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Father’s Day? Bah! Humbug!

As a dad, I hate pretty much all holidays

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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: “No mention this far. No furtive glances. No secretive giggles.

“They’ve kept the record clean over the years ... Controlled those last minute compulsions ... Overcome their basic mall-bound compulsions pretty well.�

My internal dialogue pauses for refreshment, then continues: “They’re not going to break down this year … Not really! Not after all we’ve been through together?!

“Betray the family ethic? Give in to all the hype?

“Actually go out ... and buy something ... for me? ... For Father’s Day?�

Since this is a family publication, you’ll understand that I’ve censored the internal dialogue pretty heavily.

“Naw. They’ll stand fast ... They’re not going to go all squishily sentimental like the commercials urge them to.�

But then that nasty doubt flits through my head: “Maybe this year they won’t be able to resist it?� The thought causes me to writhe during my totally un-American nap.

In case you hadn’t caught my drift quite yet, this is a totally unabashed statement of disclosure: I’m a self-licensed curmudgeon who can’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 odious—because it threatens me personally—is the one coming up on June 19: the regurgitational Father’s Day.

I can see once or twice agreeing to “celebrate� Father’s Day if I really, really needed something and it wouldn’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 you’re too embarrassed to buy for yourself, I see no earthly reason your nearest-and-dearest—nor even those who’ve flitted from the nest—should yield to the seasonal wooing calls of the chain-stores.

All the “celebration� 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 it’s plastic—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 Dodgers—the second half, to watch them slump yet again? A year’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 world’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 it’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 Year’s Day: Probably the best celebration of many is Hogmannay in Scotland. At New Year’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.

President’s Day: Understandable purely as a midwinter break—not a major marketing occasion.

Super Bowl? Almost a national holiday. Would “egregious� be apt? Think of the cost of the commercials! Look what it does for beer and hot-dog sales! It’s subversive to utter a word of criticism.

Valentine’s Day: Aw c’mon! Hallmark’s balance to Super Bowl Sunday. Basically, a way of enlivening our hormones in the middle of a (snowy) winter. Wikipedia says: “The 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.�

St. Patrick’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.

Mother’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? “In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service was heltd up for eight days because of the amount of mail ... Mother’s Day is the No. 1 holiday for flowers purchased throughout the year.�

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 TV—just after Labor Day? Recently, the ad-splashers seem to have caught on, and now don’t start touting for Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah till we’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 tourists—as well as residents.

My favorite, however, will always be Sadie Hawkins Day, when women can chase men, in keeping with the marvelous old Li’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 Dogpatch’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 “when ah fires [my gun] all o’ yo’ start a-runnin! When ah fires agin—after givin’ yo’ a fair start—Sadie starts a runnin’. Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husband.�

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 favorite—Dogpatch Day—which involves no presents. ∆

Bayard Stockton doesn’t like being separated from his wad. Send him comments through the editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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