DANNY: Father’s Day is fast approaching, and many neckties, golf ball sets, and engraved money clips are being purchased by children of all ages. Right now, someone is standing in a Hallmark store, hemming and hawing, trying unsuccessfully to find the right card with the right sentiment. Every year, I fight an overwhelming sense of defeat, because there is no gift that could convey how I feel about my father. Actually, I found a card that came close this year, and I knew it was the right one because I was still crying when the cashier gave me my receipt. This year, while children everywhere celebrate their fathers, I’ll know, like I know every year, that no Dad can hold a candle to mine.
What makes a perfect Dad? I could reel off a list of clichés, but it wouldn’t come close to doing him justice. During my freshman year in college, when I was abysmally homesick and carless, my Dad drove from Nashville to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Friday to pick me up and take me home, then took me back on Sunday. That’s 243 miles each way, down and back twice, but that’s not all: My Dad can do absolutely anything. Need electricity run from your house to your shed? Done. Oil changed and tires rotated? Fine. Five-foot snake on your patio killed? Not a problem. Dyed-to-match shoe soles sanded down so you don’t slip at your senior prom? Of course, honey.
One small drawback to having such an incredible dad is the comparison factor. I can’t help itif I’m dating a guy who doesn’t know where his oil filter is, he’s already got a strike against him. In addition, I’m wary of guys who don’t have good relationships with their parents. It doesn’t bode well if he’s going to be parenting our future kids. But moms and dads treat sons and daughters differently, and that could be part of the problem. Would my experience have been different had I been born a boy? Can’t say, as I have no brothers. In my experience, though, the father-daughter relationship has more advantages.
Dads are free to love their daughters without having all those awkward male-male hang-ups to deal with. They can teach us about carburetors, how to plant a gardenall those traditionally male thingsbecause the post 1950s dad wants to raise his daughter to be independent. At the same time, dads can be more affectionate with girls. Holding my dad’s hand and falling asleep on his chest on the couch are not taboo like they would be for a boy.
For a girl who’s not afraid to take a stand on gun control or to roll around in the gutter discussing oral sex, writing about my Daddy reduces me to a weepy sentimental mess, worried that the words I’m using aren’t conveying just how special he is. All week long, I play Independent Girlmowing my own lawn, paying bills, eating sushi, and scoping out cute boys with friends. But the best part of the week is the time I spend at my parents’ house, where I can let go for a while and just be a daughter.
Whether he’s got a son or a daughter, the best thing a father can do is lead by example, no matter what the unspoken barriers are. For Father’s Day when I was 6 years old, I cross-stitched my Dad a present that said, ”My Dad Is My Best Pal.“ Sappy as it sounds, some things never change.
BEN: My father is a stubborn prick. When he reads things I’ve written for this fine publication, he’ll begrudgingly say, ”I’m proud of you. I don’t understand what the hell you’re talking about, but I’m proud of you.“ Meanwhile, I can see the secret apprehension behind his eyes that I never came up with a fallback in case this writing thing didn’t work out.
That’s OK really, because I’m a stubborn prick too. I had a severe comic book addiction when I was a kid. I earned the dough for my fix by mowing the lawn for about $20 a week. One day, using my 12-year-old logic, I decided that he owned the property and therefore it was his responsibility to mow the lawn. In addition, he had contributed to creating me and was also therefore burdened with the responsibility of funding my wants and needs. So by the time it was all said and done, I no longer had to work two hours every weekend sweating in the sun. Instead I spent the summer working 40 hours a week at his car dealership washing cars in the hot sun wearing a rayon shirt that had my name on it. That showed him.
These are the things that comprise the father/son relationship. It’s not warm and fuzzy moments when he taught you how to ride a bike by running alongside in case you fell. It’s harsh confrontations with reality when he sets you on the bike sans training wheels, says ”Hold on,“ and shoves you down a hill. Dads have no time to tell sons how much they love you. They’re too busy teaching you how not to kill anyone or get killed. They know you. They were you once and they did the same completely stupid things you’re capable of doing if left alone too long.
In high school, I went to a private school where most kids were given expensive cars when they turned 16. These people’s fathers were idiots: They were buying the kids new cars two weeks later, after the first one had been wrecked. My father knew better. He was well aware that I was a dumbass 16-year-old. So as a compromise, he bought me a Mercedes. It was about 25 years old and in god-awful condition, but it was a Mercedes nonetheless. And while I didn’t wreck it, I did manage to put unleaded gas in the diesel engine in about a month’s time.
For my punishment, so to speak, I was given a 1974 scatalogically brown Ford Comet. I could have run this steel monstrosity into walls repeatedly and not harmed myself. Several of the carpooling sophomore girls I would have desperately liked to impress referred to it as the ”Vomit Comet.“ I resented the hell out of my father for making me drive it and complained about it every day of my life. Nowadays, I think back on it and would give anything to drive that hunk of crap again. It may have been ugly as sin, but it came with no car payments, I didn’t care what the hell happened to it, and it taught me a lesson in humility I carry with me to this day.
My dad and I are about as communicative as a couple of Helen Kellers. Our conversation is so stifled you’d swear we both had stuttering problems. But it doesn’t really matter, because it’s our actions that have always spoken for us. We have argued with a vehemence that could only come from two people with the same blood in their veins. But as long as I stay out of trouble and live a good life, I know deep down we’re kosher. I didn’t even know Father’s Day was this weekend until Danny told me. That’s OK, though. He doesn’t need any presents or silly cards as long as I continue to be the person he’s taught me to be.
Got a question for Ben & Danny to ponder? E-mail it to them at email@example.com
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