Why are Father's Day cards so awful?

Father's day cards Image copyright ALAMY

Despite years of cultural shifts, Father's Day cards are still dominated by images of golf, whisky drinking, cars and other stereotypes. It's a bit off, writes Charles Nevin.

As all dads know, it's tough being a dad. Not as tough as being a mum, obviously, but pretty damn close.

You don't complain much, being a dad, but the job is not what it was. We've moved on from the simple certainties of main provider, secondary carer and stern dispenser of wisdom gained at cost out there in the school of hard knocks.

Dads now have also to muster varying degrees of the hands-on and crying-shoulder thing - to get up close, personal and sympathetic while maintaining the respect necessary to impose the occasional unpopular decision, like time for bed or a mean unfeeling refusal to allocate resources to another absolute essential without which life simply isn't worth living, usually shiny.

Father's Day provides every dad with his own annual assessment, to which we look forward eagerly despite our usual protestations about a confected event driven by nakedly commercial imperatives and that sort of stuff.

I am aware of suggestions that dads might be a little envious of what they take to be a rather greater fuss made about, ah, Mother's Day. This is certainly not the case with any dad known to me, however slightly.

Dads appreciate any gesture, any token of appreciation.

But there is one tiny note of dissatisfaction about the big day - the cards.

Image copyright ALAMY

I don't think most of our current Father's Day cards properly capture the changes we have made and our valiant struggles to achieve them.

If a greetings card accurately reflects society's view of the dad, then society clearly has some way to go in recognising today's dad. The messages and images in and on our cards do not do Britain's dads justice.

I'm not going to list every glaring misconception, but I do think it should be made clear that we do not all play golf. I personally have nothing against golf.

Indeed, I have often mentioned some famous golfers who do not fit the conservative, dare we say, dull, golfing stereotype, including Harpo Marx, Alice Cooper and Al Capone. Barack Obama plays. But many dads don't. Some knit, you know. Or cook. Or play the cello. Or do all three, if not necessarily at the same time.

Some of us also enjoy a drink. But even for those who do, the next one is not always the height of our ambition, although you would have to think so from looking at the card selections.

Call me sensitive - thank you - but I'm not entirely cheered, either, by the prevalence of pictures of Homer Simpson. Homer is an amusing fellow who likes a beer, but he doesn't quite stand up as the paternal epitome (Lisa would have to translate that, for instance).

Image copyright AP
Image caption Parental role-models: Ned Flanders or Homer Simpson?

I am not an unreasonable dad, though. I have a sense of humour, although my sons don't always seem to share it, especially when I tell them the one about the man who was drowned in a bowl of muesli after he was pulled down by a strong currant. And I can see the card people's problem, as there is undoubtedly a shortage of dad role models.

The great men of history and literature have tended not to be terrific fathers. I've always thought Abraham, for example, was just a touch too ready to sacrifice Isaac. The rest of them were rarely there, as heroes don't hang around home much. You might also remember that our own prime minister once contrived to leave his daughter behind in the pub.

Image copyright ALAMY
Image caption "The Sacrifice of Isaac" by Caravaggio: An angel halts the Old Testament patriarch, just in time

Even so, I still believe that when the dads of Britain rip open their envelopes in feverish anticipation they deserve better than another fast car or foaming tankard.

Nor should we have to suffer so much of this Homer-ish fun-poking at our supposed foibles. "Dad," reads one card with, inevitably, a car on it, "Ever noticed how anybody driving slower than you is an idiot and anybody driving faster than you is a maniac?"

Another shows a peeled Mr Potato with the caption, "Oh, no! Dad's forgotten his jacket again!"

Please. I now have to communicate some of that more-in-sorrow-than-anger fatherly disappointment with which I'm sure you're all familiar.

As I say, I am not an unreasonable man. I enjoy a laugh (just ask my sons the difference between a buffalo and a bison).

But, on this day of days, surely dads deserve more respect, and not, for example, a card bearing a badge and the legend, "World's Grumpiest Old Man… Gold medallist at grumbling, grousing, moaning, swearing, cursing and complaining… Happy Father's Day to a True Champion!" What can that possibly be about?

Next year, I shall be hoping for a different card. I have in mind a strong but simple representation of the dad, on a pedestal, figure only slightly adjusted, staring purposefully at the horizon, right arm extended, index finger pointing the way ahead, left hand holding duster, watched admiringly by his children clustered below.

There will be no need for a printed cheesy message. Dads understand.

Until then, some more wise advice which, as ever, is free. You can't wash your hands in a buffalo. Funnily enough, my dad told me that. Happy Father's Day to us, one and all.

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