All you see on television when Mother’s Day is coming is a bunch of Don Henley videos with consumer products attached to them.
Voiceovers remind you, “Your mom is an indestructible angel walking the Earth, and she’s never, ever lost her temper and she always knows what to do, and she deserves the very best – like this product right here, this purse or this candle warmer or this meal at this restaurant or this trip to this spa.”
Some pretty healthy people rocking around in Mother’s Day commercials – a bunch of underwear models again, pretending to be your mom. And their kitchens are the size of sparkling gymnasiums and their children are cute and groomed and happily respectful, and they like to frolic in slow motion.
Your mom is all about acoustic guitar music and catchy, tingling bells, and easygoing smiles – just ask your television.
Hey, I’m not here to knock your mom – I’m sure you love her and I’m sure she’s awesome, and commercials don’t need to be about gritty reality. Commercials are little pellets of cloying lies.
They’re not going to say, “Your mom is a pill-popping drunk but she’ll torture you psychologically through guilt and logistics, if you don’t drop a hundred dollars worth of butt-kissery off at her house today, so get in here and buy her this crap right here. It’ll hold her for a while.”
Sure. I get that.
But what the hell is up with Father’s Day commercials?
“Your dad is a real jackass, isn’t he?” Then they show a picture of him – usually chubbing it up a little, a big fat guy or a guy heading that way, and he’s doing something absurd and sitcom-like. Having the DVR explained to him by a child. Or getting his tie caught in his car door when he closes it. Or dropping a hamburger by the grill and then sneaking it back on there, looking around all sneaky, because if his wife catches him he’s in big trouble.
“Sure, your moron dad embarasses you and listens to stupid music, and every time he goes outside he steps on a cartoon rake, whacks himself in the face with it. But one day a year, let’s turn down the Ridicule Valve just a notch or two, and let him have a single afternoon where he can lie in a hammock or something, and not get insulted.”
Right there on the television – you know, dads are watching, too. It’s funny because I understand that dads aren’t the ones going shopping, moms are, so they must be marketing Father’s Day gifts to moms and children, and that seems to be what moms and children like to hear.
But isn’t it funny that on Mother’s Day, they appear to be marketing toward moms, too?
Imagine if they lumped a bunch of absurd and outdated stereotypes into a Mother’s Day commercial. I’m not even going to follow that one anywhere, let’s just all close our eyes and imagine it.
I suppose a lot of dads – just like a lot of moms – must be terrible. I know that I’m not exactly kicking ass in every single category, myself. But I’m pretty sure Father’s Day – just like Mother’s Day – is not about assessing parenting skills, but more about acknowledging the person who does the job.
It’s not a race. If you see a guy who isn’t your dad wearing a World’s Greatest Dad tee shirt tomorrow, you don’t need to slap him with a glove and challenge him to a duel.
It’s a weird cultural thing these days – we have a lot of rigid expectations for fathers, many of them cripplingly economic. It’s pretty hard to pay any attention at all to your own dreams and interests, while at the same time bringing home enough money to justify your existence.
Listen, I’m not complaining about my own family – they are acutely aware that I am not a tubby moron from a Pizza Hut commercial. My dreams and goals are their dreams and goals, or you wouldn’t be reading these words right now.
And my children would generally only insult me if they had a loose tooth or something, and they were trying to get it knocked out of their head.
Of course I wouldn’t hit them – they’re girls. But my wife keeps a sock full of nickels tucked into her belt at all times. If I say the word, she’s like a Mob henchman.
You want I should knock her teeth out, Tommy C?
But out in the world at large, there’s a weird thing going on with dads. For some reason, this culture seems bent on undermining them. Maybe it’s because a lot of them deserve it, but again, I can find millions of horrible mothers for you, if you want.
But that’s not what we see on television, and I mean across the board, from the sitcoms to the commercials. We see super smart, super hot, super compentent wives who are just on their last nerve dealing with their fat, goofy, moron husbands.
You know, we know they’re just commercials. As individuals, we know whether they fit us or not. But I’m talking about the role itself. We’re important, and we sacrifice a lot, and in return, by and large, we get insulted when we do our jobs well, and insulted when we don’t.
And then what’s the first thing that happens when a man spends a decade getting treated like an incompetent employee on the verge of being fired, when after years of being completely disregarded, a man leaves his wife and says you know what, I deserve a little respect and I’m going to go and find it.
Suddenly everyone wants to talk about how crucial it is to have a dad around, and how awful he is for leaving his children.
I agree – so why do we treat them like a bunch of stuttering clowns, while they’re still here, being crucial?
Which is it – are they absolutely crucial or are they a bunch of drooling pains in the ass?
Do your dad a favor this year, and try to block out the goofy commercials about what a moron he is. If you want him to have a decent Father’s Day, then sure, buy him a present and hand it to him – even if you bought it with his money.
But more important, actually take a few minutes to think about everything your dad has done. Do you think that his life’s ambition was to sell insurance, or whatever he does? Do you think that’s what he would be doing, if the only one he had to worry about was himself?
Or do you think he decided to do that so that he could properly take care of you?
As a father, frequently the jobs you have to take completely rob you of any individuality – they take your hair and they dress you up like a tool, and often they work you for long, desk-bound hours which leave you choosing at the end of the day between getting in some exercise and getting in an hour with the family you do it all for.
Then after a few years, you’re out of shape and your clothes all look plain and identical, and you don’t know anything that isn’t work-related, and the television likes to ridicule you for it. On Father’s Day. Because you’re such a drab and boring fool.
Think about it for five minutes, and I think you’ll notice that you’ve been chomping down your father’s dreams like a bucket of popcorn for most of your life, and that you weren’t even watching the movie most of the time – you had your phone out, texting your pals.
Maybe he found a way to fit his own interests into the sliver of life he had left to himself, and maybe he didn’t. But we’re all right on board and ready to sing songs about the sacrifices of motherhood. Why does Dad’s song have to be accompanied by a kazoo?
Think about what your dad gave up for you, and think about the fact that he didn’t have to. Have a little respect for the man – he could have jumped ship and started having a party any time he wanted.
Do your dad a favor and ask him about it, instead of following your television’s advice. Sit down and look at him, and tell him you’ve been thinking about everything he’s done for you, and mean it.
I’m pretty sure he won’t need an apology – you didn’t ask to be born, and he’d have you again if the choice were in front of him – but I’m pretty sure he could use a little recognition and genuine respect.