Bill Cosby quipped famously that fatherhood is pretending that the gift you love most is soap-on-a-rope.
This Sunday dads who don't wear scent, don't smoke and hate dressing up will be expressing pleasure both real and feigned over cologne, hand-made Play-Doh ashtrays and ties -- lots and lots of ties! -- when they rip open their Father's Day gifts.
Any token of appreciation you produce will probably be a hit, say local dads, just because it came from you. In a time when providers are working harder than ever before, the best Father's Day gift of all is being with the children they love -- or enjoying a blessed break from their demands.
"I don't want anything!" other than a good time with his two sons, ages 3 and 5, said Brian Fagen, 39, an attorney who lives in Muttontown, L.I., and will probably have a big family barbecue Sunday. "I get a kick out of everyone getting together: That doesn't last forever," he said.
People spend less on dads for Father's Day than they do on moms for Mother's Day (an average of $61 versus $68) according to a recent survey put out by RetailMeNot.com. Twenty percent of respondents copped to being less creative with their Father's Day gifts than in Mother's Day tributes.
"We're tough guys! We don't need love: We GIVE love," explained Michael Stephens, 30, of Jamaica, Queens. The security guard, who works two jobs in anticipation of future college costs, said his 9 and 4-year-old daughters aren't expected to be certified personal shoppers. When you become a father, your focus switches from personal needs to the well-being of your children, explained Stephens: "Ever since I had my babies, I don't care about getting anything for myself: My whole life changed in '04." The worst gift would be a sentimental something that started some water works: "If they see daddy crying, they would think something's wrong!"
Doesn't he want anything at all? Finally, Stephens allowed that should his wife, Rosalyn cook her chicken parm and broccoli, slip into "some nice lingerie, light up a candle and put some smell-good on," he will be in heaven. "We're very simple creatures," Stephens said.
"I just like to spend time with him," Andres Lizarraga, 33, mooned about his 2-year-old son, Gavin. "A scribble scrabble on a notepad and in mom's hand, 'Happy Father's Day' -- that would make my day," said the Harlem architectural designer.
What does Tyrone Mathis, 47, from Park Hill, S.I., want for Father's Day? "Peace and quiet," said the maintenance supervisor and father of two, explaining he'd "just like to be by myself and relax," and maybe take in a sports game -- without interruptions.
One man who would love a kid-caused interruption is Wendell Crawford, 39, a computer program designer for jewelry. Crawford has been working in New York City for five years, but his 6-year-old daughter, Atarah, remains in Guyana because Crawford is not yet able to sponsor her. "We Skype and Yahoo and video chat but I still feel unfulfilled: I'm missing out on a big part of her growing up," Crawford said mournfully.
"It's bittersweet," rationalized Crawford, who lives with his dad in East New York. "I'm away from her but I do get to spend Father's Day with my own dad."