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JOREN CULL/The Globe and Mail

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Unlike most men, I like to go shopping with my wife – especially at Christmas time. I came to that point of view after several years of buying gifts she thought were a bit over the top. How was I to know she would think a backless pair of lounging pyjamas wasn't such a great idea?

I'll admit I don't look forward to all the pushing and pulling, the screaming and yelling, and the obscene gestures. But once I get a parking spot, I relax and enjoy the experience. Besides, it's no worse than the beer-store parking lot at this time of year.

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I stick very close to my wife as she goes around the mall. So close, in fact, that she's nicknamed me "Velcro."

I do that for two reasons. First, by watching her closely I generally learn what she wants as a gift for Christmas and I can sneak back later and buy it. Second, she has expensive tastes and I sometimes have to find creative ways to get her out of a high-end store. I find that faking shortness of breath and grabbing my chest works well.

We discuss what we want to buy before we go shopping, but she likes the shopping adventure to last as long as possible. For example, if we're shopping for lingerie, she'll start in a kitchenware store. I don't mind. She needs the retail therapy.

She likes to explore, to see what's new on the market, to check out the new colours, to hold and touch everything. Texture is very important to her. She's the touchy-feely type, and I love that about her.

If I get bored while waiting for her to get her fill of stimuli, I go out and sit on a bench in the mall and watch people. I especially enjoy sitting near Santa's village and watching how the little ones react to Santa. Even better is watching the facial expressions on the parents. You can almost hear them saying to themselves: "All that money for pictures, and all the little brat would do is cry."

Have you ever sat and watched the kids with Santa? You can pick out those who don't believe almost instantly, just by watching the faces they make. But they are old enough to know that if they play along, there's a pretty good chance they will find what they asked for under the tree on Christmas morning.

You just never know what you're going to see in Santa's village. Would you believe I saw a priest sit on Santa's knee last year? I hope he was asking for world peace. I thought I heard Santa say that he'd have to check to make sure the guy wasn't on his naughty list.

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I like to watch people in the food court as well. One can see many different characters and overhear a lot of interesting conversations. As a wannabe writer, I find that learning opportunity invaluable when I'm trying to build characters and script dialogue. Like the table of elderly gentlemen, worry beads in hand, excitedly discussing politics. Or the young couple sitting side by side, staring at their BlackBerrys, too busy texting to talk to or even look at each other.

But let's get back to the joys of shopping.

Before my wife and I get to the lingerie shop, we generally visit some bookstores, shoe stores and dress shops. I enjoy the clothing stores.

While my wife is in the changing room, I help other women select their purchases. Many of them are shopping alone, and I feel they can use a second opinion ... especially from a man's point of view. I just hang around in the background near the mirrors, and when they glance my way while modelling an outfit I give them an expression that indicates a yea, a nay, or "Oh my God never, never, never!"

Last year, we ended up in several stores with the same woman, and by the time we got to the third store I could see that she was watching me out of the corner of her eye to see if I approved of her selection. She'll probably never be able to choose another outfit without my help.

Finally, we get to the lingerie shop. Normally I'd be too embarrassed to be seen in that kind of store, but at Christmas time I feel I can get away with it. In fact, some saleswomen have told me that I'm very thoughtful to go shopping for lingerie with my wife.

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If they only knew that I really enjoy it.

Last week, we were looking for a peignoir set, hopefully an opaque combination with a lot of flow, in a soft pastel orange colour.

It had to fit quite loosely and wear well, since she was going to wear it on all the even days of the month – and I would wear it on all the odd days.

Now, before any of my buddies down at the Legion get the wrong idea, I want them to know I'm just kidding about the lingerie.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Bob Larocque lives in Carrying Place, Ont.

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