You know it's almost Father's Day when Sears splurges for ads in the newspaper. One colorful picture puts a neon-orange polyester golf shirt right next to the deluxe ride-on mower that's suitable for grooming a yard the size of Alaska.
Most men are not shoppers. They don't even buy their own underwear. When the elastic finally sags, they ask the women in their lives to buy them a new pack.
Men are dragged to stores against their will by the women who love them. Once at the store, men either offer useless opinions ("Do we really need a new rug? Can't we just patch that spot where it caught fire?") or are enlisted to carry a large purchase – new refrigerator, bookcase, or mattress – to the car.
Women tend to be shoppers. Most women like to shop. So the ads for Father's Day are filled with items that women like to buy and think men would like to have.
Men enjoy television remote controls. But it would be silly, really, to have a whole newspaper ad devoted to various TV remotes. I can see it now:
"This one clicks fast – annoy the rest of the family."
"This one automatically pauses on the History Channel, even though it's about Hitler again."
"This one only has pre-1985 football games. You already know who won!"
So instead, power tools fill the ads – from drills that can find oil to electric saws that can level a forest. The ads never say what you should do if your dad just isn't that handy.
What if he's the kind of guy who called the electrician every time your hair dryer tripped the circuit breaker?
What if seeing an ad for a leaf blower only brings back painful childhood memories of weekends spent raking and bagging, raking and bagging as your dad lectured you about how there are some jobs you do for the pride of a task well done? In that case, you definitely don't want to get your dad a leaf blower.
So you quickly scan down the page, right below the headline that should say: "You don't know what to get? Why not make the most uninspired choice – a bottle of men's cologne?"
Even women who like perfume choose their scents by what's included as a gift with purchase, not by a little photo of each bottle. No self-respecting dad I know even bothers with cologne. We've explained to the men in our lives the importance of using deodorant every day, and maybe a little after-shave on special occasions, but have you ever heard a man say, "I'd really like to try that new fragrance Night Wild" – that is, of course, a man who doesn't have his own television show on the Bravo channel.
Then there's the ubiquitous shirt-and-tie photos. The ads show groups of three ethnically diverse guys hanging around with their hands jammed in their pockets, showing off their sporty looks with no grass stains on the shorts, no extra rolls of flesh filling out the shirt, and no dark, damp area under the arms.
The guys in the photo are sharing a chuckle, something along the lines of "If we ever get out of this endless photo shoot, want to go find the remote and watch the game?"
This year, the models are wearing sherbet-colored shirts – pale yellow, baby blue, rosy pink – paired with bright, eye-popping polka-dot ties. It's a nice idea, but my dad wouldn't wear a pink shirt if it had been hand-loomed for him by Mother Teresa.
One of my husband's favorite shirts proudly proclaims "Redskins Super Bowl Champs 1983." It not only announces to the world which football team he loves, but also the fact that 24 years have gone by and he still can't buy a new shirt.
Then there are the ads for shoes. Most men don't care about footwear. No man has ever treated himself to a new pair of black wingtips. It's women who love shoes. The shoe ads are just further evidence that Father's Day shopping is really for women.
My husband once wore two different shoes – one brown, one black – for 10 hours. He didn't even notice until he came home that night and our daughter pointed it out to him.
The remainder of the Father's Day ads are usually a strange amalgam of items. There are some extra-large, bright-blue coolers for the dads who take along enough soft drinks on family excursions to need one. Sometimes sporting goods, baseball bats, and balls are mixed in. Then there's a hammock or two for the dads who are known for lying around on the sofa. This choice implies a couch-potato dad, but lying in a hammock might be a nice change on Father's Day.
So, come Father's Day, you've been warned: Ignore the ads. Send a heartfelt text message instead.