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A man’s Christmas journey through a woman’s world

Now that Christmas has passed I can write more freely about the shopping process. In particular, the process of shopping for my wife. See, while Santa might give parents a break, childless married men are left to fend for themselves in shopping for their wives. Worse, without children we’re expected to devote extra thought to our wives’ gifts. This is our story.

Upon arriving in Pittsburgh I realized my Christmas buffet of presents perhaps wasn’t quite up to measure yet with the parade of boxes from Amazon.com being delivered to my wife. She’d nonchalantly point out that just because she had ordered a lot of boxes didn’t mean there would be a lot of presents, but if memory serves Amazon isn’t in the business of piecemeal presents. I was worried. So off to the Waterfront and Shadyside shopping districts I go.

One of the first stops was Ann Taylor. Or maybe it was Ann Taylor Loft, or Ann Taylor Hovel, or Ann Taylor Studio Apartment. Look, all I know is Ann has lots of places to lay her head at night. Upon entering, a very friendly looking woman greeted me and asked, “Are you shopping for your wife or girlfriend?” At this point I don’t know if this is a real question or not. Why would it matter which I was shopping for? And if I’m not shopping for one of those two, who does she think I’m shopping for? Mother? Sister? Myself? I can’t imagine Ann Taylor is particularly high on the trany shopping index, and what difference would mother or sister make from wife or girlfriend? This isn’t exactly Victoria’s Secret, you’re not going to be directing me toward the flannel pajamas and away from the garter belts.

The other possibility is that she thinks I might shop differently based on whether it’s my wife or my mistress. Does one lavish your mistress to keep her quiet, or your wife to keep her oblivious? Either way one of the two is getting hosed more than normally (that’s not dirty) and Ann Taylor is sacrificing sales for some unwritten code of adultery that I’m obviously to honest to have been clued in on. That’s the anxiety I feel just stepping foot in the store. Can you imagine prolonged shopping assistance?

Worse still were the clerks at Banana Republic who assumed I knew exactly what I was doing. I suppose they do sell men’s clothing, but that was one floor down, hidden away in a damp basement of the store. No, I was browsing through sweaters when a young woman approached me to alert me to their sales. Very polite and informative, that is until she started explaining the different sweaters to me. “This one is a lycra cotton wool blend.” What? It’s both cotton and wool? Is that scientifically sound? I’m not the kind of guy who grunts at the mere mention of fashion. I walk into a store keenly aware of my wife’s sizes and likes and dislikes. No, she cannot and will not wear a size 14 pea-green burka. However, when you combine lycra, cotton, and wool into one fabric I’m having a difficult time keeping up with the class. I’m imagining a sheep from Mississippi dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” At which point I’m as helpless as my toddler nephew randomly pointing in the direction of sweaters and shouting, “Blue!”

Did my wife eventually get a present? Yes. Though, the fabric make up of it I cannot recall.