I did something this year for the first time in the history of my 40-year marriage.
I guess I was going through a kind of (late) mid-life crisis and I needed a little novelty in my life.
I had heard that unless I was careful, I could end up with a bad virus. That was not something I wanted to bring into our home.
Nevertheless, this year, I did all my shopping online. All of it.
I have felt very guilty about this. Part of the value of any gift is the time and trouble you invested in buying it. That paisley scarf I got Mary Ellen two years ago would have seemed like a rather uninspired gesture had it not been accompanied by a dashing tale of mammoth traffic jams, throngs of hostile shoppers at the mall and an untold string of rude salespeople. Of all the gifts I got Mary Ellen last year, she says the scarf was her favorite story.
The other problem with online shopping is that I usually buy clothes for my wife, but I can never remember her size. In previous years I could at least ogle the saleswoman at the department store and compare her body to my wife’s body. (I’m able to explain this in print, but if I had used that same terminology at the store, they’d have slapped the cuffs on me.)
When you buy online, there is no salesperson to eyeball. Instead, you have something called a “virtual dressing room.” I select a blouse and then the computer digitally applies it to the image of a woman who is supposed to be about my wife’s size. Well, if my wife were two and a half inches tall this would have been very darn helpful.
Last month I rummaged through Mary Ellen’s closet and peeked at the labels to see her size. Incredibly, my wife is a small in several things, a medium in others and even a large once in a while. This kind of freaked me out and reminded me of an X-Files episode when some guy discovers that his wife is really an alien and can change into three different women. I sometimes feel that way about Mary Ellen after she’s had two glasses of Merlot.
Regardless of whether I shop in person or online, I never get it quite right and this year was no different. Over the summer my wife casually mentioned that it would be nice at bedtime to get into her pajamas and slip under the covers with an iPad. I thought I was very good at hints, but she just hated the pajamas I got her. Go figure.
Many years ago, prior to our 25th wedding anniversary, she kept walking around the house humming the tune “I Love Paris in the Springtime.” It was obvious to me what she was hinting for. And yet when I surprised her with the sheet music with the lyrics, she seemed disappointed.
The bottom line is that all the gifts I got Mary Ellen this year were either too big or too small or the wrong color. Everything has already been sent back and money was credited to our account. Mary Ellen will take her time looking for the perfect replacements. “What did Dick give you for Christmas?” a friend might ask her. “Oh, I have no idea,” she’ll say, “and I doubt I’ll know ’til early spring.