Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dear Santa: Pall Malls and a DustBuster, please

Last night I managed to lure my husband to the Mall of America for a little Christmas shopping, about an hour's worth before my neck started to get a little stiff and my eyes began to glaze over -- a tipoff that claustrophobia, loud music and plain old volume overload were taking their toll. So we bought three gifts and left. The rest, we'll make or order online. Yeah, it's a little late in the game for that, but I think I'd rather shop naked at a gas station convenience counter than go to the mall or any mall again this season.

I just hate to shop. No doubt about it. I hate it more fiercely than just about anything other than Republican politics, war and famine. While some women are consummate shoppers and do it almost recreationally, I am (you've heard of the AntiChrist?) the AntiShopper. I go out of my way to avoid shopping whenever I can. My home and my wardrobe are living proof: Both are pretty spartan. It's kind of embarrassing, especially when many of my contemporaries are at the House Beautiful stage of their lives.

Yeah, I admire nice clothes and beautiful homes, but I'd admire them so much more if I didn't have to shop or pay for the myriad items our bodies and abodes display. I find myself overwhelmed by too many choices, colors, styles. I find beauty rather easily, so when someone says, "What's your favorite color?" I can't pick one. Scarlet? Love it. But depending on the day, I might feel maroon or chartreuse. Beige comes on in waves, especially when purple is nearby. And then, when I see the prices, I must make still another, more difficult choice: beauty or, uh, food? Soon, my whole being cries, "Retreat!" I get a much stronger sense of well-being when I open a full fridge than when I dig through a stuffed closet.

There is one type of store, however, that I tolerate quite well. I enjoy old-fashioned hardware stores, the kind with sawdusty boxes of odd-size nuts and bolts in the back, where items have prices scrawled in grease pencil (no UPCs, no scanners in these places) and a guy named Dick or Wally can find anything you need. And not only does he remember what you bought there last. He remembers what your dad bought there too. Hey! Maybe I could do my Christmas shopping at the Hardware Hank. Heck, it worked for my Dad. Then again, he thought a DustBuster, a "bottle" and a carton of Pall Malls to be "just grand" Christmas gifts. He might have been right after all.

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