The usual Christmas things apply at this time of year and one of those is the time-honoured penance known as Christmas Shopping. Personally, I buy online and any shops I visit are because I want to savour the atmosphere, or get some nice decorations. And then I go as close to closing time as possible.
Last week I found myself the designated driver for a Christmas day out with my mother, IT Teen and IT's new girlfriend (hereby known as IT Girl). We were all going in my car to a big shopping centre on the other side of the country. What fun!
After a full journey of trying to be sociable and not grunt when someone talked to me, we arrived at the shopping centre. Only then did I remember something fairly important: I don't actually like shopping!
IT and IT Girl dumped us in favour of a romantic day without me and my mother pretending not to watch them. I spent the next four hours wandering behind my mother, walking through massed crowds of eagle-eyed shoppers all piling unnecessary STUFF into their baskets.
It was like a strange, alternate reality where I was faced with behaviour not familiar enough for me to copy. I felt completely alienated.
At one point, in the glory that is Primark, I took a look around me and just couldn't do it. Off out the shop I went to the walkway outside. Still too many people but room to breathe. For a moment in there it was as if every face was lit with an uncanny and manic light, full of strange emotions I would never feel and none of them quite human.
I waited outside until the demonic visualisation had died down and tried again. Weaving my way through the crowds I found my mother clutching a bag full of shopping and looking at me along the edge of her nose - you know the look, when people understand you're going to have a meltdown and are trying to work out if they have enough time to take you somewhere less populated.
I coped with the rest of the day, mainly by zoning out as much as possible. Unfortunately this meant I wasn't really present or a full part of our day out. It's a shame when you have to choose between not coping at all or disconnecting as a way of struggling through.
Next time I might take a book and schedule myself some time alone in the car. Or I'll bag a table in a nice, quiet cafe and growl at anyone who tries to join me. However much I don't like shopping, I'm likely to be the driver again next Christmas, so I might as well plan my strategy now. Maybe by then I'll have learned to love shopping. Loving crowds, though? It's never going to happen.
My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!