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Next year, I’m going to have a T-shirt made that says, “Man Christmas shopping — yes, he needs help.”

Christmas shopping is terrifying for a guy. That’s an established scientific fact. I told my wife that if she’s asking for something that can’t be gotten at CVS pharmacy on Christmas Eve, she’s just setting herself up for heartbreak. She laughed. Then she hit me.

With a sore jaw, I went to the mall. To my mind, the mall is everything that can possibly go wrong with a wealthy nation, a glittering, blinking cesspool of consumer excess and depravity. Like Vegas, without the gambling.

And it’s just completely unfamiliar terrain to me. I don’t shop. I don’t know how, and I don’t care to learn. That’s why I got married in the first place. Calm down ladies — that’s a joke. I love and respect my wife dearly. And she earns twice what I do.

She knows I don’t understand shopping, and has helpfully provided me with a list that includes little photos of the items placed next to the name. I’m not kidding.

So I go into this credit card cathedral and wander, looking at names of stores that don’t tell me anything, and wondering how so many places that sell the same thing can survive.

I walked into Hecht’s, which is a big department store in this area.

I think I was in the perfume section, because I couldn’t breathe.

Two young ladies who looked like they stepped out of a magazine I would never buy saw me, and one asked if they could help.

Looking at my list of “Sue’s Stocking Stuffers” — which is on a separate sheet from “Suellen’s Christmas List” — I asked, “Yeah, do you have any Evelyn Crabtree?”

“Excuse me?”

“Evelyn Crabtree. Where do you keep that stuff?”

“We don’t carry that line of products, sir.”

“OK, how about Aveeno?”

“No, sir.”

“OK, how about these Colonial Candle votive things?”

“Sir, this is the perfume department,” one said, a little annoyed.

“Says here they smell like gardenias,” I countered, feeling pretty good about myself.

“Sir, you might want to try the home department,” she said.

Down in the home department, they had never heard of Evelyn Crabtree. They were able to show me some candles, but not the right ones, and they were able to point me to the Kitchen Aid 5 Quart Polished Mixing Bowl, without even looking at the picture I tried to show them.

I saw some candy, so I stopped one of the guys and said, “Hey do you have this … Almond Roca candy, in the pink tin?”

“We got peanut brittle,” the guy said.

This is my chance to feel superior, I thought. “No,” I said compassionately. “It’s Almond Roca. It’s an entirely different thing!”

“Um … there’s some pink things over here, but they look like boxes.”

“Um … no. But thanks,” I said, now feeling completely sorry for the guy — not only does this poor sap not shop, but he’s got to help people find these silly things. And most of them are probably women who, unlike me, don’t know what he’s going through. Get an education, man! Get out while you still can!

I went to Target next. Here I went off script, and probably earned myself some major points on Christmas morning by doing some original thinking.

She loves the movie “Something’s Gotta Give” because the older guy (Jack Nicholson) goes for the older woman (Diane Keaton) instead of continuing to hook up with the young hotties. She doesn’t say it that way, but I know. So I bought it.

And I think I made a smart call when I reined in the original thinking, and didn’t get her what I thought would be an excellent DVD — “Best of Thunder and Destruction — the NFL’s Hardest Hits.” It’s over her head.

Next I tried a Body Bath Works, or something like that, and asked, “Do you have this Evelyn Crabtree stuff?”

Now, I hadn’t realized this is like going into the Bud brewery and asking for a Miller Lite — got that, guys? — so I was a little stunned when the woman glared at me (it was a nice, holiday glare) and said, “No, we don’t carry that.”

I must’ve looked pretty helpless, because when I followed up with “Do you know where I could find it?” she began to take pity, it seemed.

“You can get that at the Crabtree and Evelyn store, sir.”

Now I’m starting to realize I’ve said something completely stupid. “Um … OK. What about this … Aveeno stress relief lavender body wash?” sticking closely to my script.

Now her co-workers are gathering and starting to laugh. I’m panicking.

“No, sir. We sell Bath and Body Works products.”

Time for a Hail Mary. “Colonial Candles?”

“You could try CVS, sir.”

See? I was right all along. CVS. Christmas Eve. Let me tell ya, it was jammed in there.


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