Dubai Diaries: A horrible history of Father's Day gifts
What do you get the man who usually wants for nothing, never expresses any interest in trinkets, nor enjoys much fuss? I’m of course generalising, but in my experience fathers tend not to even remember it’s their special day let alone plan to do anything or expect a present. This leaves those wishing to mark the occasion at a complete loss for inspiration (good job you have today’s edition of City Times to help you with any last-minute ideas!). That being said, simply because the recipient isn’t up for the surprise, it doesn’t keep us offspring from the annual trudge around the mall or, more recently, browse online for something to wrap. When we’re really young, it’s easy: make something hideous at school usually involving dried pasta and silver spray paint et voila. Throw in a felt tip scribbled card and you have the potential for a heartwarming if not Turner Prize-winning memory. The older you are, however, the more difficult the ritual becomes. With my dad, things began badly and have evolved into a running joke about the atrocious gifting standards to which my brother and I can descend.
It was summer 1997 and, armed with a strict budget of a week’s pocket money, we headed out for the inaugural purchase. “What does dad like?” - a question we continuously kept posing. Maybe this is the reason the day was invented? It’s a chance to take stock and actually discuss who the man about the house is? What did we really know about him? To that point he had laughed at precisely one Friends joke despite enduring at least three seasons of us filling the living room with every episode we could consume, so that box set of VHS tapes was out. Although making time for special tournaments, he’d always been too busy to watch the football of a Saturday afternoon, thus a jersey would have been a waste and already owned every book on 17th and 18th century exploration. Then it dawned on us: cigarettes. It was the late nineties and advisories against smoking had only been around for 25 years or so, how was anyone supposed to take them seriously? As if by magic, like that golden idol in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, at that precise moment the sunlight fortuitously illuminated the perfect offering: a leather Zippo pouch you could attach to your waistband. For what accessory could be cooler for an adult who idolised Steve McQueen and bore a passing resemblance to Tom Selleck than what was essentially a bumbag for your lighter?
“You spent your money on this?” Came the response when it was handed over on a stiflingly hot Sunday morning in June. “Yes,” we said in unison. “It goes on your belt,” my brother helpfully indicated with a finger pointed at his trousers conspicuous only for their lack of a belt. “Did you keep the receipt?” was dad’s retort. And lo, his Father’s Day catchphrase was born. Through the car wash voucher, to the pair of sandals two sizes too small, to the year we bought a DVD from America that didn’t work in Europe and beyond, those five words are now what we all look forward to most.