With my dad gone for nearly 14 years, Father's Day stings slightly less than it did the first few. Now, I watch the role of a father through the lens of a wife, seeing how the experience unfolds a person through time, much like my similar but separate journey as a mother. But just as my experience as a mom is overlaid with tired tropes in advertising, so is the experience of a father and husband.
Perhaps to alleviate my guilt for my increased online shopping during the pandemic, my husband became obsessed with a specific shirt brand. Its slick website advertises shirts for the modern, active man, shirts that are comfortable and unobtrusive; the shirt enables masculinity to shine.
He decided that it was a good way to build an at-home uniform of sorts, a relaxed Steve Jobs approach — if Jobs ever decided that weed whacking and carpentry were now his pastimes. Very objectively, as much as possible from my corner of the rink, he looked great in the shirts.
He loved the shirts himself — and even bought them for others as gifts. But I'm sure social media listened in, and I started seeing ads for them on my feed, ads that took a markedly different tone: "Do your husband and his friends dress like complete pieces of [excrement]? Don't worry; there's hope!"
I mean, what a way to capture my attention, and yes, there were a lot of positive reactions attached to the post. But the video droned on, explaining that it's just your husband's low self-esteem at work, and that's why he doesn't know how to dress. Plus, the shirt "had room for your fat [illegitimate child] of a husband."
I'm sorry, but what in the flying [coitus]?
Sure, I laugh at the husband-wife jokes in movies that speak to common annoyances in daily routines that you just cannot escape. For example, I, too, find socks everywhere. However, sock dropping is not unique to my husband. It's not even unique in our household, as my daughter, a copy-and-paste version of him in physical features, also has the same absentminded behavior about socks. They are everywhere.
Do I relate to hamper jokes? Yes. That's life.
Are there blond hairs nearly everywhere, especially in places they shouldn't be, such as the door handles? Yes. That's life.
Is there a spouse who speeds and a spouse who grabs the door handle? Yes, also life, and it will remain a mystery from my household who is who in that example.
However, the derision that is passed through advertising as a distinct distaste for your spouse is suspect not only for what it says about enduring an unhappy marriage, but for what it says about the partner who chose them and stays. It also says a lot about the brand that allows for that type of advertising: "cool masculinity" for men yet speaking to the wives about the dolts they married.
It continues the tired trope that we find our spouse a nuisance instead of someone we respect and chose to be on our team.
It won't matter how many World's Best Father T-shirts we buy if we give credibility to advertising that believes cruelty is how we color the roles men play in our lives.
The messaging going into our heads can affect our relationship with our spouse, but maybe even more disturbing, it's also what our children see. And they are watching to see how we react to what others say about the relationships that matter most.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma(,) and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. Write to her at