I missed a friend's Quinceanera (gulp). A Quinceanera is like a bat mitzvah, only with tortillas and beans. A Latina turns fifteen, dresses up in a full-length doily, and runs the gift gauntlet.
Now I have Gift Guilt, same as last Christmas when I baked cookies for everyone on planet earth except the milkman, who kindly left a present in my mailbox. So it goes.
Is it just me, or do "special occasions" happen every week? Birthdays, weddings, graduation, going-away, coming-home, Secretary's Day, Groundhog Day. What do you buy for a groundhog?
My children-aged relatives help me stay on top of things...
"Fifty-four days till my birthday. Have you started saving upWould you like an itemized list?"
And their parents -- my relations -- just giggle. I counterstrike by getting the children drum sets, police sirens, and sonic-boom zappers with Duracell batteries that keep going and going and going.
To defend against Gift Guilt, I now carry presents in my car. Maybe that's how Santa got started -- toting gifts around until he finally said, "To hell with it. There will be one day a year when everyone gets a present ... if they're good."
In my trunk there are Barbie Dolls, G.I. Joes, and other models to teach our children what's important in life. Couples get his-and-her presents, which of course are always for her.
Have you ever heard a man say, "Oh, hey, I've been waiting for one of those spa basket sets."
I'd buy gift certificates, but you can never get the price tags off those things.
Oompa loompa doompadee doo. I've got another puzzle for you...
How many times does a child graduate? I seem to miss work every other Wednesday to fling high school caps, Girl Scout berets, orthodontic head gear. There's pageantry for everything.
I even attended the birthday of a one-year-old. It was a surprise party because one-year-olds are surprised every time you appear from behind your own hands.
"What did I get for Johnny? A face! A face! A face!"
On Valentine's Day, Lexus proposed that a man buy for his sweetheart A LUXURY AUTOMOBILE! For the same woman who forbids him to buy the expensive tuna. We sure have come a long way from candies reading, "I heart you."
Think of all the women who were perfectly happy with their edible lingerie until they saw the neighbor's Valentine Car. Men, we should march on Lexus with crowbars and flaming maces ... "Remember the alimony!"
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Hallmark is twisting the dagger. Listen to this radio ad:
"Remember the day you were born?" Insert beating heart. "Of course you don't." Woman writhing in pain. "But I'll bet your mother does." Baby crying. "Hallmark: Because Mom deserves the very best."
I can't take it! Give me whatever you're selling! Two Lexi!
It's the birthdays that do you in, though, observing each year the achievement of not dying. Maybe that was a big deal in the Dark Ages, but these days smokers live to see 90.
"Hey, it's Mr. Carter's birthday ... again. What is he, 100, 200?"
Last year I bought Mr. Carter a plant. He still argues with it.
Oompa loompa doompadah dee. If you are wise you'll listen to me...
To manage the madness, I suggest the following modifications:
* All December birthdays to be transferred to August, a hot, humorless month with no holidays. December weddings will be a felony.
* Families to be limited to three birthday parties a year. Parents with many children -- and you know who you are -- can use a demerit system to choose the "winners."
* Hallmark to be rivaled by "Jack's Cards: When you only care enough to make a gesture."
* If couples divorce, a total recall of wedding presents, every last napkin ring and candle snuffer. A reverse registry will be provided.
We'll have to stop there because I'm running out the door. I have to buy a present for my nephew's graduation: The Busy Town Everything Beeps and Buzzes Total Chaos Play Set.
Like the Oompa Loompa doompadee dooooooo.