to be spayed. That's why we tend to dress so badly.
But a gift card is another matter. It's already bought and paid for, so money is not an issue, and it's all for dad, to use anyway he wants. Trust me when I say that few things will be as welcome to most dads as a little guilt-free self-indulgence.
Something else dad doesn't want for Father's Day is anything that creates more work for him. He might love a new grill, for instance, but go ahead and shell out for one that's already assembled. A gigantic box featuring a picture of what the parts rattling around inside are supposed to look like but don't yet, along with the words "some assembly required," is NOT a gift. It's a form of torture.
Finally, what just about every dad really wants for Father's Day is to be pampered a little bit, to be treated special, just for one day. If he's a good dad, he spends the rest of the year making sure everybody else is happy. This is one day when you can make sure he's happy, even if that means taking back the ugly golf shirt you already bought.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.