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The American Father

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Author’s note: Like a time capsule of a worldview I no longer hold, this piece still carries my name but I no longer stand by the voice. My dad’s still awesome, but I no longer believe it necessary to put others down to lift him up. He taught me better than that.

Last Father’s Day, while trying to pick out a card for dad at the local drug store, I saw something ugly and alarming: the popular image of The American Father.

According to these cards, our fathers are lazy, childish, beer-guzzling half-wits; failures at anything that goes beyond expelling gas, or napping in front of the television. Their overall ineptitude seems to relegate them to the confines of their recliners, from the comfort of which they can exercise their true talents, and leave any real challenges up to the professionals on TV.

Reading these tributes to mediocrity, I was taken back to my childhood, and reminded of the confusion I felt when evaluating my own father. He was nothing like the dads in the Father’s Day cards, or on the sitcoms on television. He didn’t have a “team,” he never drank beer in the afternoon, and he didn’t own a recliner. On weekends he would actually go outside and do stuff, productive stuff, completely unaware that the playoffs were on, the viewing of which would not even require pants. I could remember feeling as though all of this somehow made him less of a man.

Suddenly snapped back to the present, I wondered, “Is this incompetence and sloth really the standard we have set for young American boys like my former self to look up to and carry on?” While I immediately gained a new appreciation for my own father, I began to worry for those who don’t have such a role model. We have normalized such an uninspiring image of manhood that a young man could easily feel as though he were fulfilling his destined role by being the best lazy, boorish, beer-drinking moron he can be. We can expect no more from him unless we cease to praise such imbecilic qualities, and start to collectively raise the bar.


In the end I opted for the worst card I could find. On it was a dad parked in front of the television in his recliner, triumphantly hoisting a mug of frothy beer towards the ceiling. It read: “It’s Fathers’ Day, Dad… Do what you do best!” My personal inscription: “Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  Thanks for having no idea why I would pick this card for you.”

With a Perspective, this is Tony Pandola.

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