Happy Father's Day

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Presents are a magnificent opportunity for passive aggressive awfulness. Or just awfulness, writes Kate Oktay.

Kate Oktay
Kate Oktay

Presents are fraught with the capacity for endless social anxiety. I have spent a lifetime forgetting the birthdays of very good friends, not to mention my own anniversary on an annual basis and, as such, I am all too familiar with the sudden horror of remembering, and the resulting brisk walk to the closest shop to buy whatever lies on a beeline from the front door to the cash register.

When you do manage to recall the correct date on time, however, presents are a magnificent opportunity for passive aggressive awfulness. Or just awfulness. I used to give amazing presents to my husband, surprise parties, the sort of thing that required professional event planning software, and weaponised thoughtfulness. This was mostly to just provide a counterpoint to his talent for truly awful giving ... The reaction was wonderful. Firstly, blissful pleasure, and then, at some point in the first half hour, the realisation would hit that my birthday was just two months away and he would be expected to come up with something vaguely comparable, or I would spend the remainder of the year bringing it up whenever I was losing arguments. "Hate your stupid birthday, yah,'' he would say forlornly, surrounded by balloons, over-the-top catering and a cluster of merry friends.

Revenge Gift is also something I highly recommend. I have been playing a game, which my sister-in-law is currently winning, for the last three years. It started with my daughter's second birthday and the gleeful gifting of an extremely life-like - some might say "creepily life-like'' - bear that sings six full nursery rhymes. I retaliated with an enormous cat scratching pole/mansion I bought for my niece. My niece and my niece's cat love that freakishly large monument to bogan decorating. It is now in their living room.

The gift to my daughter of a five-tiered, candy-pink plastic makeup kit was a masterstroke. It meant that I spent six months walking down the street with a kindergarten-aged child who had applied her own eyeshadow with a determined swipe, while people looked at me as though I got up that morning and called breezily down the hallway, "Come on darling, this orange lipstick won't put on itself!''

Christmas is coming though, so soon everybody will be a loser. I'm thinking a toy accordion. Or drums. Or something that requires 27 double A batteries. Truly the best part of the festive season is the smirk you give the unfortunate parents as the child thanks you for what was, from their perspective, the perfect present.

But anyway, all of this is no use to you, who needs to buy something, or your mother will be disappointed. Of course, this is really time dependent. If you are reading this on Saturday at 10am, all is well, you have time to buy a panic-present - 4pm on Sunday ... not so much.

For the Father's Day Forgetter though, the key is to think of something that looks as though you have really thought about things, and not just grabbed the thing closest to your left hand on the clearance table (when clearly, that is exactly what you have done).

Framed photos of yourself or your kids are always a good go-to and tick the boxes of 1) looks thoughtful, but 2) actually wasn't. Most relatives will say, "Thank you, dear, it's lovely'', with eyes that say, "Well that frame is going in the next school jumble sale, and I am going to remember this and you're definitely getting something terrible the next time social nicety forces me into gift-giving.'' Even though everyone knows your present is rubbish, the point is that you will have got something. And in this way, avoided a year of people bringing it up and its associated low-level guilt.

If even the photo frame idea is a bar too high, I would recommend the following: chocolates from the supermarket, booze from a liquor store, or simply, just lying. "I left it on the kitchen table - so annoying! I can't believe I forgot it'' while shooting warning looks to your significant other that insinuate if they don't go along with you, very bad things are going to happen to them later. They won't say anything - most people will decide that if you are the sort of person who lies about buying a Father's Day present to your own father, you are probably capable of anything, which of course you are.


I got a raucous woodland mechanical that shouted "Old! You're old". Oddly, it was in the ODT, in Dave's "Dunedin Gardens" spread.





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