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Jessie Raymond: ‘Tis the season to shop separately

My husband Mark and I have finally settled on the best way to do our Christmas shopping: separately. We used to think that because we enjoyed spending time together, Christmas shopping as a couple would be fun.
Hardly.
You see, only one of us likes to shop.
Although in our marriage we occupy what would mostly be considered traditional roles — I do the cooking and cleaning and he drives a truck — when it comes to Christmas shopping I’m the insensitive guy type and he’s the one dotting the I’s on his Christmas list with tiny hearts.
He likes to spend money. But there’s more: He loves to buy thoughtful, over-the-top gifts and puts Herculean effort into procuring rare antiques and other items that can’t be ordered on Amazon. He spends weeks musing on the most heartfelt items for his loved ones, and will remember the most obscure statements from months earlier to make everyone’s holiday wishes come true. If you are driving by a pasture in March and say, “Aw, what a cute pony,” on Christmas morning you’ll find that exact pony under the tree, trampling the other presents.
Plus he’s a big believer in what U.S. retailers have insisted for years: You absolutely can put a price tag on love. No gift is too extravagant.
I cannot get on board with this. I hate shopping. I hate the noise and crowds in the stores at this time of year. And I’m terrible at coming up with good ideas. I have a hard time picking up on the subtle hints Mark drops, such as, “Jessie, can you please get me a pair of heavy work gloves for Christmas?” And I have a genetic inability to part with money, so I consider any gift that is not absolutely essential to survival too frivolous to be bothered with.
Case in point: the Cell Phone Debacle of 2011. Mark still hasn’t forgiven me for this one, but I stand by my actions. I couldn’t see spending hundreds of dollars on a new phone to replace his broken one when he would have been eligible for a free upgrade in January. I did the sensible thing by digging through the junk drawer and finding his old 2008 phone, just to get him through the holidays.
In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have wrapped it as a Christmas present, but I was doing it out of love: I wanted him to have more to open on Christmas morning than a sweatshirt and a pack of ballpoint pens.
He took exception to this, saying that re-gifting is bad form, particularly when the re-gifted item is something the recipient already owns. Put that way, it does sound tacky. But let’s not miss the bigger point here: Every one of his three gifts was more practical than the diamond pendant he had a jeweler in France design especially for me.
I like Christmas as much as he does, but I prefer to focus on creating atmosphere rather than buying presents, which can be expensive. I like to bake cookies and string lights on everything. In my world, a happy Christmas involves peace and quiet, good company, and no chance of having to enter a food court.
Mark, however, loves to hit the stores, so now he goes shopping without me every chance he gets. I stay home and work on handmade gifts (which would be thoughtful of me, if I ever managed to finish them before Memorial Day).
There’s just one problem with Mark’s shopping: He keeps going long after every item on his Christmas list is checked off. He is convinced that if the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 24 and he still has a dollar left in his wallet, he has failed Christmas.
I, on the other hand, look at my own meager shopping haul and feel a sense of calm, knowing that every one of the few gifts I purchased (a) is a good value, (b) is useful and (c) isn’t so large that it will require renting a storage unit.
Mark, the top of his head barely visible from behind the pile of gifts he has purchased, points out that all of those criteria are just ways for me to justify my tightfistedness. I say that, on the contrary, I am rising above the consumerism that is so rampant these days so I can experience real Christmas joy: spending time at home with my family.
Does that sound plausible? If so, then, yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

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