Saturday, June 17, 2006

Father's Day

At the risk of being called a dyspeptic old curmudgeon, I refuse to celebrate Father's Day just as I abstain from birthdays and other commercial holidays.

It is regrettable, but like so many worthy ideas it has been co-opted by our market-driven system and remolded to induce our population to buy, buy, buy, regardless of circumstance or deeper feeling.

Over the years I've trained my children, whom I deeply love -- and who, I have reason to believe -- return that love, to send me no gifts and to make no fuss about Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc, etc. I give them gifts fairly often, as occasion or whim occurs, and I always appreciate little gifts and reminders of love from them. But not on holidays, please!

My dear Freddie, who cherishes some holidays and loves to have opportunity to remind loved ones of how she feels, generously accepts my idiosyncracy and continues to love me through thick and thin. She has never criticised or complained, even though she is delighted when her children or friends send her notes, cards, or little gifts on holidays. (And I confess I fudge a little on her birthday. I love her so much I even violate my own rules!)

If families could discipline themselves, defying the relentless commercial pressures that play on their emotions, and make certain holidays into special little days where they cater a bit to the "honored one", most of my antipathy would disappear. Tell him to sleep a little late, treat him to a special meal, perhaps give him a simple card or note - - these would be admirable ways to show love.

But going to Wal Mart to buy a new lawnmover or a tool, a bottle of after shave, or a box of cigars? Ugh: the mere thought makes me nauseous. It transmutes noble meaning into shallow obedience to the torrent of television, radio, and newspaper exhortations to "show Dad you love him." Sincere act becomes ritual compliance with an external imperative.

Don't believe for one moment the constant refrain to "express your love through gifts." There are better ways.

Rise up, ye downtrodden masses of slaves to the market! Break the iniquitous habit. Free yourself and show sincere love and affection, with no dollar signs anywhere near.

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