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Father's Day: The Year I Gave Dad a Real Humdinger
It was Father's Day, and I was 11. It was the first year without my mom, and I was on my own for a gift.
Between Christmas and his birthday, I'd already given dad Soap on a
Rope, English Leather and a "World's Greatest Dad" statuette from
Hallmark. How does a kid top that? I wasn't yet allowed to take a bus to
the mall or a train to the city, so I walked up Avenue J, my local
shopping district, on a quest for the perfect gift.
The avenue was teeming with shops, but not the kind where you'd buy a
Father's Day present. There was a costume jewelry store, Ratchik's
bakery, a bagel shop and a candy store by the train station that served
old-fashioned malteds and sold magazines and comic books. There was a
falafel shop, a kosher butcher, DiFara's Pizza, the Joy Fong Chinese
restaurant and a candle and incense shop I was told catered to hippies
(to cover up the smell of "the marijuana").
Further down the
avenue were gems like the House of Hocus Pocus, but I didn't think dad
would like invisible ink or a deck of trick cards. And I definitely
didn't think I could score his present at the wig shop or matronly
lingerie store, where women from the old country molested you with a
tape measure, then brought out all kinds of under-armor fit for your
With nowhere else to turn, I ended up at my go-to gift
spot: the Silver Rod Pharmacy, where I beelined it past the Fleet enemas
and O'Henry bar in search of something worthy of my father.
most men in the days prior to the high-tech era, dad loved gadgets. He
had an electric shoe shine machine, a weather radio, a movie camera and
projector, a tape recorder and a slide projector. I wanted to get him
something to add to his collection.
Silver Rod had electric
razors, but dad shaved the old-fashioned way. There were Kodak
instamatic cameras and transistor radios, but dad already had those
That's when I spotted a tall glass case with specialty items that
required the help of a saleslady. There had to be good stuff in there,
right? That merchandise was so special, it was under lock and key!
into the case, my eyes landed on an excellent gift ... the gift of all
gifts: a cordless personal neck massager. I just knew that would be a
You see, dad loved when we kids gave him massages. He'd get down on the carpet, while we watched The Six Million Dollar Man,
and we'd karate chop him and walk on his back. In fact, one of his
gadgets was a plug-in Oster massager where you slipped your fingers into
these elastic bands, so a miniature motor could rest on the back of
your hand. It vibrated my entire arm as I pounded on his back.
hated that thing. It was heavy, made for the hand of an adult, and the
powerful vibrations gave me a headache. So when I saw the neck massager,
I knew that was what I wanted to buy. I could give dad awesome back
massages with that. And I wouldn't have hand fatigue or run the risk of
The neck massager in the case was ideal for soothing back, neck or chin pain, according to the booklet. Who on earth massages their chin, I wondered? Still, it said this handy little device could massage all different muscles that are tense from overwork.
I thought. My dad was a surgeon, who left the house at 5 a.m. for his
operations, and he worked late nights in the emergency room. He was
always exhausted and achy.
The box said the vibrations were calming and stimulated your circulation for a genuine feeling of refreshment.
again! Dad needed refreshment. He could be on his feet for eight hours
straight when he was in surgery. This was just what he needed to relieve
soreness, fatigue and tight muscles.
My gift was high-tech at
its finest in 1974. The new massager was lightweight, battery-operated
and, at $8.95, I could totally afford it. So I handed over the change
from my Snoopy bank, took it home, wrapped it up and hid it in my
closet, behind my Mystery Date game.
And that's where my memory
ends. I have absolutely no recollection of giving my dad his gift or his
reaction. I'm sure he "oohed" and "aahed" as dads do, whether you give
them an expensive tie or a treasure box made of Popsicle® sticks. But I
definitely remember that the gift remained in his closet, unused.
all came back to me recently in a 'Nam-like flashback, as I was driving
down the highway, passing a sign for an adult superstore. In a moment
of clarity, I burst out laughing as my 40-year-old repressed memory took
shape in my head: the narrow rectangular box with a picture of a lady,
her head tilted back, as she gently held this massage wand to her neck
and shoulder... the booklet that promised deep, "penetrating comfort."
"Oh my God," I shrieked to my husband, laughing and snorting so hard, I could barely breathe. "I gave my dad a vibrator."
sure it was, indeed, meant to get rid of muscle tension, increase
circulation and leave a user feeling refreshed... but having lived half a
century now, I'm now quite certain it was never meant for one's chin.
"personal massagers" have been rebranded and are sold in every size,
shape, color and material, in stores patronized exclusively by adults.
These shops are easily identified, because they're usually named after
felines ("The Lion's Den," "The Pink coochiecat Boutique") or the
destination one hopes to reach with their purchase ("The Pleasure
Chest," "Early to Bed," "Shag"). The packaging is mostly transparent,
and there is little question as to the product inside or its purpose.
So, fortunately, today's innocents will be saved the debilitating shame and horror I now feel.
I gave my daddy a sex toy for Father's Day.
The lady at Silver Rod helped me do it.
And while I usually like to create a buzz, if you'll excuse me, I need to go call a therapist.