And never mind Festivus

Blame my old man. It was my dad who taught me to be wary of phony holidays. One Father’s Day, years ago, I showed up with a dutiful gift. “Is that some sort of obligatory present you’ve got there,” he asked. He had me. You know how it is about lying to your old man. “Uh, yeah, I guess you could say that. I mean, uh, you know, Pop, it’s Father’s Day,” I stammered.

“Exactly,” he said. “Look, you can give me something on any other day of the year, and I’ll be happy. This is the one day of the year when I don’t want some kind of obligatory gift so you can feel like you’re doing the right thing like all the other dipshits out there who hate their old man but figure some lameass gift on some lameass holiday is gonna make it all right. You got it?”

Uh, yeah, I got it. Fortunately for me, my obligatory wasn’t some homely tie. It was a box of filets, which meant me and my roomie were flying steakaphonic for the next few days.

But he’d made the point, that point being, basically, screw Father’s Day. For him, a gift that landed in his lap out of the blue on Aug. 4 or Oct. 17 meant more than one that showed up on a nationally declared day of parental presents. He wanted a gift from me to mean something besides a sign that my chain was being yanked by television commercials. I dug where he was coming from.

From that day forth, the “shopping” holidays have never sat all that kindly with me. They feel like days to be joked with more than revered. You know, the holidays put together by that vicious consortium of florists, chocolatiers, and jewelers—Mother’s Day, Grandparents’ Day, and, of course, Valentine’s Day.

V-Day. A holiday that strikes fear into many of us men because of its implied potential for much badness should our gifts be inadequate. Like the year I gave my sweetie a little flashing pin that said “I love you.” Nice enough, right? Except I was a bit too flippant, and put the pin in a little jewelry box before I gave it to her. I thought this mild fake-out concept was a scream. Her? Not so much. Indeed, my little love gag ignited a tiff that ballooned nicely, leading to my eventual toss-out at 1 a.m. Well.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for lovers having their holiday. Go ahead and have one that makes all the single, lonely people strongly dislike your guts. That’s fine. Just be third grade about it. Really. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be about diamond-encrusted doodads and $200 dinners. It should be more about leaving nauseatingly cute notes under windshield wipers or sending heart-shaped candies that say “Woo Me” in the mail. It’s a holiday at its best when it’s fun, light, cheap and real.