Soon enough it'll be December 20-something, late in the day, you're tired and your list is still long. You feel like you were out here doing the same thing just a couple months ago. So many stores, so many people, so many peppy versions of the same holiday tunes. How many times do you suppose you will look through the whole store before buying the first thing that caught your eye in the window?
Isn't it great that so many people are wrestling with the same problem not whether to give, but what to give? Everyone is occupied with the old dilemma of what to give this person or the other this holiday season. We sort of go through it at birthdays, but not on a case lot scale. We really do want to give something that will be a surprise (as in different from last year), a shock (as in something great) or in some small way a pleasure to receive. And we want to do it without going mad.
People who are close to you are frustratingly hard to shop for. You want to make them happy, but you still have to live with them. So you selfishly shy away from the learn-to-yodel tapes and the home taxidermy kit. You know they would love the billion piece 3D working model of a Trident sub with real nuclear power, but do you really want it in the living room? There is a ton of strategy involved in spouse gift shopping. If you give a romantic weekend getaway now, will underwear and a book store gift certificate ever work again? No, so with the big picture in mind, you'd better stick with the cyclonic action vacuum cleaner this year. You have to be a little careful with gag gifts, too. Giving him a prescription for the cure for male pattern deafness may seem a hoot now, but won't be if he opens it while you're opening your diamond earrings or Van Zyle original. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about here. You have to be prepared for him getting you something really thoughtful and nice.
Lighten up on the children on your list, too. You may feel it's your duty to give them character building, educational stuff, but remember what it was like and ease back a bit. Think back to what you wanted when you were 5 years old and what you got. Did you wish your little heart out every night before you went to sleep for the Great Movers and Shakers of History Pop-up Book and Tape Set and a savings bond? No? OK, now go do right.
The biggest thing to watch out for while shopping is seizing up. You stare at too much stuff, you shut down. You see this all the time in the big stores, people glazed over, pushing a cart around in circles. Pace yourself. Go out shopping at lunch a few days each week, take it slow. Go in small groups and work together. Don't fool around too long seeking perfection, either, it doesn't exist and life is short. Buy something you like and move on. Remember why you are out there, focus. People you love and things they'd like, it's not rocket science. Besides, there is always next year.
Nita Nettleton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.