The Same Old, Same Old Father’s Day Gifts

Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic write, speak and blog together as The Word Mavens.

A week or so ago, our husbands told us what they wanted for Father’s Day: A new umbrella to replace the broken one. A black belt that’s exactly like the worn out one. More of the same cologne they’ve been wearing since college.

That’s so boring. Who wants to shop for things our guys actually need? So we Googled gifts for our guys. That was our first mistake. One site recommended a bow tie, a an electric lawnmower, and an iTunes gift card as great gifts for Father’s Day. What?

Our guys don’t wear bow ties. Giving them a lawnmower almost guarantees they’ll give us a vacuum cleaner next Mother’s Day. And an iTunes gift card? That’s what you give to a middle schooler on his birthday. “Hey sweetie, here’s $10 to spend any way you want on iTunes.”

Back in the day, a coffee mug with a picture of the kids was the perfect gift. Useful. Inexpensive. And so cute! But those days are long gone – and the mugs are faded. (We have not, however, tossed it.)

So now we turn to sites like for help. The site asked us to pick a celebrity dad/husband who was most like ours – and they would find gifts to match. Our first choice was Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, who they called the “Foodie Dad.” He’s family-oriented, warm and effusive, and he can be counted on to bake a great cake, but our husbands wouldn’t know a cake pan if they tripped over it.

Neil Patrick Harris, the “Metro Dad,” could be the perfect choice if your husband is gay and has hosted the Tony Awards. So we picked Will Smith, the “Classic Dad.” He seems like the guy next door – and in fact he is from the neighborhood (West Philly). But when he climbs into his private plane to vacation in the Bahamas with his actress wife and their entourage of agents, bodyguards and a personal chef, that’s where the similarities end.

We were disappointed when we clicked through to the “perfect match gifts.” They fell into predictable categories.

Drinking: You’d think that all dads are big shikkers. Father’s Day gifts can help Dad make his own whiskey, drink tequila out of Himalayan salt glasses, open a beer with a baseball bat bottle opener, or be the proud owner of a personalized stoneware “growler.”

Sports: Evidently, every dad must play golf, judging from the numbers of personalized tees, golf club cufflinks, and embroidered club covers advertised. There are even spatulas and barbecue tools shaped like golf clubs. Which leads us to our next category . . .

Grilling: It’s assumed that all dads love to grill, so of course they’ll also love the potholders shaped like boxing gloves, the personalized spice rubs with their name on the jar, and the $119 reclaimed wood cookbook stand. (Our husbands don’t own their own cookbooks – or even use ours.)

Grooming: Let’s not pretend that our men are interested in shaving sets with badger-hair brushes and sandalwood shaving cream or in the latest Tommy Hilfiger cologne. Maybe manufacturers know that men don’t go for those highfalutin designer colognes. That’s why there’s a cologne named Bacon that has a “spicy maple aroma” and soaps that smell like beer. Grooming-related Father’s Day gifts are picked by women who hope to clean up their men.

Power Tools: There are plenty of drills and right angle impact drivers (huh?) to choose from, but we dismissed this category. Our husbands’ favorite power tool is the remote control – and they already have a few.

Random tchotchkes and really bad ideas:

  • A custom-made stuffed doll with a photo of your loved one’s face. Would he want to cuddle with a stuffed doll of himself? Should we put our faces on these dolls? Creepy.
  • A Sleep Tracking Pad. Maybe this is actually a good idea. The tracker is put under the mattress, measures his nightly sleep and gives him feed back “to improve his habits.” Maybe now when we say, “Your snoring kept me up all night,” he’ll believe us!
  • A ride in a fighter jet (starting at only $2,500) or a gift certificate for skydiving – so he’ll get over his fear of heights.
  • A gourmet box of chocolates: Men can walk past a box of chocolates for two weeks. Any gift of chocolate will be eaten by us, and that’s just unnecessary.

Our husbands are at a point in their lives where they can purchase the things they want. They don’t need to ask our permission – even if it’s a splurge. One of them carefully deliberated, weighed the choices, and then ordered sandals directly from Israel. The other did the exact same process with whiskey from Scotland. Their self-bought gifts arrived a few days before Father’s Day. Thank goodness for the Internet.

But on Father’s Day, we know they feign surprise when they open our gifts – the perfect belt and umbrella! How did we know?



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