Christmas shopping humbug

At this time of year, one of the big advantages of married life — if you’re a guy — is that your wife can do all the Christmas shopping.

This is enormously helpful for those of us who are too dimwitted to buy presents unless they involve pro sports, alcoholic beverages or technological devices beginning with an “i.”

My aversion to holiday shopping has become so intense that I sleep through Black Friday, Holy Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Black and Blue Tuesday. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like lines and I don’t want to push my way through mobs and wrestle some 247-pound teenager over a Samsung flat-screen TV.

I’ve reached the age when I hate malls and I hate breathing toxic recycled air that smells like cheap perfume and cinnamon buns or nachos smothered in chemically processed cheese. Even worse, I hate buying gifts for people who don’t appreciate them (especially if they’re my daughters), so I’m grateful to have a wife who does all that and can find bargains, too.

Unfortunately, wives are overburdened with yuletide responsibilities. To compound the indignity, they often get gifts they have no desire to keep, such as Black & Decker power tools or clothes designed for 19-year-olds pursuing careers in pole dancing.

Sad as it seems, I’ve resorted to giving gift cards to my wife even though I hate the idea of gift cards. It’s a lazy way of saying, “Merry Christmas, I love you, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how much I want to show my affection by deliberating over what to get you, until I finally decided you mean so much to me that I had to give you this tasteful Amazon gift card. Did you like the talking dogs?” 

I grew up in a family where everyone got “practical” gifts, which meant at least 60% of my presents consisted of underwear, pajamas and rubbers (as in galoshes), while 15% consisted of U.S. savings bonds, which my mother had the foresight to buy and now they’re making more than the average common stock, CD or Powerball ticket.

In the olden days, I loved Christmas shopping. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Bradlees had a major toy sale, and I’d fill up two shopping carts for my four daughters, who spent Christmas morning arguing over who got the most. These annual brouhahas forced me to bring out the sales slips and my calculator to prove that the goods had been evenly divided.

My kids taught me a painful lesson. Christmas isn’t about giving — it’s about complaining.

My daughters were never satisfied with what they got, especially when I bought gifts like Orvis fly-fishing rods for us to share. Sadly, a gift that was special to me meant nothing to them. I don’t want to bore you with one of my “when I was a boy” stories, but when I was a boy, things were different. People bought you gifts, and if you didn’t like them, you pretended to like them … until you learned to like them.

Why? Because someone — your mother, your father, your uncle, your great-aunt Sophie or your Nonna — put serious thought and money into that gift, and you were expected to be grateful even if it was only a tie clip with a map of Trinidad and Tobago on it.

That was the true spirit of Christmas. It was a time for giving and getting and disappointment. But if you were lucky and Santa smiled on you, one of the gifts under the tree turned out to be a true joy — a Rawlings baseball mitt, a Schwinn Stringray or a Malibu Barbie.

Looking back, I wish I got more of those savings bonds. It would have made life a lot easier. At this stage, I’m reverting to my childhood. All I want for Christmas are practical gifts — some Dr. Scholl’s foot pads, Gillette razor blades, loose-fitting underwear, and oh, an iPad Air 2 with 64 GB storage capacity.

Joe Pisani may be reached at