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Drop him before you shop

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

We have to go to a wedding in a month or so. Sue needs something to wear and a gift for the lucky couple, so she’s out shopping. Even though I have plenty of free time, she said she wanted to go by herself.

Now, I’m not one of those clingy, needy men who have to be attached to their spouse with Velcro. I’ve got plenty of my own stuff to do, so fine, go shop by yourself. It won’t hurt my feelings, though I don’t know how she’ll find anything without my help. I’m always pointing out things she should buy or try on, and making helpful suggestions about the wonderful outfits she’s passing up. I dread to see what she’ll come back with without my constant advice.

She’s always complaining that the stuff in the stores is all made for teenagers, and I’m thinking, what’s the problem with that? Maybe she should start showing a little midriff.

Alone, she’ll probably come back with something she got on sale from the Amish Collection at the Clogger’s Secret.

And without me, there’s no telling what present she’s going to buy for the newlyweds.

She might pass up the multiplayer video game section entirely and buy them something like a coffeemaker, a toaster or a place setting – just because that’s what they picked when they registered. That doesn’t mean you have to buy it for them. They’re just young kids, what do they know?

I think surprise is a big part of any gift. Who would expect to get a giant birdcage? Not my niece, I can tell you that. Or a shop vac? These are the kind of things that newlyweds forget to ask for, but that really stop traffic on the gift table.

Now Sue insists that we just give them a check. “Let them buy their own shop vac.” What a buzz-kill that is.

It’s not just weddings; she’s even started to go grocery shopping without me, which means she’s sure to miss out on some incredible deals. I have actually seen her walk past a display of half-price sauerkraut without picking up a can. “It’s not the brand we buy,” she said.

Many times when I’d say something, she wouldn’t seem to hear me. Naturally, I thought she was losing her hearing. There was a simple enough way to find out: I’d say something behind her back and see how close I had to get before she responded. One day I walked into the kitchen and she had her back to me while she washed some dishes, so I said, “What’s for dinner?” Not a word. She didn’t move. I got one step closer and said, “What’s for dinner?” No response. I took another step closer and said, “What’s for dinner?” Suddenly she whipped around, put her hands on her hips and said, “For the third time, meatloaf!”

So now I go shopping alone, too, which is turning out better than I expected. When I see other guys pushing carts full of on-sale hominy and bacon mayonnaise and oddly flavored cheeses, I feel their kindred spirit.

• Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.

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