The start of the Christmas shopping season reminds me of my old pal Skippy.
Regular readers will recall Skippy from previous reminiscences. He met a woman named Victoria at a wedding, which later resulted in a wedding of his own.
Skippy was used to doing what he liked whenever he felt like it.
Marriage put a stop to that, as it does for so many men.
Victoria was committed to getting Skippy to do things correctly, which is to say, her way.
Skippy soon learned that life was likely to be easier doing things Victoria wanted to do, rather than engaging in activities he enjoyed.
I wouldn’t want to give readers the impression Victoria ordered Skippy around. Other than 9 a.m. Sunday mornings, when it was his duty to take her to church, or on Wednesday evenings when he was required to take Victoria to visit her mother, Skippy was free to do whatever he liked.
The problem was, from Skippy’s point of view, that, while he was free to do whatever he wanted, there were consequences and repercussions if he actually did so.
Victoria exercised a subtle, but effective form of behavior modification to ensure Skippy made the correct decisions.
It was in this way he found himself at a mall one year the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Skippy would have been content to wander about and see what there was to see.
Victoria had a list.
The first store they visited was a women’s clothing store.
There were probably worse places she could have taken him, but Skippy was unable to think of what those places might be.
Skippy didn’t like to shop for his own clothes, much less watch someone else shop for clothes.
Next, they stopped at a store that sold candles. The overpowering aroma nearly caused Skippy to swoon, but he powered through it.
“Isn’t that romantic?” Victoria commented as they headed for the next stop, indicating a couple about their own age holding hands as they walked.
“How do you know she’s not just holding on to him to keep him from running away?” Skippy replied judiciously.
He was serious, but Victoria took offense.
His boorishness gave her a pain at the back of her neck. The solution that recommended itself to her was to clip him a good one on the left ear with her bag, but she decided to wait for a less public venue.
Their next stop was a shoe store. Victoria tried on a strappy pair that looked more like instruments of torture than practical footwear.
Skippy made the rookie mistake of assuming when she asked what he thought, she was actually interested in his opinion.
As anyone who has studied women knows, the last thing a woman wants while shopping is a man’s opinion.
A woman might just accept a critical comment from her best friend, but all she wants from a man is blind affirmation.
After watching her walk up and down a bit, he said the shoes made her look like a poodle on roller skates.
Victoria made a noise that sounded like a grizzly bear with a sore throat.
Skippy correctly took this as a sign of disapprobation.
He pointed out that when he had come home wearing a new leather jacket, Victoria had said he looked like an aging escapee from a juvenile detention center.
“I said that to keep you from going around looking like an idiot,” Victoria snapped. “You said what you said just to be mean. I don’t know why you wanted to come shopping with me if all you are going to do is make rude remarks.”
This silenced Skippy while he tried to figure out what he might have done or said to give her the impression he wanted to go shopping.
He was certain it had been more like a sailor in a seaside bar being Shanghaied by a ruthless ship captain, but something told him mentioning this would not help to restore domestic tranquility.
“You did ask for my opinion,” he observed.
“I was foolish enough to think you’d have something constructive to say instead of making absurd comments about poodles and roller skates,” Victoria retorted. “I’m tempted not to bring you shopping with me in the future.”
Skippy opened is mouth to reply, and then thought better of it. There is a time to be honest with a woman, and a time not to be. A small voice in Skippy’s head told him this was one of those times it would be prudent not to be.
Skippy was a man at a crossroads. If he defended himself, it would go down in Victoria’s book of male infractions to be used against him in future arguments.
On the other hand, if he apologized, he could be condemned to a lifetime of excruciating shopping expeditions.
Skippy was not a religious man, but he said a silent prayer, asking for a way out of this painful interview.
His salvation came in the form of two of Victoria’s friends, who appeared at that moment.
The women joined forces, chatting excitedly in that mysterious language women have.
Skippy suffered in silence, carrying the women’s packages while dreaming of football and wondering how to avoid accidentally volunteering to accompany Victoria on shopping trips in the future.