By Aswad Walker

Daughters, sons, wives, please put down those socks, ties, and Old Spice. Dads are actually open to receiving an “outside-the-box” gift. Trust. And to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of 10 alternatives to business as usual.

#10: Empowering Information – Hey, I taught African American Studies for nearly 20 years. I’m a writer. I love reading and I know that so much of our history that can enlighten and empower resides in books. So, of course books make this list. And even if your dad isn’t into history, you can find a book on the topic your dad is most gung-ho about (fiction, sports, politics, etc.) and still find something that celebrates “Our Story.” And audiobooks are a good route for brothers who you know ain’t about to pick up “nare” book, but are always open to new information and ideas. And if a book (audio or not) is not something that’s going to go over well with your pops, how about a Sirius XM subscription? There’s music and podcasts on all manner of topics. Your dad is almost guaranteed to find something to make that gift worthwhile.

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#9: Spa Day – Yes. A Spa Day. Most dudes want no part of pedicures or massages or any of that madness… until they experience them for themselves. Then, they’re sold. Forever. Also, as Blackfolk, we need to invest more time and energy into radical self-care. More of us are waking up to this self-care, which the iconic activist Audre Lorde described as an act of political warfare (because the powers and principalities are so heavily invested in us being broken down and beat up). Sisters especially, are investing in self-care. Brothers…not so much. But we need it as bad, if not more, than er’body else in this society.

#8: Road Trip – No matter how much Black dads complain about driving and being the family chauffeur, they/we love being behind the wheel, especially if it’s taking the wifey or the entire family on an out-of-town adventure. And Lord knows, our people (our dads) deserve some relaxation and down-time or a hyped, upbeat new adventure with the fam.

#7: Art/Art Experience – Most brothers are visual creatures. Hey, we like what we like. And when we see what we like, we want to see it all the time… whatever that “it” is. A nice piece of art, especially one that celebrates the culture, could be the perfect gift for your pops or hubby. Better yet, book one of those “drink & draw,” “paint & put back some” events. This allows brotherman to enjoy some tasty beverages while reintroducing him to his creative side.

#6: Day at the Movies – I just said most bruhs are visual creatures. What’s better than the visuals of a movie? The visuals of multiple movies. Treat your dad to an entire day at the movie theater. Watch as many movies as y’all can stand (paying for multiple movies optional). And if your dad is a homebody, set him up in his favorite room, lounging in his favorite chair, surrounded by his favorite snacks, and leave him be. Let bruhman have his space, his solitude and enjoy all those movies he’s probably watched a gazillion times, and will watch a gazillion times more, Lord willing.

#5: Something That’s Your-Dad-Specific – Not all dads are the same. Some live to work on cars and would jump for joy on Christmas morning if you gave them anything car-related. Other dads swear they were DJs back in the day, and would flip if you got them an actual turntable (and for bonus points, include some wax; one or two albums for them to spin). Here’s a piece of advice you’ve probably never received before. Treat dads as if they are human beings. I know. Mind-blowing, right? Dads, like other members of the human species, are different. We come in all flavors and bring with us different and unique likes, passions, etc. If your dad is an outdoors enthusiast, let that guide your gift-giving. If your pops is a jazz aficionado, an album or a documentary on the subject could work—or tickets to a live jazz set. If your father or father figure is into sports, hook him up with tickets to a local game. Point is, if you’re looking for a gift, go with something that speaks specifically to who your dad is.

#4: Fill-in-the-Blank Palooza – Related to the previous gift topic (a Your-Dad-Specific gift), Fill-in-the-Blank Palooza is just that. Fill-in-the-blank with tickets to the big event that celebrates that thing your dad geeks out on. It may be Comic-Con or a Star Wars-a-Palooza or your city’s annual Renaissance Fest (yes, there are plenty of Blackfolk who live for Renaissance Fests). If your dad is a Trekkie or a Harry Potter-head or an automobile enthusiast, there are big events that center those things. Believe me, your dad will be amazed and forever grateful that you even noticed. There was a line in the TV show Breaking Bad that big boss man Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) shared with his underling “cook” Walter White (Bryan Cranston) that pretty much summarizes a father’s existence. Fring/Esposito said, “A man provides for his family, even if he’s not appreciated, not respected, not loved. A man provides for his family anyway… because he is a man.” So much of what dads do for their families goes unnoticed and/or unappreciated. So, to give a gift that lets your dad know that you “see” him, even in all his goofy nerdiness, is priceless.

#3: Ancestry/Genealogy Info – One of the coolest gifts this Black father ever received was the gift of ancestry information. My oldest son let me know exactly what African nation I came from and the two groups of people whose DNA most prominently courses through my veins. And speaking of ancestry, my dad is our family’s official genealogist. One day, no special holiday, he gave me write-ups on all the info he’s gathered over the years about our family, going back multiple generations. That wasn’t even a gift and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

#2: What They Tell You They Want But Won’t Ask For – Countless fathers will give you that typical parent answer when asked what they want for Christmas, their birthday, etc. “Oh, I don’t want anything. I have all I need.” But those same dads will tell you without you even asking, what they really want. In fact, they’ve probably told you over 100 times already this past year. Dads aren’t difficult. Most don’t play mind games. If they want something, they’ll probably speak on it over and over. And they don’t do this to let folk know what gift to get them for that special occasion. That’s just dads. We’re real basic. If we like something, we’ll say it. “Damn good burger.” “Man, that was a serious movie.” Dads rarely speak in code, but have been programmed to not openly express personal wants and needs. But if you’ve been paying attention, every time that certain commercial comes on he’ll say, mainly to himself, “Man, that toolbox set is sweet. I could do some damage with that.” “Nice kicks. I’ve been wearing this same pair of shoes since before you were born.” They’re telling you exactly what to get them… even if they don’t realize it. In fact, they’ve already told you a gazillion times. Do yourself and your dad a favor. Don’t dismiss what they’ve already told you they want. Get that rather than choosing to get them what you think they want or need.

#1: Exactly what he asks for – Not all dads give the traditional parent answer of not wanting anything for “fill-in-the-blank special day”. Out there in the world are those handful of brothers who will literally tell you if you ask them, “This is what I want. And nothing else. This thing right here.” These rare brothers will often even give you the price and tell you where you can get what it is they want. How do I know this? Because I used to be that “Oh, I don’t want anything” dad and then I flipped the script after years of socks and ties and presents bought for “me” but really bought for themselves. And like most dads, I’m real basic and simple to shop for. For years, literally years, when my wife and kids asked me what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday I’d tell them, “The same things I always want: books, music or baseball caps.” Then I would tell them specific CDs (back when folk bought CDs) or book titles I’d love to have. And I’d add, “You can’t go wrong getting me a nice MLB baseball cap. This store has the best price and these are the three-to-four teams whose caps I’d love to rock.” The result? More socks and ties. Or they get me something they surmise that I need but would never think to buy; which is pretty thoughtful when you think about it (and appreciated). But I sure would love that Detroit Tigers, NY Mets or old-school Angels cap. Hint-hint.