IT IS FATHER'S DAY, again. It is a day that stresses repetition. Innovation is not the theme here; ritual is. The same gifts -- socks or ties or shirts -- will be given to us. That is fine with most of us. We don't want to be surprised. We also look forward to our annual pat on the back, or backside. We also get to enjoy our favorite meal.
The meal always lasts longer than other parts of the Father's Day festivities, which is fitting. Most dads don't cotton to prolonged sentimental ceremonies, but we don't mind lingering over extra helpings of strawberry pie.
I have said all this before, but it bears repeating. That, I have been told, is what dads do. We say the same thing over and over. Dads want gifts on Father's Day. But we don't want that self-improvement stuff, no loaves of basil bread that cure baldness.
Such self-improvement ploys have been passed off as ideal presents for dads. On Father's Day we don't want to think about improvement. Instead, we want to wallow in what we are. We know what our habits are, and on Father's Day we are looking for gifts that encourage them.
We do not want to hear the C words -- calories, cholesterol and (heart) congestion. We do not want books that warn against them. We do not want exercise videos showing how to reduce them. Reduce is a dirty word on Father's Day.
Instead, we are hoping for the usual: the traditional big piece of dessert or a bottle of our favorite liquid, which is probably not bottled water.
On Father's Day we want to feel we are at the top of the food chain. On Father's Day the hunk myth matters. We hunger for a hunk of meat, a hunk of fish or even a hunk of watermelon.
If all this sounds like a previous recording, that is fine. On Father's Day, most dads welcome the same-old, same-old routine.
In many ways, this constancy goes to the essence of being a dad. We may be rooted in our ways of doing things. We may be rigid. But we are predictable. Our kids may consider us boring and out of it, but they know where we stand. Whether it is our outdated views on the appeal of raw oysters, our insistence that everyone remain seated during the evening meal, or our strange notion that a hot dog should be coated with fresh horseradish, they know the dad dogma. They may not agree, but they know what to rebel against.
Ideal Father's Day meals are like perfect dads: They seem to exist only in fiction. Real life is more uneven. Mistakes are part of the package. But on Father's Day, dads get to sit at the table while an array of greeting cards, favorite foods and sentiments about our tenure are presented to us.
It is familiar fare. And that is how it should be.
Pub Date: 6/21/98