Along about June 1, a strange gurgling starts to bubble up from deep inside me.
By June 15, my gut is tightly taut. Then the mental writhing kicks in.
I start to agitate, even to fear.
Thinks: â€œNo mention this far. No furtive glances. No secretive giggles.
â€œTheyâ€™ve kept the record clean over the years ... Controlled those last minute compulsions ... Overcome their basic mall-bound compulsions pretty well.â€?
My internal dialogue pauses for refreshment, then continues: â€œTheyâ€™re not going to break down this year â€¦ Not really! Not after all weâ€™ve been through together?!
â€œBetray the family ethic? Give in to all the hype?
â€œActually go out ... and buy something ... for me? ... For Fatherâ€™s Day?â€?
Since this is a family publication, youâ€™ll understand that Iâ€™ve censored the internal dialogue pretty heavily.
â€œNaw. Theyâ€™ll stand fast ... Theyâ€™re not going to go all squishily sentimental like the commercials urge them to.â€?
But then that nasty doubt flits through my head: â€œMaybe this year they wonâ€™t be able to resist it?â€? The thought causes me to writhe during my totally un-American nap.
In case you hadnâ€™t caught my drift quite yet, this is a totally unabashed statement of disclosure: Iâ€™m a self-licensed curmudgeon who canâ€™t stomach our skein of commercially inspired festivals.
Indeed, my family does not observe any of the commercially inspired-and-hyped holidays orgies.
By far the most odiousâ€”because it threatens me personallyâ€”is the one coming up on June 19: the regurgitational Fatherâ€™s Day.
I can see once or twice agreeing to â€œcelebrateâ€? Fatherâ€™s Day if I really, really needed something and it wouldnâ€™t look too good if I spent the mortgage money on a much-needed tune-up for the car, for instance.
But a new, super-fired, sun-charged, air-blown, wind-and-rain-proofed, environmentally-secured Australian barbie with wall-to-wall grill and guaranteed money-back product performance during the hugest hurricane to come your way in the next 24 months? No way!
Even scoring something youâ€™re too embarrassed to buy for yourself, I see no earthly reason your nearest-and-dearestâ€”nor even those whoâ€™ve flitted from the nestâ€”should yield to the seasonal wooing calls of the chain-stores.
All the â€œcelebrationâ€? around this date is, after all, merely a con, masquerading as familial loyalty and devotion, intended to separate your beloved from notable quantities of folding green. OK, so itâ€™s plasticâ€”it still comes out of their bank account(s).
A new set of tires for the Hummer, just in case? Tools to dismember the plasma TV, to see how it works? Stock in Enron? A half-season ticket for the LA Dodgersâ€”the second half, to watch them slump yet again? A yearâ€™s supply of hamburger shipped live and direct from Omaha? Monthly subscription to Viagra?
The hype is aimed at those softly vulnerable who surround me, a demographic that is used to having its emotions tweaked by skilled opinion manipulators.
Sadly, in the marketplace, those mavens usually win because they simply overwhelm common sense on the TV and in the newspaper inserts.
Sure, I know that we have the worldâ€™s most robust economy because we love to pamper (right meaning of an otherwise-co-opted word) ourselves ... and the Chinese silkily keep our debt piling up because itâ€™s very good for their economies as well.
But on a broad and personal scale, what sticks in my craw is the string of holidays that have been promoted by commercial interests, purely to separate us from our wad.
You know them as well as you know your name:
New Yearâ€™s Day: Probably the best celebration of many is Hogmannay in Scotland. At New Yearâ€™s, people open their homes to visitors. If you are wandering along the street in need of sustenance of an alcoholic nature, you can duck into any open house and go away refreshed. No commercials involved.
Presidentâ€™s Day: Understandable purely as a midwinter breakâ€”not a major marketing occasion.
Super Bowl? Almost a national holiday. Would â€œegregiousâ€? be apt? Think of the cost of the commercials! Look what it does for beer and hot-dog sales! Itâ€™s subversive to utter a word of criticism.
Valentineâ€™s Day: Aw câ€™mon! Hallmarkâ€™s balance to Super Bowl Sunday. Basically, a way of enlivening our hormones in the middle of a (snowy) winter. Wikipedia says: â€œThe Greeting Card Association of America estimates that, world-wide, approximately one billion valentine cards are sent each year ... the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas ... also estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.â€?
St. Patrickâ€™s Day: The Irish took out the patent on St. Paddy and have ridden the holiday hard ever since. Being keen marketers, they also dispense anything that has an Oyrish context with great aplomb as well.
Easter: Slightly commercialized, but too seriously religious for marketers to want to go overboard. Still, some cards, some chocolate, some poor bunnies.
Motherâ€™s Day: Who would dare ignore Mom on that spring day, which is almost as sacred as Christmas, but has absolutely no religious or spiritual significance? â€œIn 1973, the U.S. Postal Service was heltd up for eight days because of the amount of mail ... Motherâ€™s Day is the No. 1 holiday for flowers purchased throughout the year.â€?
Independence Day: Commercialism mixed with patriotism: What a blessing!
Labor Day: Surprisingly harmless as a commercial rite, which may have to do with its origin as a trade-union manifestation.
Columbus Day: Also not particularly commercial, except in certain ethnic circles.
Halloween: What a chance! A commercial avalanche. An appeal to the wayward kid in all of us!
Christmas Creep: How often have you been startled, perhaps a little annoyed, to hear or see a Christmas ad on TVâ€”just after Labor Day? Recently, the ad-splashers seem to have caught on, and now donâ€™t start touting for Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah till weâ€™re at Thanksgiving. But you know damn well that if they could get away with it, they would blast us earlier, as they have often tried to.
None and yet all of the above, of course, deals with greeting cards, which are a world and an industry to themselves, one which has fed on our yearning to be loving and kind to those near and far, and on our delight in letting someone else make the words to express that delight.
Nor does the above categorization include local holidays, which are usually not legal observances, but are chances for merchants to score off visitors and touristsâ€”as well as residents.
My favorite, however, will always be Sadie Hawkins Day, when women can chase men, in keeping with the marvelous old Liâ€™l Abner cartoon by the great cartoonist, Al Capp: A day in late November, sometime between the 19th and the 30th, according to choice.
Sadie was the daughter of one of Dogpatchâ€™s earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins. When she reached the age of 35, still a spinster, her father, in desperation, called together the eligible bachelors and declared it to be Sadie Hawkins Day and that â€œwhen ah fires [my gun] all oâ€™ yoâ€™ start a-runnin! When ah fires aginâ€”after givinâ€™ yoâ€™ a fair startâ€”Sadie starts a runninâ€™. Thâ€™ one she ketchesâ€™ll be her husband.â€?
The town spinsters decided that this was such a good idea, they made Sadie Hawkins Day an annual event, much to the fear of Dogpatch bachelors.
Somehow, Sadie Hawkins Day became a Broadway musical, but never made it into the national calendar of celebrations.
Thus, my favoriteâ€”Dogpatch Dayâ€”which involves no presents. âˆ†
Bayard Stockton doesnâ€™t like being separated from his wad. Send him comments through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.