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Jeez, I hate this time of year. I'm already letting everyone down, and it's not even Thanksgiving. Retailers have already handed me my no-expenses-paid itinerary for yet another seasonal guilt trip.

First stop: furniture shopping. I mean, really: who invites their family to share their blessings at that ratty old dining room table you got from Grandma with those creaky chairs? It's time to refresh your dining room with all new furniture, and while you're at it, how about a big screen television for your new home theater? You can't really enjoy the Big Day or the Big Game on that dog-hair-covered sofa. It's pointless, though, to spend that kind of money without springing for new flooring, and it can be installed the next day! The very next day! Get moving and make that call!

Since you're already going to this expense, you'll want to perk up your decor with some holiday throw pillows, flower arrangements, ah... what the hell. Go ahead and get that new set of china... from China... that you've been wanting. It's all on sale and you deserve it. Sure, you could donate that money to the food bank, but you can't put a price on impressing your friends and family with your mad domestic goddess shopping skills.

Shopping used to be kind of fun, back in the day when you could surprise people with clever gifts that you found in quirky little stores or gifts that you baked, sewed, built, or crafted yourself. Nowadays, your gift selections will be decided for you through the Christmas Miracle of gift registries. No more Holiday Fails selecting the wrong present, and seeing your spouse or kid regard you with that look of resignation on Christmas morning.

Your tech-savvy gift recipients can also give you helpful hints, like e-mailing you the link to precisely what they demand want this year, so you cannot possibly screw it up this time. On-line ordering couldn't be simpler: no traffic, no long lines, no slacker sales people who can't even be bothered to wait on you. It's also no fun buying a gift you can't see for a person who won't care, but it's the holidays. Suck it up.

By now, you're up to your ass in newspaper inserts and brainwashed by subliminal ads on television warning you that these absolutely amazing deals will somehow vanish by the beginning of December, so you're off to the next stop: the malls and big-box stores where it's time - like, today - to lock down all those gifts. Even if you're cash-flow challenged, no worries. Layaway, baby! You can snag those gifts and come back every payday to visit them and pay a little more of the ransom money.

How thoughtful of these retailers to provide free storage for your purchases so they can lure you back in to see what you've missed! Perhaps you'll find some other merchandise you missed on your previous visits. Now with Walmart offering in-store banking, I'm sure you can come up with some scheme to finance more stuff. After all, you wouldn't want to let anyone down, even if they're old enough to understand that Santa's holding down a second job just to avoid telling the kids that there's no Christmas since Bain shut down the plant.

This has got to be a typo: the next stop is the luxury car dealership?! What the...? But don't wander off the path. I know, I know: you've given your spouse some really cool gifts over the years: jewelry, a leather jacket, a video game console, a designer handbag, or football tickets, but seriously: don't they deserve a Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes for all they're endured putting up with you for the past year?

Imagine their delight on a snowy Christmas morning when they see your awesome gift with a bow the size of Detroit parked out front. Better yet, imagine the envy of your neighbors: all they got was jewelry, a leather jacket, a video game console, a designer handbag, or football tickets. You can keep the envy alive when you pull up at your in-laws' house on Christmas morning in your new ride, just a little reminder that you're even more overextended than they are.

Speaking of neighbors, I hope that you didn't skip the big-box home improvement store. You seriously need to update your outdoor lights and decorations this year. Get you some of them inflatable winter scenes like my neighbor has, with the Santa and sled full of presents and candy canes and reindeer and - I am not kidding you - 24/7 Christmas carols playing. If your bones ar too brittle to be up on a ladder outlining every angle on your house with new lights, hire a contractor to do it. Don't be That Person in your neighborhood who jeopardizes the "Most Festive Cul-de-Sac" award.

Will checking in at each of these Stations of the Retail Cross guarantee you that perfect Christmas you've been dreaming of? Sh*t no. But it will be perfect for the retailers. They're counting on you, so don't let them down. There's nothing worse than feeling guilty during the holiday season.


What do you hate most about the holidays?

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| 54 votes | Vote | Results

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