Shopping for Mother's Day is easy. You just take a normal thing and buy a superexpensive version of it. Here's a $20 bar of soap! Here's a $50 candle! That thing where you lie down and listen to Enya and nap for 90 minutes? I found a place where they charge you $150 for that!
The problem with Father's Day is that it doesn't focus on the people who like holidays: women, children and gay men. They're the ones who enjoy presents, cards, parades, baked goods and people paying attention to them who aren't strippers. No one sitting around a poker table ever says to his buddy, "You know what you need? Tomorrow morning, instead of just grabbing a random shirt from your drawer, you're going to have to get it by ripping colored paper off a box while other people watch! Also, you'll have to lie still in bed until noon, when you finish breakfast." You know that face men make when you throw them a surprise party even though they explicitly said they don't want a surprise party? That is how every man feels on Father's Day.
There are complicated ways we could improve Father's Day--move it to a Sunday during football season, import that incredibly inappropriate Halloween thing where adult women ruin a kids' holiday by dressing slutty, have it take place on a workday so we get a day off, add a giant Thanksgiving-size meal but switch the turkey with something people like to eat. But about 20 years ago, my dad came up with a simpler solution: the Father's Day letter.
My dad told my sister and me to stop buying him Father's Day gifts. "I can buy my own sweater and shirt," he said, which was an excellent use of the present indicative, since he's never actually bought his own sweater or shirt. Instead he asked us to write him a letter. At first I wasn't sure what these letters were supposed to be about, because from what he enjoys reading, they needed to be about either the Founding Fathers or World War II. The only thing harder than buying something for your dad is communicating with your dad. You wind up wanting to write about how awesome the Yankees are, how your friends think he's cool and what a fun guy your grandfather was. It would have been much easier if he had asked for these letters when I was 9.
But eventually, I started writing about our relationship. The weird part of being a child is that by the time you're old enough to appreciate your parents, you have much less opportunity to do so. So I appreciated the chance to finally tell him how I felt. Which seemed easier than finding a gift. On the other hand, about five years ago I realized that, as a writer who gets paid by the word, my Father's Day gifts were setting me back thousands of dollars.