I’ve entered the awkward dad gift Christmas zone.
I’d been flirting with the edges of the awkward dad gift zone for some time, but this year, my fifth Christmas as a dad, I’m officially a full-fledged member.
It was only a matter of time.
If you’re a new dad, at some point you too will enter the awkward dad Christmas gift zone, when all your presents seem as if they were purchased from the only tinker still going door-to-door with an old west covered wagon of supplies.
Oh, a buffalo robe, beef jerky, and moccasins engraved with the 1969 Sugar Bowl score?
Every dads Christmas gift seems like it’s been mistakenly placed in the bottom of a sack full of an otherwise perfectly thought out assortment of Christmas gifts.
Blue and black socks? THE perfect mixture of blue and black? In a sock?
A striped tie?
Now I can pair it with the 48 other striped ties that I have received for the 48 previous dad Christmases.
Awkward dad gifts happen because no one really understands what to get dads as gifts. Partly, we’re to blame for this because we don’t ask for anything. As a dad you gain satisfaction over taking care of the big issues in life, a house over your family’s head, food in the kitchen, a working heating and air system, basically a dad’s responsibility is to ensure that death from the elements, wild animals, or starvation does not occur.
Once we’ve done this, everything else, especially trivial Christmas gifts, is minor.
This is why men, if left to their own housing devices, live in virtually empty homes.
Here’s a man’s home check list in the modern era:
1. massive television
2. really comfortable couch
5. piece of artwork on the wall to make women think we’re artistic so they’ll sleep with us.
That’s all we need.
The “loft” is the quintessential single male home. Some old warehouse with exposed pipes and brick walls. Lofts are trendy now, but men weren’t trying to be trendy when they moved in to them, they just had everything we needed, walls and heat and air, at an affordable price.
Thirty years ago no married woman would have been caught dead anywhere near a loft.
The older you become as a dad the less you want new things. Moms are the exact opposite.
This is why if couples are married long enough eventually the man has one room in the house that he spends all his time in, women’s horizons expand as they age, men’s recede.
I have no idea why this is, I think we dads all start rehearsing for death at an early age. Back in the caveman days I suspect there weren’t a lot of grandfathers, we were already dead. Also, in the back of our minds we’re aware that all of these additional possessions are unnecessary and too heavy to carry. What if the buffalo herd moves and we need to find a new home? Am I really going to have to put that rustic leather ottoman with a no-spill veneer sheen on my back as we walk across the prairie?
Pause for a minute and look around you, if 95% of the possessions you can see right now vanished, would your life be any worse?
The answer is no.
This is what dads are always thinking in the back of our minds. The subtext to any purchase, if you’re a dad is, “We don’t really need this.”
Which bring us to Christmas, the time of year when the virtually nonexistent gift desires of a dad coincide with the excessive consumerism of the holiday season.
The conflict is palpable, the matter and anti-matter collision of the holiday shopping season, dads vs. presents.
Dads are the only people on earth who can go to a mall, walk through the entire place, and not even be tempted to enter a single store.
The last time I bought an article of clothing for myself other than a t-shirt?
(Note: I have bought other clothing since this time, but always in the company of a woman. I wasn’t even a dad until 2008, but I was already in training for the awkward dad gift).
No one has any idea what to get us. Not our wives, not our kids, not our parents, we dwell in some perpetually awkward dad gift zone, in a 21st century America where marketers have completely mastered consumerism, the dad gift is a black hole of gifting disasters. I’m a dad now, but even before you’re a dad you remember watching your own dad open his Christmas presents and thinking, “Socks, again?”
What do you get for a man who says he wants nothing?
The result? The awkward dad Christmas gift is a peculiar collection of things that a mentally-deranged hobo would carry in his rucksack in 1938.
What dads want can’t typically be given as gifts: the lights turned out when you leave the room, a kid who says, “I think it’s my bedtime, dad, I got this by myself tonight,” dinner reservations that don’t conflict with a sporting event you’d like to watch, cleavage you can stare at for as long as you want to without it being socially awkward — my point most dad gifts are intangible.
But most dad gifts are tangible.
This year I received the following six Christmas gifts from my wife, my parents, my brother-in-law, and my in-laws:
1. A Target beard trimmer (not pictured)
My wife asked me what I wanted from her for Christmas.
I told her, “Sex.”
I have said the same thing for twelve consecutive Christmases.
Instead, one week before Christmas she gave me an unwrapped beard trimmer from Target.
(Note: I also asked for a beard trimmer. Ever since I spent election night watching Wolf Blitzer, I’ve wanted a new beard trimmer. How does Wolf Blitzer get his beard that short? And why doesn’t he have his own line of beard trimmers? Call it, “the Wolf.” Dads everywhere would get it every Christmas. It’s genius.)
2. A massive plastic crate of Kirkland’s organic animal crackers from my mother-in-law.
With Winnie the Pooh and Tigger on a label on the front.
When I asked my wife why I got animal crackers for Christmas, she said, “Because you always eat the kid’s animal crackers.”
(Confession: I’m jealous of lots of my kids’ foods. For instance, when we go out to a restaurant and they get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I really hope they don’t finish their food so I can eat it.)
3. Smart touch 2.0 Isotoner gloves from my brother-in-law.
“That’s so you can use your iPhone without taking off your gloves!” my wife said.
The only problem with this is, I don’t wear gloves.
So at no point in my life have I ever thought, “I can’t use my iphone because these gloves are in the way.” (By the way, this is the latest sign that our society has become too wimpy. Are there really men out there complaining because they can’t use their tiny hand-held computers without their fingers getting too cold? Did cave men complain about their cold fingers when they were chasing jaguars with large sticks?)
4. An 800 page book: “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” from my parents.
There’s a cottage industry of authors who write books that are never read solely so dads have Christmas gifts.
This is one of those books.
I wish we could do an official study on percentage of books sold vs. percentage of books read — dad books would dominate on the never read list.
Conservatively, 99% of all books bought for dads are never read. Mostly, dads are to blame because dads don’t read. (The number of men who, when asked, can’t tell you a single book they’ve read in an entire year is staggering. When pressed about why they don’t read most of these men will say, “I read magazines.”
Which is also a lie.)
The best part about these “leadership” books is the psuedo-way they’re marketed, as if they’re going to make men better at leading in our own jobs. It’s not enough that men be willing to read about actual history, you know, great stories about great men.
No, these books have to be instructive in our own lives. (Go look at the business books marketed to men someday. You’ll want to shoot yourself in the head with a nail gun).
Has anyone ever actually uttered this sentence: “Oh, Joel just read about how Jefferson did the Louisiana Purchase and how Lincoln got the 13th amendment passed and now he’s figured out how to get the new staplers shipped in time for accounting season!”
The over/under on the number of pages read in a dad book is eight.
Take the under.
5. A Kirkland Signature full grain Italian leather black dress belt.
6. A Kirkland Signature full grain Italian leather brown dress belt.
You know what the craziest thing about Kirkland is?
They also make my Winnie the Pooh animal crackers.
What doesn’t Kirkland do?
They’ve just cornered 50% of all my Christmas gifts this year, from belts to animal crackers. (Kirkland is Costco’s store brand. I said I could walk through an entire mall and have zero interest in any stores, but I absolutely love Costco. It’s the greatest store in the history of mankind).
I’d write more about awkward dad gifts, but I’m too busy trying to figure out how Thomas Jefferson’s drafting of the Declaration of Independence is going to make my next teabagger story even better.
Kirkland’s has already agreed to publish that book.
Score, we’re rich off dad gifts!
Now my wife is going to buy more ottomans.