A personal shopper could take the stress out of gift-buying

ALICE STEINBACH

December 03, 1992|By ALICE STEINBACH

I need to say this fairly fast because I'm due at my Holiday Shopping Empowerment Group in about a half-hour.

Today's topic is: "Healing the Wounds of the Inner Shopper." Our counselor, Bobbi, says the talk will help us understand the roots of our aversion to holiday gift shopping.

We're also going to go over the diaries she asked us to keep during the three days after Thanksgiving, which, as everyone knows, is the Mount Everest of holiday shopping.

Our assignment was to go out and buy one gift. A few of us -- those in the Remedial Holiday Shopping Empowerment Group -- were given an easier assignment: Spend one hour at a shopping mall. It didn't matter whether we bought a gift or not.

It sounded easy enough. But in looking over my diary entries I see I have already fallen hopelessly behind.

Friday, Nov. 27: Wake up at 7 a.m. to a radio talk show on which a woman is saying she finished all her holiday gift shopping a month ago. Another woman calls in and says she finished her shopping last August and had wrapped all 54 gifts by Labor Day.

Feel slight stirring of anxiety. Decide what I need to do is make up list of "Things to Do." Sit down and begin to write at top of clean sheet of lined, loose-leaf paper: "Things to Do." Skip two lines, indent slightly, and then in Roman numerals write:

I. Make up list of "Things to Do."

Am about to think about Roman numeral II when phone rings. It's a friend calling to tell me she's just mailed all her out-of-town holiday gifts. Except for the ones bound for out-of-country destinations. She mailed them in mid-October.

Slight stream of anxiety is turning into Mississippi River of panic. Throw on clothes and head for mall. On way to mall, see that local movie house is featuring an all-day "Best of Bugs Bunny" festival. Decide to stop in and see just a few hours' worth before hitting mall.

Saturday, Nov. 28: Am really going to hit the mall running today! Put on tape of "Barry Manilow's Greatest Christmas Hits" to get me into holiday shopping mood. Dressing, I see that red rash -- which started late last night after leaving the Bugs Bunny festival has spread to upper arms.

Leave house with hopes way up. Have hit on idea of zeroing in on one specific recipient on my soon-to-be-composed gift list and looking only for that gift! After tossing coin, the recipient of this one very specific gift item turns out to be my cat, Max.

On way to mall, decide to stop for cappuccino. Sitting at table, I start to think about how finicky Max is about gifts. He hated the La-Z-Boy Lounger I gave him two years ago. Looked at it on Christmas morning, turned up his nose and made a beeline for my ecru satin chaise longue.

Won't even mention Max's reaction to last year's gift of a carpeted, duplex condo with built-in scratching post and hideaway nap-nook. Let's just say his cousin Phoebe -- a cat without an attitude problem -- finds it a very appealing domicile.

Remembering past mistakes, my spirits sag. Decide to take a break at the library. At closing time, check out fascinating book called "Cats: Man's Friend? Or Aliens from Outer Space?"

Sunday, Nov. 29: Awaken from dream in which a huge, tiger-striped cat -- who happens to be a salesclerk at Macy's -- is refusing to tell me where the gift wrap counter is.

Get up determined to make up for time lost last night by reading aloud to Max certain passages from "Cats: Man's Friend? Or Aliens from Outer Space."

Am making homemade apple strudel for breakfast when phone rings. It's a friend from the Holiday Shopping Empowerment Group with chilling news. "Hi, I'm Janet and I've only bought one teeny, tiny holiday gift so far," announces my friend.

My spirits go way, way down. It is not good news to learn I am now officially behind a woman who hasn't purchased a holiday gift on time for the last decade. I notice tiny, red welts are clustering on ankles. Or maybe it's from Max's sudden and entirely unprovoked attack -- which occurred right after reading him "Cats: Man's Friend, etc., etc."

Decide best thing is to rewrite entire diary in more positive vein before group meeting. Sit down and write:

Friday, Nov. 27: Wake up and decide to write down list of "Things to Do . . ."

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