Why do Father’s Day Cards Suck?

Father's Day cards seem to be written by a six-year-old girl

Illustration by Breanna Cooke

As I’ve gotten older, selecting the appropriate Father’s Day card has become a physical experience. My stomach clenches with dismissive discomfort at each grossly inaccurate sentiment.

“No. No. Oh, hell no!”

I quickly reject nearly every card. They all seem to be written from the perspective of a sweetly naïve six-year-old girl.

  • Happy Father’s Day to my hero and role model.
  • Thank you for being there every day with just the love and guidance I’ve needed.
  • Father of the year!

Sure, I wish these cards were true, but please! They are so schmaltzy, they border on ridiculous.

We’re both aware of our own flaws and the resulting imperfections in our father-daughter relationship. I literally choke and I’m sure he would, too. Then it would be my fault. My card gives dad a heart attack. I’d never live that down.

My card shopping takes place at Target. I want to share a comforting laugh with someone and get affirmation I’m not the only one convulsing on the inside. I look around for someone to strike up a conversation with, but everyone refuses to make eye contact with me. Damn, I’ve probably been making audible noises again.

I like the one with fuzzy felt eyebrows thanking dad for sharing his good looks, but I know it would backfire. As gruff as he tries to appear, he’s also sensitive. That now extends to the wild appearance of his eyebrows, which I’ve apparently commented on too many times. I skip that 3-D delight, reminding myself this nut clearly didn’t fall far from the tree.

I have a bit of an odd track record when it comes to giving my dad cards. I gave him the same card three years in a row. I didn’t believe him until he pulled out the evidence. Ouch. It’s a dog smoking a cigar. Perfect. My family expresses emotions by talking about the dogs in our family. It’s how we communicate.

But even if I could find that card again this year, it would be inappropriate. My parents recently lost their beloved Chloe, totally unexpectedly. It’s still a sore spot, so the card would only hurt and make my mom cry.

Speaking of, I could use mom’s approach. Skipping the card is her style. I think I’m beginning to understand why, but then remember she thinks cards are a waste of money and just throws them away, which is why I keep and savor the cards I receive.

Maybe I could just do a gift. I could upgrade his technology and get him an inexpensive laptop. Wait. I’d be stuck providing tech support and my life would take on the role of his own personal help desk.

Wired magazine suggests a ukulele. My dad is a big guy, so the idea of him holding something so little makes me giggle. Then I see the price tag is $1,500. Who spends that on a gift? I wonder if I should feel guilty but am relieved to find the average spend on dad is $135, according to the National Retail Federation.

He doesn’t collect records and he certainly wouldn’t use an electric bike that folds up. There are lots of gift guides on how to select the perfect present, but my father doesn’t fit any of the profiles. Which makes me wonder — why aren’t there guides to help you find a good Father’s Day card? You know, a guide to help you find the real cards that are accurate depictions of the way things really are. Where you’re being fair to yourself, recognize the relationship is less than perfect, but without being cruel. A card that’s representative. Things like:

  • Dad, even though you messed me up, you’re still in my will.
  • I still love you, even though you left mom and ran over the cat on your way out.

Clearly my relationship with my dad is a bit more complicated than the Hallmark varieties.

At a loss, I end up taking a classic approach and get a card that anoints me the “favorite child.” Excellent. It will annoy my brother. We continue to argue about who’s the favorite, even though we are both in our 40s and the distinction fluidly vacillates.

It’s a last resort. The card I really want doesn’t exist and would only start a fight.

Picture it. A cartoon drawing of Donald Trump on the front reading: “Did you know Richard Nixon made Father’s Day an official holiday in 1972?” Inside it says: “Guess what else we’re going to have in common…”

"Why are Father's Day cards so sappy?" originally appeared in the Katy Trail Weekly.
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