A friend of mine has an illness and I don’t know how to deal with it. I’m not sure if it can be described as a physical ailment, an emotional instability or a mental affliction, but I was shocked when she broke the news to me in early November. She looked me straight in the eye, smiled and said, “I have all my Christmas shopping done.”
I steadied myself against the table, swallowed hard and caught my breath. When someone close to you becomes “one of those people,” you go into denial immediately. The first sign that something is wrong is that smug smile, followed by the admission that she has secretly been Christmas shopping for weeks.
In response to my question, “How could you?,” she arrogantly explained that she has been listening to friends and family all year and if she saw something that she knew they would like, she bought it right there on the spot. Does that sound like a rational mind to you?
Pushing my investigation, I discovered she has been going to craft fairs and frequenting stores that put up Christmas displays the day after Halloween. Have I been too busy to notice such a dramatic change in her day-to-day routine?
She has brown paper packages tied up with strings and ready to mail back east or overseas. “I just have to put the stamps on them and drop them in the mail box,” she says with a superior air. Apparently, her gifts are thoughtful and exactly what the recipient wants or needs. Even though she won’t be there when they are opened she knows the gasp followed by, “This is exactly what I wanted,” will annoy everyone else in the room.
Retail experts tell us that early shoppers benefit from a broader choice of gifts, freedom from store hassles, an opportunity for better budgeting and of course more time to enjoy the holiday season, walking around with a conceited smile on your face.
She has self-righteously admonished me regarding my Christmas shopping in the past. According to her, buying a dozen cards that say, Thinking of Someone Special This Christmas and sticking a gift card inside is somewhat impersonal. Maybe it is, but it can be completed in one hour on Dec. 23 and they can put their own thought into the purchase.
I have been burned by the disappointment of thoughtful shopping in the past. I have seen “the perfect gift,” made a mental note of where it is and yet when I have gone back to the store a couple of days before Christmas it is always gone. It just doesn’t seem right to pick up a proposed Christmas gift in September or October. However, the stores never run out of gift cards.
There are many craft sales and store promotions yet to come and I mistakenly assumed she wouldn’t attend any of these, but not so. When a friend phones and asks if she wants to go Christmas shopping, this gives her a perfect opportunity to haughtily reply, “Well my Christmas shopping is all done, but I’ll tag along if you like.” It seems a major symptom of her disease is to heighten the stress level of those around her.
If you know people like this, beg them to seek help. It is healthier for them, and us, to have them in the mall with us on the 23rd. At least that’s what McGregor says.