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12/28/05 Construction
12/15/05 Tribute Band
12/14/05 Jury Duty
11/14/05 Liability
10/20/05 Cheapskate
10/10/05 Gift-Giving
10/05/05 Camping
10/04/05 Boxing
09/08/05 Massage
08/22/05 Green Thumb
08/03/05 Poison Oak


My wife's forehead veins are popping out because I missed her niece's Quinceañera. A Quinceañera is like a bat mitzvah, only with tortillas and beans. And it's like a thousand other days I'm bullied to observe. Observe, of course, comes from the Latin root, "to buy meaningless presents."

Exhibit A: Christmas. A time to purchase something for everyone we know, pets included, lest we suffer what is known in professional circles as Gift Guilt. Last year I bought trinkets for everyone on the planet except my mailman, who kindly left cookies in my mailbox. So it goes.

Marrying a Latina, I inherited hundreds of gift-aged relatives. My sister-in-laws alone have 50 kids between them and are probably, at this moment, breeding more. That is why I buy revenge presents. This Christmas, for instance, I will give amplifiers to all the kids who received drum sets last year.

I will also provide condoms as stocking stuffers.

It's not just the holidays, though. Every time you look up there's a birthday, anniversary, baby shower, housewarming, graduation, confirmation, welcome home, go away. And we keep throwing pet rocks at the landfill.

Last Valentine's Day, Hallmark suggested that a man buy for his wife -- the same woman who forbids him to get the expensive milk -- A NEW CAR! It was right there on a commercial in front of God and everyone. My, haven't we come a long way from little candies reading, "I heart you."

Hallmark is to relationships what Johnny Cochrane was to equal rights: They appear to be helping, but they're really just fanning the flames. Think of the women who were perfectly happy till they saw their neighbor's Valentine Car. We men should march on Hallmark with crowbars and flaming maces ... "Remember the alimony!"

And Hallmark keeps inventing new causes: Boss's Day, Nurse's Day, Grandparent's Day.

"Oh, look. There's a card for your pastor's niece's ex-step-son's dog's retirement. Should we get it 'From Her' or 'From Both of Us'?"

And who can overlook, without killing themselves, the alpha and omega of special occasions: Mother's Day. That is when Hallmark twists the dagger with a menacing grin. Take this radio ad:

"Remember the day you were born?"

Insert beating heart.

"Of course you don't."

Insert woman shouting in pain.

"But I'll bet your mother does."

Insert baby crying.

"Hallmark: Because your mom deserves the very best."

I can't take it! Give her everything! Buy her two cars!

My wife says that gift-giving is optional. Yeah, like collection plates are optional.

And birthdays. Every year we have to stop and congratulate people for merely staying alive. Maybe that was a big deal in the Dark Ages, but today we've got people ODing on vitamins.

"Hey, it's grandpa's birthday ... again. What is he, 159?"

It has all spun so out of control, I'm not sure what we can do.

But would you know I've got some suggestions?

First we need to space out the madness. All December birthdays will be relocated to August, a hot, humorless month with no holidays. December weddings will be a felony.

Next, families are limited to two birthday parties per year. Parents with many children -- and you know who you are -- can use a demerit system to decide which children get to celebrate. For further guidance, check your Christmas stockings.

Finally, if a couple divorces within two years of getting married, there will be a total recall of wedding gifts, every last candle snuffer and napkin ring. For their convenience we will provide a reverse registry.

I would share more, but it's my nephew's birthday. I'm off to buy a Busy Town Everything Beeps and Buzzes Total Chaos Play Set.

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