As someone who owns and pimps out her small business, I understand the appeal in trying to make every single holiday fit in with whatever it is you sell. And sometimes, it works: This past Memorial Day, I knew we were buying a bed, because for some reason, I equate Memorial Day (and Labor Day) with great prices on beds. Fourth of July furniture sales. Christmas sales on All The Things.

But Father’s Day is a little trickier. I’m probably not going to buy my dad a couch for Father’s Day. He’s probably not going to get a daybed.

And yet, companies feel very certain that their product is what’s best for father’s (mother’s/arbor/MLK) day.

My mom and dad getting introduced at our wedding. I like his Miss America wave.

Just consider the email marketing I have received over the last week or two geared toward Dad — all marketing that proves to me: These people don’t know Dad at all:

  • Broadway in Chicago: My dad doesn’t want tickets to a musical, I promise. Unless … will there be golfing trekkies with guns who have to fight the aliens to save the world? No? Then I’ll pass.
  • Dunkin Donuts: Not a terrible idea, if you’re the kind of kid who thinks a gift card to a doughnut shop is an appropriate gift. But when Dad is hypoglycemic? And when sugar can put Dad in a coma? Maybe not.
  • Barnes & Noble: Again, not a terrible idea. If you’ve a dad who’s a reader, I think a good book is a wonderful gift. Alas, Dad’s not a big reader — unless the book is in Assyrian. Do you have books in Assyrian, Barnes & Noble?
  • Etsy — Jesus god, no. I mean, if your dad is in his 20s, this might work. But my dad is in his 50s. Oh sure, if I scour, I can find some things he’d like (like this, this or this), but these are not items Etsy is going to pimp in its marketing email because they don’t feature arrow and/or triangle patterns, repurposed wood or ironically placed woodland creatures in coral or mint. (I love Etsy, you know I do. But man, it sometimes all starts to look the same. Branding and what not, blahblah.)
  • Penn Station — We have a winner! The restaurant with the best Philly cheesesteak I’ve ever head (probably because I’ve never been to Philadelphia, but whatever, they’re amazing) has a “buy one, get one free deal” for Father’s Day. Alas … my dad lives in another state, one where they don’t have Penn Station restaurants. I forwarded him the email and said, “For the next time you visit.”

Oh, I tried to get him something good. After the Printers Row LitFest in downtown Chicago last week, I had a mission, but it left me pouting around the city like a 2-year-old. (In short: Dad likes almond bark from Fanny May {he does not go into a coma from this because he does not eat it in mass quantities, but it’s like the only sweet he really likes}. There was a Fanny May not a mile from the book fair. We set off to find it, realized after walking too far that we’d passed it. We turned around and found it at 4:00:30 p.m., 30 seconds after it closed. If we hadn’t walked right past it the first time, my gift would have been found. I don’t want to talk about it.)

Jac & Dad from Thanksgiving, ’09

Earlier this week, I found this old funky beer bottle opener in the shape of a golf club on eBay that I accidentally had sent to ME instead of HIM. I sent the seller an “Oops, I suck” note, but she didn’t respond, so my father’s father’s day gift should be arriving 169 miles from its eventual destination in the next day or so.

All of this is to say: My dad has things he likes, but mostly, he buys what he wants. And figuring out a gift for him is HARD. And company’s silly “Buy your dad some pants from Express!” emails are, well, silly.

Visiting my grandparents in Vegas in Spring ’09