It's that time of year when people walk around with a fearful look in their eyes, knowing they have only fifteen shopping days left until Christmas, will go to hell if they don't get everyone the perfect gift and, worse, will never have sex again if they fail to find the ultimate present for their spouse or girlfriend. (Let's be honest: Guys don't care what you get them.) So everyone is running a little scared, just like when parents get a letter in the mail saying their son is highly sought after by the University of Colorado football team.
To get relief from the pressure, the incessant Christmas songs (if any local militias or terrorist cells are looking for a target, they should be directed to the station that started playing nothing but Christmas songs about five months ago), every iteration of The Nutcracker (including the one performed by the Colorado Ballet for the Criminally Insane and Untalented), and the shock-and-awe bombardment of sappy commercials that fuel the interminable whining of your children, spouse and/or girlfriend to buy them the latest cartoon action figure or piece of jewelry that they'll look at and say, "Oh, it's so nice," because they can't tell a mentally handicapped guy that he spent five hundred bucks on something that will never be worn after that day.
I recently broke a cardinal rule and whored myself out to Christmas by going to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, where I beat my head against the counter of several stores until someone finally provided some "customer service" by taking my credit card and charging all of the top sellers to my account. The employees are surly and sick of Christmas shoppers, but I thank them nonetheless because they relieved me of all responsibility and probably chose nicer stuff than I could have in my deranged state. Like many guys, I prefer to shop on the Internet, where I can buy all my gifts without having my olfactory nerves stunned by the candles and perfumes hawked at the malls -- and can also do so naked. But I went to the mall anyway, probably because subconsciously I wanted to see the new Victoria's Secret.
After seventeen hours of hard shopping, I had to take a break. The beauty of Cherry Creek is that there are two establishments on site where you can knock back a few before returning to the insanity. I chose the one where I can still show my face, California Pizza Kitchen, which not only offers a large array of eclectic pies, but also has Fat Tire on tap. After six beers and a shrimp scampi pizza, I felt almost human again. I took a moment to pity myself and determine whether I had enough money to just leave the country until New Year's Eve. I wondered if anyone else felt my pain.
Looking around, I realized I was not alone. Every guy in the place had his face in a glass of beer or wine or was stuffing it with pizza. Some were doing both, probably in an effort to asphyxiate themselves and end the pain. Several of them had bruises on their foreheads, no doubt from knocking their heads against the wall as they tried to get the women now seated across from them to stop their Bataan Death March-like shopping sprees. All of them had a terrified zombie-like stare that said to the world: "Tell me what to buy!" Meanwhile, every woman in the place glowed with the post-orgasmic radiance that comes from being surrounded by fifteen oversized decorative shopping bags filled with gifts for themselves that that they'll hold on to while returning the ones chosen by their boyfriends. They were in their element and remained totally oblivious to the impending deaths of their companions.
But still, shopping is a Christmas tradition, and it helps explain another holiday tradition: how much more guys around the world drink this time of year in order to maintain their faith. And this year may require more than a daily six-pack, since one of the final barriers of human decency was broached when retail stores such as Target and Wal-Mart moved up their After-Thanksgiving Sale and Bloodletting to Thanksgiving Day. It's only a matter of time before stores force employees into stores on Christmas Day so that deranged women can return their gifts within minutes of receiving them and get a start on next year's list. We guys should do everything we can to fight this rampant commercialism and stay where we belong on major holidays: on our couches, filling our faces with food and drink. If we fail, though, at least let us go to a mall with a bar.
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