Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Measure of a Man

Hallmark hates men.

My father's birthday is in a few days. As usual, I forgot until just recently. Luckily, I've established a track record over the several decades of my life that I don't tend to buy much for birthdays, so there was no issue about any last-minute gift to get him.

My mind ran through the various places I could look for a card. Part of me said that any card will do. But of course, it had to be decent. I suddenly realized -- somehow for the first time -- that most of the places I frequent to buy birthday cards carry cards designed for the younger, hipper set. They're fun, irreverent, cartoonish, jokey -- and definitely not of the type my father would ever understand or appreciate.

I was definitely not going to buy a birthday card for my father at Pulp. Assuming I could have swung it, Lambda Rising would not have made for a good choice either.

I swung into a CVS on my way home from dinner. I was on the phone with my brother, talking about something or another, scanning row after row after row of cards. At first, I thought my conversation with my brother was just distracting me, but I eventually I realized that was not the case. The truth of the matter was that there were literally no "father's birthday" cards available at this CVS. None.

I found husband's birthday; I found brother's birthday; I found mother's and sister's and best friend's and in-law's and grandchild's and grandmother's and grandfather's and stepsibling's. There were no father's birthday cards there.

What the heck?

My determination to find an appropriate card increased exponentially after this dismal failure. I left the CVS and headed up the street to -- of all places -- Safeway. Yes, Safeway. Why? I don't know. It was the only other place I could think of that had cards available and that was open at that hour.

The security guard's gaze fixed upon me as I stood there and staring at the rack of cards. The first thing that caught my eye was the selection of Father's Day cards (which I somehow also missed at the CVS). Dammit, I thought, is that coming up too? Gads. I decided I may as well buy both at the same time. At least they had a selection that didn't all involve trite cartoons of power tools, golf, or "old man" jokes. I picked a sensible-looking one with a decent "I love you" message in it and moved over to where the birthday cards were.

Of course, I was met with a shocking lack of father's birthday cards at the Safeway too. What the heck does one do for their fathers when their birthdays come around? Do people just not care about their father's special days?

Finally, I found one card addressed to Dad. It had a cartoon duck on it who exclaimed how Daddy always had right "tools" for every occasion. Opening it up you see the duck wearing a tool belt, and everything attached to it had some lame "father figure" type turn of phrase attached to it -- stuff like "hammering home life lessons" or crap like that. Does anyone over the age of 12 actually think this is a decent card to get their father?

One card looked promising, except that upon pulling it out I found that it was for Mom. Another card for father wasn't quite for "dad" so much as it was for "Papi." Another card would have been good, except that it was already designated as "from both of us." Because my brother has recently decided to eschew birthday celebrations (that's a whole 'nother blog post), this would be wildly inappropriate. (Is there a huge market for birthday cards from two people? I know my parents had two kids, but seriously, how hard is it to just buy a regular "happy birthday" card and attach two signatures to it?)

Finally, I found one card that looked nice enough, contained a sentiment that wasn't about stereotyped "manly" interests, and did the trick. I bought it, knowing full well that I'd have to hope that my dad didn't examine the card too carefully.

The card I finally settled on was one put out by Mahogany, the division of Hallmark marketed for African-American families. The picture of a nice black man with his son on the front is rather small and a little fuzzy, so I'm hoping that's enough to render the scene a "generic" one.

Uh... in any event, happy birthday, Dad.


Drew said...

I usually find that it's difficult to get decent "dad from son" as well as "grandfather" cards.

Either we're all supposed to have dysfunctional relationships with our male relatives (check) and not send them cards, or Hallmark/American Greetings assumes they're all dead. I don't know which is funnier, to be honest.

Dop said...

I just played a little catch-up on your blog. Been so busy. BTW - you're a great writer.

Steve said...

You know, I hadn't really thought about it, but you're right. I like to put some thought into stuff like that, but I always see a shit-load of those kiddy-type cards you've described. I hope they don't think *all* dads really dig those types of cards. (And, who the f**k is 'they' anyway?) Hope you have a great holiday weekend, Dennis!

misplacedpom said...

And that is exactly why I always buy gender non-specific blank cards. The ooey-gooey sentiments make me feel slightly nauseous. Hope your dad has a happy birthday :)