What I Don’t Want for Christmas

You’d better not be putting those car keys in my stocking, dear

’Tis the season to be jolly, and that means for the next several weeks whatever television I manage to watch will be regularly interrupted by commercials featuring husbands and wives stealthily creeping around in their garages and driveways, tying giant red ribbons in preparation for Christmas morning’s big reveal: Look, honey, I got you a new Mercedes-Benz! These commercials are my worst nightmare. I’m haunted by a deep-seated irrational fear that one of these Christmases, my husband of 27 years will decide to mark the occasion by blowing $90,000 on a car for me. The fear’s irrational because $90,000 is more than our house cost, but it’s deep-seated because my husband last winter bought his 78-year-old mother a tie-dyed halter dress for her birthday. You just can never tell with him. [SIGNUP]

Those commercials make me profoundly uncomfortable, much as the notion of Doug’s mom in that dress did. (I made him give it to our 21-year-old daughter instead, and the thing was too revealing on her.) What exactly is the deal with couples who gift each other this way? Do they keep their finances completely separate? Does his dropping that much cash on her ride not detract from her ability to pay for groceries? Does he consult her in advance to ask what model she prefers, or does he just guess? I get pissed at Doug if he brings home the wrong kind of milk.

Frankly, if I woke up on Christmas morning and found a Lexus key ring in my stocking, my heart would stop cold right then and there. I’d drop stone-dead on the spot. And if I didn’t, I’d be so frantic with questions (“The monthly payments are how much?” “What is this, your way of telling me you want a divorce?” “Why stop at a Lexus? Why not get me a dirigible, too?”) that we’d never get to the presents underneath the tree. This Christmas, I’m giving Doug half of what we still owe on our heating-oil bill, and he’s giving me the other half. Maybe we’ll splurge and pay down the gas credit card, too. What we’ve got left will go to the kids’ college tuitions. It may not be what’s best for the American economy, but it’s what’s best for ours.