My nieces, who are wonderful, have everything, so this Christmas I’m going to get them something better than everything they already have. That means only designer clothes, which I can get at Mama’s, this little out-of-the-way shop near my mother’s house. It’s literally off a dirt road, and sure to be practically empty even on the biggest shopping day of the year. Only the locals—the people around there, by the way, are just lovely—know about it, and they guard the secret like the Masons guarded the lodestone. I called ahead, and Mama’s opens at 7:00 a.m. on Friday. I’m going to get there at 6:30—this is the shopping version of calling shotgun. (Remember Frey: Do not actually yell “shotgun” in any store on Black Friday. It will terrify other shoppers.)
I love Mama’s. Everything there is on sale from half off what it was on sale for somewhere else. I’ll be spending, like, 50 bucks a kid. SO reasonable. AND my nieces are my size now, but soon they’ll be bigger than me, so I can actually wear their hand-me-downs. In reality, I’m saving even more, because I’m not just buying gifts for my nieces—I’m buying future clothes for myself too! All at the same time! Plus! For every credit card purchase I make, I earn air miles, which I can use to go visit the girls when they’re at college. Shopping this Christmas sets the stage for lifelong family closeness! Already this is SO much better than last year.
Somebody get me an aspirin, because I’m about to have a heart attack. It’s 6:29 in the morning and the dirt road leading up to Mama’s is a parking lot of Lexuses and other high-end makes that scream: My husband needs Levitra. Obviously the locals (who are greedy hillbillies) have leaked the secret.
Shit—I can’t even back up; there’s a line of Hummers behind me. Fuck this shit. I’m putting my Jetta in park and walking in, daredevil style. Honk away, gas junkies, mainliners of oil—this war is your fault, by the way.
No effing way. The store is So. Fucking. Crowded. The sign on the door confirms they opened an hour earlier than they told me on the phone. What—can the clerks even READ THE SIGN ON THE DOOR? Now I’ve got to try and shop while Botoxed old ladies cough into my eyeballs? Trust me, they deserve the elbow shots to the kidney I’m giving them. The clerks too.
Seriously, on my way to the first rack of girls’ clothes, I was deliberately kicked in the shin by a toddler so fat its eyes were invisible. Then, as I was politely easing my way closer to the rack, some bulimic bee-atch in fuck-me boots literally clawed my arm to get ahead. And at the rack, some wannabe metrosexual smacked me in the head with his shopping basket. Jesus Fucking—
Please, God. Just let me find one more of these cashmere hoodies. Remember how I gave that pregnant woman my seat on the subway last week? How was I to know she wasn’t actually pregnant? Isn’t it the thought that counts? Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Help me out here. I’ve been good—OK, I’ll try to be good. I’ll carry an extra umbrella in rainstorms and give it to whoever looks wettest. I’ll stop being honest when friends ask if I like their Phish-loving, shower-hating boyfriends. I’ll let strangers use my restroom. I’ll give money to the legless guy who drags himself up and down the floor of the subway while singing “Misty.” All I want is a pink, cashmere hoodie. It would make Carla’s year, for the love of God. Shit, I’m sorry. Hail Mary, full of grace…
Boxed in by Audis, the Jetta is unmovable. I am stuck alone on a dirt road outside a high-end consignment shop on Black Friday. Night is beginning to fall, and I am giftless. Since I love Carla and Jessica equally, I couldn’t buy just one hoodie. I know it was naive of me to think there’d be two. But then, there they were, pink and softer than sidewalk pashmina, beckoning. Until—as I was sprinting to the rack—that lady in ratty Uggs (that were nicer than my shoes, I have to say) snatched up one of them. I shouldn’t have expected more. Good things happen only to people who… aren’t me. I leave my keys on the hood of the Jetta and begin to walk toward town. Wait, is that a bar?
I wake up on a commuter train, pulling into Penn Station, sometime in the small hours of Saturday. The profound pain in my head suggests I had more than a few after leaving Mama’s—and the brands printed on the shopping bags that surround me like sleeping children suggest I’d been to the mall near my mom’s house. How did I pay for all this stuff? I dig through the bags until I find my purse, fish out my new credit card, and call the number on the back. According to the computer on the other end, in the time between Mama’s and Penn Station my credit card saw more action than I have in a lifetime. Listening to the computer’s voice, my head begins to swim with visions of sugarplums—and also of debtors’ prison. I may never know what I bought at the Sharper Image, and why it was worth $1,564.49, or who has it now—but I do know that I must bear this burden elegantly, and that I have 12 months to pay it back. I can accept that.