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What Dad Never Buys

It’s not that I’m cheap – though others living under this roof would be only too glad to say that I am.

And don’t mistake me for one of those hoarders you see on TV, either. Just because I reserve a corner of my kitchen drawer for extra packets of Chick-fil-A Polynesian sauce doesn’t mean I’m hunkered down here waiting for the world to end.

But like a Keynesian economist keeping a sharp eye on the economy, I know that aggregate demand in our particular American family creates an oversupply of goods that quickly fill up the household.

And we just keep buying more. So why not take advantage of all this inventory? As far as I’m concerned, here’s what I will never need to buy again.

Shampoo. So much already lines the tub that we could open our own hair salon. And I didn’t buy any of it. I am not too proud to admit that over time I have grown quite fond of the special lather you get from Herbal Essences Touchable Smooth Shampoo and the pleasing floral scents of Body Envy Volumizing Conditioner. Ditto soap and body lotion. Why buy a new bar of Ivory when there’s always a new bottle of Aveeno Positively Radiant Facial Cleanser at my disposal? And thanks to the Clinique Bonus Days my wife marks on her calendar multiple times each year, there’s always plenty of Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion sitting around for me to slather on my bone-dry arms and legs. Recently, my 13-year-old daughter spoke of switching to Neutrogena Hair Repair to address her split ends. I haven’t felt the need to refresh, renew, or otherwise rehabilitate my hair since 1979, but I suppose the Neutrogena could come in handy should I ever feel the need to iron it.

Tylenol. Open our medicine cabinet and behold the decade-long triptych of all the midnights I was called upon by Mom to race to Walgreens and purchase Children’s Tylenol for a mildly fevered child. Now here it all sits, most only half-used, some bottles not opened at all. Don’t worry, though: At the hint of a cold, I’ll drink it all down, and I don’t care if it’s bubble-gum-flavored as long as it works. Yes, some of the expiration dates go back to 2007, but I have no doubt the active ingredients will still rise to the occasion.

Pens. We find them in every drawer. They’re here between the couch cushions. They fall off the top of the refrigerator, and I even find them strewn about the attic. I can only conclude that pens in our house have reached the point in writing-implement evolution where they can successfully conjugate or perhaps even achieve asexual reproduction. In our house, Pilot Precise V5 roller balls seem to be mating with Paper Mate Profile retractable ballpoints to beget Bic Ultra Round Stic Grips. Sometimes, procreation even results in whole litters of homely, blue Staples ballpoints. We never give any of them up for adoption, though.

Clothes. Give me some credit here. I understand that not all black shoes in a woman’s closet are actually black. But I still don’t know the difference between a shirt and a top and a blouse and a tunic – or why the women in my family must shop for them almost every weekend. And as for my son, I get that expensive athletic shoes are part of an 11-year-old’s image, identity, and cooler-than-thou oevre. So don’t worry about me. I’m perfectly happy with the clothes I have, and I feel no need to buy more. Besides, I still cut a sharp figure in my duds from the early nineties. Don’t make fun, or I’ll put on my triple-pleat pants from 1987. And my Swatch.

Gift bags, wrapping paper, decorative tissue, and scotch tape. We buy it, stash it, then pat ourselves on the backs. But when we actually need it, we’re never able to find it. That’s why you’ll find us racing through Target thirty minutes before a birthday party is about to start, yanking everything off the shelves and galloping to the checkout line. And yes, that’s us wrapping in the minivan out in the parking lot. Did I mention we just bought the gift, too?

Napkins. We eat out so much that the napkins in bags of food handed to us from drive-through windows around town now fill the side door pockets of the minivan, overflow the glove compartment, and eventually find their way back to our kitchen, where I use them to meet all our daily culinary needs. Just don’t complain if you’re invited to a rare home-cooked meal at our house and find your place at the table set with napkins from Arby’s, Subway, or Starbucks. Which brings us to…

Dinner. Because we’ve essentially abdicated our responsibilities to proper nutrition and the healthy development of our offspring, we’ve strayed farther and farther from the sentimental notion of the sit-down dinner where everyone bonds as a family and we share the better parts of our day. Unless we’re seated at a table for four in the Mexican restaurant of our choice, that is. But even dinner out has its own special place in the immutable logic of what Dad will never buy. My moneysaving strategy? I never order anything for myself. I know my wife and kids never finish the gargantuan burritos and tacos they routinely order, so I just eat what’s on their plates or box the leftovers for lunch the next day.

*Disclaimer: My wife wishes to state for the record that she disavows all allegiance to what she views as the weird, cheapskate, hoarding behavior catalogued herein and asserts that these bug-eyed notions do not represent her opinions or those of the Farrell family at large. In short, she thinks I’m a nut and would rather not be associated with me.

Tony Farrell has written about parenting for many books, magazines, and websites. The father of two, Tony has written the DadZone since 2009.
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