Last Updated Dec 10, 2010 5:10 PM EST
"Oh, wow. Wow. Look at this ... you got me ... thank you for this, this, this...
"Um, what the heck is this thing?"
Don't want Dad to be stammering when he opens your gift? Shop carefully for the father figure in your life.
Sure, Dads are hard to buy for. They don't need much. They don't want much. Unlike Moms, they rarely drop hints. Don't know what to get him? Spend some time thinking, observing, or flat-out asking him. Above all, avoid purchases that fall into one of these six traps:
The "Your Appearance Needs Help" Gift
Yes, Dad may have more hair in his nose and ears than on his head these days, but you don't need to call his attention to it at Christmas by presenting him with nose hair trimmers. Same goes for fitness equipment. Unless he specifically asked for the Ab Glider, don't get him the Ab Glider. Be careful about what you're implying about his abs. Or his biceps. Or his pecs. The fitness equipment Dad will use is the equipment he tests and selects himself.
This could easily be lumped in with the "Your Appearance Needs Help" gift, but dads receive clothing so frequently, it deserves a category all its own. Dads everywhere are practically begging: No. More. Ties. Gloves, pajamas, slippers, hats, sweaters? Keep 'em. "I HATE getting clothes," one dad complained to me. "People, usually women, give you the stuff they think you SHOULD wear. Drives me nuts." Another father echoed the sentiment: "Some of us like to buy our own clothes, believe it or not."
A related Dad peeve: When their kids waste someone's hard-earned money on goofy clothing, like bunny slippers, reindeer ties or funny-looking hats. Those items might get a momentary chuckle. Then they collect dust for a year before ending up at Goodwill.
Jobs Masquerading as Gifts
He doesn't care if those pruning shears have cushion grips. You're still giving him the gift of chores. "How would you feel if your father gave you a mop?" grumbled one dad I asked. He'll see right through anything that can be construed as a spouse's backhanded way of getting him to do more work around the house. Even if the gift does come via the kids.
If you are going to buy him tools, and he really wants tools, make sure they're quality. Cheap tools are frustrating, and they get tossed in the junk drawer where they belong.
Yes, the toaster that brands the logo of his NFL team seems cool. But some Monday morning after a brutal loss, he's going to look at that toaster and hate it. The day the quarterback tears his ACL or admits to an affair with the sideline reporter, Dad will feel like punting that thing out the window. It might be novel and cute for a week, but what's going to last longer, the novelty or the credit card bill?
Gifts Related to His Passion
This may sound counterintuitive, but take it from my friend Bob, a father of two, who is an avid runner. He gets at least three books a year about running. Most of them aren't very good. "I hate books about running," he says. Bob's high school buddy is a pianist, and all that guy ever gets are piano knick-knacks, piano neckties, and piano pads of paper. "Why not get Dad something unexpected from another realm of his life?" Bob asks.
Even if the scale holds up to 400 pounds or has an easy-to-read dial at waist level, he doesn't want it. This is yet another entry into the "Your Appearance Needs Help" category, but with a particularly cruel message. This Christmas, Dad just wants to know you love him. All of him.
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