LAST WEEK, LaVeta asked me what I want for Father's Day. I told her I want a day out with the family in Atlantic City.
I know that Atlantic City might seem like a lame Father's Day gift, but as seedy as Atlantic City is, it's mine.
It was mine before the casinos were a twinkle in a mobster's eye.
It was mine before some schmuck painted himself silver and did the robot on the Boardwalk.
It was mine, quite frankly, because that's where my parents took my brother and me when we were kids.
Back then we ate roasted peanuts while a giant, white-gloved Mr. Peanut strolled the Boardwalk in a top hat and a monocle. We ate gooey, flavorless, washed-out saltwater taffy while seagulls dive-bombed us like fighter jets. We ate pizza and ice cream, scarfed down hot dogs and funnel cake.
By the time we finished playing rigged carnival games and riding rickety amusements, we were sick and we were tired. But we had a blast, because my parents were treating.
These days, when I take the family to Atlantic City in an attempt to relive the happiest days of my childhood, we do many of the same things I did with my parents. We eat, we drink and we are merry.
But on the ride home when everyone is sleeping and I'm nursing a stomachache, it hits me.
The trip is not quite the same when you're treating.
Don't get me wrong. I love paying for trips with the family. I enjoy eating crazy food combinations that make me feel all queasy inside. But if I'm going to embrace the true spirit of Father's Day, maybe it's time to do something radical.
Maybe it's time for someone else to pick up the tab.
I know what you fathers out there are thinking. You think I'm asking way too much. After all, picking up the tab is what dads do. It's why we spend our lives working at jobs we hate. It's why we buy new clothes only if we hit the number. It's why we eat bagged lunches or, worse, patronize food carts.
We suffer, not because we believe we will benefit from our paychecks. We suffer so that we can pick up the tab.
We don't do this because we're generous. We do it because it's a habit we formed as teenagers. If we wanted dates when we were 16, we had to somehow gather enough money to buy at least two meals - one for ourselves and the other for the object of our affection. Because we were hormone-driven creatures, we shoveled snow in the winter, mowed grass in the summer, washed cars in the spring and raked leaves in the fall.
Whatever it took to get that date money, we did it, and we did it gladly. It didn't matter if we had to deal with unreasonable bosses. We weren't put off by the specter of demeaning work. As long as we got paid and were able to play the big shot on date night, we did what we had to do.
Once we realized that paying the tab would get us a kiss, and sometimes more, we were hooked. We couldn't stop. We were kiss addicts, more drunk in love than Jay Z and Beyonce.
We wanted help. We just didn't know how to ask for it, and by the time we figured out that something had to change, we were married, we had children and we were stuck in the never-ending cycle of the tab.
When our wives wanted a fancy romantic getaway, we paid the tab in the hopes of getting a little affection. Unfortunately, that resulted in kids, which raised the amount of the tab even higher.
When our kids got sick in our cars and messed up our fine Corinthian leather, we paid the tab to clean it up. When it was time to take the family out for dinner and a movie, we looked at the price of movie-theater popcorn, and cashed in our 401(k) to pay the tab.
Not once did we complain about our lot in life. We paid the tab gladly. We paid the tab frequently. We paid the tab well.
But I think I speak for all dads when I say that Father's Day should be the day when things go a little bit differently.
This Father's Day, when we take our corny trips, or get ties that we, um, really like, we'll be eternally grateful that you thought of us.
Especially if you pick up the tab.
Read more from Solomon Jones at solomonjones.com/family-man.