Father's Day is just around the corner — Sunday, June 20, 1951.
Whoops. Our bad. 2021.
Forgive us for being confused. We took a peek at your gift list, and forgot what century we were in.
Ties? Power tools? Grill utensils? All very good presents for Ward Cleaver, as he comes home from his hard day at the Hula Hoop factory — or whatever mid-century place he works while his wife is home doing women's work.
That guy with the pipe and the slippers (fetched by an adoring sheepdog) who wears ties and does grilling and handyman projects on the weekend — that guy, if he ever existed, went extinct around 1965. Yet he — rather than our actual, probably much more interesting Dad — is the guy most of us get presents for, every June.
No wonder Father's Day is, from a gift-giver's perspective, so dull. It's basically been the same old presents since the custom was established in 1910.
It's 2021. Social roles are evolving. Even the most conventional of us are becoming familiar with terms like "stay-at-home-dad" and "non-binary." So why, on Father's Day, are we still giving dad golf clubs?
Here are some alternative suggestions.
You know your own dad best, of course. But we think that, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, it's time to think outside the tool box.
Instead of a tie...How about a scarf?
Ties have their uses. Funerals. Bar mitzvahs. Court appearances where the lawyer asks you to "clean up."
But we are not the tie-wearing, office-going, 9-to-5 culture we once were. Many of us, post-COVID, may not even have offices. So what do we wear, if we want to be casual but stylish in our new workplace — the home?
May we suggest…a silk aviator scarf?
Scarves are stylish, rakish, full of panache and attitude. Who would remember Aristide Bruant, the French cabaret performer that Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized in his paintings, without that epic scarf?
And if your dad thinks that scarves are a little froufrou, remind him that scarves were used, during the reign of the Emperor Cheng in the Han dynasty, around 33 B.C., as the mark of officers and warriors. And that 17th century Croat soldiers wore different kinds of scarves to distinguish their military ranks: silk for the officers, cotton for the privates. "Croat" in French is "Cravate." Hence: Cravat.
Instead of power tools...how about gardening tools?
Giving mom a vacuum for Mother's Day is, as everyone knows, a justifiable motive for homicide. But for some reason, society has decreed that it's perfectly OK to give a Black & Decker power tool to dad on his special day.
That's because — presumably — doing fix-up chores around the house isn't work for dear old dad. It's Fun. He'll tell you so himself. Come to think of it, he never did.
And that's always assuming that pop is handy. What if he's a klutz? Putting a power drill in such hands could make you an accessory after the fact.
Yes, of course — it's manly to pound nails, gouge holes, and rip into drywall. But perhaps, if father must have tools, we could try him on something a little more…nurturing.
A spade, a trowel, a weeder — just putting it out there — can help dad express his caring side. Imagine the pleasure he'll have, looking after each little seedling as it buds and blossoms. Where was this tender, sensitive guy when you were growing up?
Instead of grill implements...how about a vegan cookbook?
Traditional Dad, from 1951, loved nothing better than to slap a big hunk of meat on the grill, and then plop it onto the plate with the spatula and grill tongs you so generously provided him on Father's Day — with hardly a thought as to how it might benefit you, his steak-loving child.
But Sensitive 2021 Dad know that cows have feelings, the planet is in danger, and sustainable food sourcing is the way of the future. You can start him on the road to being a responsible steward of the planet with this year's Father's Day Gift: a brand new new vegan cookbook.
He'll thank you. The Earth will thank you. And guess what — the seitan steaks he prepares will be just as tasty as the ribeyes he used to make. It was always the marinade, anyway.
Instead of cologne...how about bubble bath?
Ah, the intoxicating smell of rum and leather. Old-school dad wanted to smell like a saddle shop. In the Caribbean.
But new-school dad knows that he is capable of exuding so many other interesting odors. Lavender. Mahogany. Dark Cocoa. Citrus Zest. And why slather, or spray, when you can luxuriate in a delicious bubble bath?
Bubble baths used to be considered something for the ladies — but then, the Army National Guard used to be considered something for the men. There is now at least one company, TOA Waters, that make bubble baths specifically with guys in mind. "Brawny scents," as company founder Javier Folgar (originally from Wayne) calls them. Smells like a great idea to us.
Instead of a shaving kit...how about a beard washing set?
Trad Dad loved to shave. A clean face is what he lived for. Some guys, prone to five o'clock shadow — Nixon was a famous example — shaved at least twice a day. Beards were for "artists." Beards were weird.
Now, of course, any red-blooded American wants to look like a hunter-gatherer from the Paleolithic era. And the business world, which in Ward Cleaver's day frowned on such things, is all on board with beards. Beards are manly. They make their corporate soldiers look more "aggressive."
So forget the razor, the suds, the aftershave. Your dad's whiskers need, not trimming, but encouragement. Beard-care products are many and various.
And if your dad doesn't have a beard? Tell him you're expecting great things by next Father's Day.
Instead of golf clubs...how about knitting needles?
Hitting the links, with a couple of buddies, is how the alpha male of an earlier era spent his down time. And it's not hard to see why. It takes patience, reflexes, coordination.
Well, you know what else takes patience, reflexes, coordination? Knitting.
Knitting, over the past 10 years, has become popular with guys on college campuses and other questionable places. And like golf, it requires the right gear.
This Father's Day, skip the mashie niblick, and head straight for the worsted aisle. Your dad will thank you. Maybe he'll even knit you an afghan.
Instead of a pipe...how about a pipe?
Dad With the Pipe is classic dad: Dad 1.0. He's the image we all have of the square-jawed father figure, filling the room with tobacco smoke as he sits on the recliner reading his paper.
Well, dad 2.0 still smokes a pipe. Only maybe not the same kind of pipe.
There's a lot of interesting smoking gear out there these days. Marijuana is legal in New Jersey, so we're not even going out on a limb here.
Jim Beckerman is an entertainment and culture reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to his insightful reports about how you spend your leisure time, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
In case you missed: On Mother's Day, here's what your mom actually needs
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Father's Day gifts: Gardening tools, vegan cookbook ideas