Hey, Father’s Day is on Sunday! Wait, you are saying, suddenly even more sweaty, confused, and anachronistic than usual—aren’t we in April? Aren’t we in April of 2013? No, we are not in April of 2013. We are in June of ... [fumbles with phone for five embarrassing minutes] oh, wow, 2015! that’s bananas! ... and Father’s Day is on Sunday.
Time for a quick personal inventory, to determine your Father’s Day responsibilities. Do you have, or know, a father? Then you will need to get him a gift. Even if you are, yourself, a father! Here’s a helpful ranked list of Father’s Day gifts, from a real live father who likewise only just remembered that Father’s Day is this weekend.
1. Fishing gear
What’s that you say? The dad in your life doesn’t fish/doesn’t like fishing/doesn’t eat fish/is vegan/is deathly allergic to fish/lives in the middle of the desert/has no arms/is an actual fish? Doesn’t matter. Dads cannot resist fishing gear. This is encoded in Dad DNA.
Even if he never goes fishing with the fishing gear, what you gave him was a plausible basis for imagining that he might go fishing, some day, when he is done imagining that he is the busiest person in the world. This is the best gift you can give Dad. (Note: Once you give him fishing gear, you’ve taken fishing gear off the list of future Father’s Day gift ideas, probably for the entire rest of your life. So maybe save it for a year when you’re in particular need of some goodwill from the dad in your life.)
2. A shirt/some shirts
Shirts aren’t as flashy as some other gifts, of course, but they can’t be beat for convenience, because you can give Dad pretty much any shirt (so long as it sorta fits), and he will wear it. Shirt-blindness is a side-effect of paternity, forcing dads to rely on their children and co-parents to indicate which shirts are good shirts and which are bad. (Note: If you dislike the dad in your life, this is a great opportunity to set him up for future Casual Friday professional disgrace.)
3. A PS4/Xbox One
Dad might act like he’s too cool for the newfangled video games. “My dust-covered Nintendo 64 and Mario Kart 64 are all I need!” he might say. That’s just what he’s supposed to say. He will geek out if you get him one of these, and he will express it in the most dadly of ways: the sweaty intensity with which he endeavors to hook it up to the TV. Then you can watch him get flummoxed and frustrated by all the settings and options, which is good fun for everybody, as my wife recently discovered.
4. A hammock
This only comes in as low as it is here because it’s a bad gift for city dads. If the dad in your life is a suburban dad or a rural dad, a hammock pretty much is an ideal Father’s Day gift. He doesn’t even need any trees to hold it up! They have steel hammock stands, now.
Like the fishing gear, a hammock is a great gift even if Dad doesn’t get much use out of it, because he can always imagine using it. He can put a photograph of it on his desk, and look at it when he is stressed out at work. “This is what makes it all worth it,” he can say to himself while gazing at it, the way he used to say that to himself while gazing at baby photos of his children.
5. A sheet of paper that the kids wrote “I love you Dade” on with crayons
Great gift if the kids are little kids. Not-so-great gift if the kids are adults.
6. A keychain fob with a light on it
Y’know, this’ll come in dang handy in case he ever needs to, uh, unlock his car deep in the woods at night. Or if he’s secretly a large, hairy toddler who likes playing with things that light up, like every dad who ever lived.
7. A fancy bottle of booze
A fine gift if you know exactly what kind of booze the dad in your life enjoys, or what type of boozer—a Scotch man, probably—he likes to imagine being. The dad in your life will think of you fondly every time he enjoys some of his fancy booze. But then it will be gone, and he will not want to spend the money to replace it, and the memory will turn as bitter as the cheap shit he gets to fill the empty spot on the shelf.
Tough call, here. Some dads are not organized enough to remember to keep their slippers in a spot where they’ll remember to put them on, ever, and so will have to work upstream against their own natures in order to wrangle any actual enjoyment out of their slippers, which sort of defeats the purpose of slippers. Other dads, who have their shit together enough for slippers, probably already have slippers—and even if you get them some fancy slippers that beat the hell out of their usual slippers, they might be the fusty sorts of dudes who will get all bent out of shape about how having two pairs of slippers is wasteful. Use your judgment.
9. A “#1 Dad” mug
Dad Fact: Roughly 92 percent of all the dads on earth have this mug, and every single one of them secretly takes actual pride in having received it. Men cannot resist drinking vessels that tell us we are cool, which is why so many of the famous sports trophies are cups.
10. A magazine subscription
On its own this is not a very cool gift. In combination with a hammock, it is a great gift. It gives Dad something to read in the hammock, and a very tiny blanket to sleep under when he dozes off in the hammock.
11. Some book about war by a squinty asshole in a military ball cap that they’re selling on a wire rack at the grocery store
This can be a good gift for the Dad in your life if he is an old fart who likes to gripe about The Dang Liberals, in the sense that he will appreciate it, and probably will fall asleep with it on his belly in the hammock. Whether that’s worth the psychic and/or moral cost of feeding into that shit is a determination I suspect will be made for you by how late it is on Saturday afternoon when you suddenly remember that Father’s Day is on Sunday.
12. A case of beer
There’s really no way to give a case of beer as a gift that doesn’t say, “I know all you want to do is get drunk, you sad sack.”
13. A watch
Bad gift. Watches are butt. Plus, the kind of dude who’s into still into watches in 2015 probably already has a watch, and the kind of dude who needs a watch in 2015 will never remember to wind one and will lose it the first time he takes it off.
14. A fully restored classic car like the one he pined for as a teen
Even if you could afford to get this for the dad in your life, all you’d accomplish is making him worry that you’re embezzling money from your employers.
14. Running him over with that car
15. An Apple watch
“For Father’s Day, I would like an expensive, useless robo-bracelet that tells the other people on the bus that I am a libertarian.”
Illustration by Sam Woolley