Fie on Father's Day, a Phony Holiday!

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When I was an obnoxious adolescent, I used to deride Father's Day — and Mother's Day, too — as a Hallmark holiday, a phony anniversary designed to sell greeting cards and bottles of cheap after-shave.

Well, now that I'm a father myself — with two little boys — a father who doesn't always feel deeply appreciated for all the many sacrifices he makes for hearth and home — I must admit that I, well, that I feel — exactly the same way. Yes, it will be very, very sweet when my oldest boy chirps, "Happy Father's Day, Daddy," and it may also be pleasant if my wife gives me a new shirt, but I still think Father's Day is a cheesy gimmick, mainly designed to get folks to part with their hard-earned dollars for dear old Dad.

As I walked to the office this morning after dropping my son off at school, I passed store after store with special Father's Day promotions. I saw pictures of handsome Dads with just a dusting of gray in their closely-cropped hair, holding a small child in one hand and some wonderful gadget in the other. I admit I did feel a frisson of excitement. But this was not sentiment about the enduring role of fathers in our lives, but the pervasive tickle of modern capitalism, where in order to enhance the desire for more and more objects, we have to create more and more holidays that are occasions for consuming them. The feeling I had could be roughly translated as: 'Gee, I'm a Dad, maybe I'll get a Palm pilot?'

I suppose the mature thing would be to regard Father's Day with a kind of benign neutrality. After all, who does it hurt? And, all in all, it's probably good for the economy, better even than a mid-summer tax-cut. In fact, I ought to take some pleasure in it, and I'd be a liar if I said that I didn't.

But what bothered me all those many years ago and still bothers me now is the feeling of being railroaded. I'll honor my father when I feel like honoring my father, thank you, not when some society-wide convention tells me I should. It's a little like that incessant and annoying music at professional basketball games, where we're supposed to cheer when the music tells us to cheer, not when the home team does something worth cheering about.

What also irks me is that it seems to be one more example of the proliferation of dopey anniversaries in our culture. Yes, way back in 1966 Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation making the third Sunday in June Father's Day, but every day seems to be some kind of anniversary these days. This is something that is mainly foisted on us by the media. You'd think that with the explosion of information in our society, when you can find out whatever you want whenever you want to, that the reliance on anniversaries as catch-all containers for news would slowly fade away. In fact, the opposite is the case. Not a week goes by when we're not all commemorating the 20th anniversary of this or the 35th anniversary of that. It's as though we can't think of things to write or broadcast about unless it's some kind of jubilee.

But I suppose I should just get over it. After all, I don't want to spoil the day for my boys. And more than that, I don't want to spoil it for a certain 81-year-old fellow who has spent many years tolerating the annoying ravings of his only son.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I hope you like the tie.