Did you hear the one about the guy who asked his girlfriend to stop holiday shopping and, when she said "no," jumped from the seventh floor of the mall to his death? That's not a joke. That actually happened.
Holiday shopping is the worst.
I hate it. Clearly, not so much as that poor chap in China, but still, I don't feel that the word "hate" is an overstatement. Adding insult to injury, I'm not particularly good at it, either. You may not think something as trivial as buying gifts requires the same natural genetic skill as, say, being an opera singer or the belabored dedicated practice of a prima ballerina, but you'd be wrong. At least, you'd be wrong if you were holiday shopping for my family. My family is the fat-lady-singing-on-her-toes-in-pointe-shoes of holiday shopping. It's the reason driving past a mall during the months of November and December causes a panic attack that can be cured only by a foot massage and fruity martini. (Oddly, I also experience this feeling between the holidays of New Year's Day and Halloween.)
Why all this anxiety and self-doubt come the holiday shopping season? Why the hours spent rifling through medicine cabinets for expired Xanax? Why the endless job applications to become a large animal wrangler simply for access to tranquilizer guns? I'll tell you why:
My family does not believe in Christmas lists.
No letters to Santa here. We don't tell one another what we want. Rather, we believe in proving our love by thinking up the perfect gift for each person. Our gift giving is meant to be thoughtful. From the heart. Money doesn't matter, but time and consideration do.
Gag! I mean, talk about not understanding the true meaning of Christmas. It's disgusting! Am I right?
Truly, what keeps the magic of Christmas alive more than specifically stating your desire for a special something and, come Christmas morning, finding that exact item under your tree with receipt attached? (Or in a brown box on your front step days prior?) It's magic, I tell ya! Magic. St. Nick would have wanted it this way.
Yet every year, I trudge through overcrowded malls, attempting to purchase pensively and with purpose, asking myself that age-old question:
Would Mom prefer a bedazzled thong from Victoria's Secret or a stool-softening gag gift from Spencer's?
Which one says "thank you for the years of love and guidance" or, at the very least, "I'm being considerate, Mom. Jeez!"?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Santa supposed to be taking care of this whole present thing? Why am I responsible for buying gifts for my loved ones? Look, NORAD already is tracking Santa's every move, and if he hasn't hit up Mall of America yet, then it's my right as a taxpaying citizen to be informed that he's slacking on the job!
This year, like every other, I exited mall madness with Panda Express in my belly and nothing in my bags.
So, at long last, I wised up. I finally realized that it is time to embrace not just the spirit of Christmas but the spirit of all the winter holidays by partaking in one of the season's most time-honored traditions: Cyber Monday's holiday hot deals. Oh, Internet, how I love thee.
In less than a half-hour I successfully bought a tent, headphones, books, blankets and an external hard drive — for myself. Then I quickly went offline because I was exhausted from the flash sales. And because I was out of money.
Why is shopping so hard?! (She says, shaking fist toward sky. Or, if you're not directionally savvy, toward the North Pole.) That's when I decided that maybe we just won't buy presents this year and instead will be grateful for the gifts that magically appear under the tree. We don't want to put Santa out of work and add to the jobs crisis, do we? I think not!
I figured I would shoot my folks an email outlining the new holiday plan. But then...
Driving to work this morning, I pulled up to a red light. Stopped next to me was a grizzled man in a Santa suit, who clearly had been living in his car. Between you and me, if Santa traded in his sleigh for that Kia, I don't think he's going to make it around the world in one night.
Maybe I'd better hit the malls again. You know, just in case.
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