Dear lovelies:

Ah, the holidays. I hate running errands no matter what the circumstances, but it's especially bad when you have to wait on lines that snake through the aisles, right out the door. And while I'm sure December shopping is no fun no matter where you're located, it's ESPECIALLY baleful in the densest city in North America, i.e. New York.

WHY SOME PEOPLE ARE SO UNHAPPY DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Yesterday, I had a gynecologist appointment on West 14th Street at 4pm. (I've been having irregular PAP smears for the last two years, so my doctor has to check me out every six months and make sure there's nothing that looks like cervical cancer.) I was asking my doctor (who is very pretty, incredibly skinny and seems eminently competent in all things) if she was looking forward to the holidays. Surprisingly, she said, "Bah hambug! No way. The jingle bell music and the lights and all the rest of it makes my skin crawl."

A few perosnal questions later, she was telling me her father died very suddenly five years ago--on Christmas Eve--after slipping on some ice and hitting his head. I could see my sweet doctor had tears in her eyes as she told me.

This made me think of my father, who is always a total disaster on Christmas. (I can't even count the times he's suddenly announced, on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, that he won't be going to our relatives for dinner ... or the times he's gotten into fights over the holiday meal.) But his little brother died on Christmas Day--of tetanus, of all things, over in a poor Irish fishing village--when my father was only 12, and I think he still gets overwhelmed with emotion about that very sad occasion.

I guess my point is this: It's worth remembering that the holidays can be especially trying for anyone who has recently lost a loved one (or job); for anyone who has endured a break-up, too. So whenever you have to deal with a psychotic shopper or a particularly comatose salesperson or just your most pain-in-the-ass relative, keep in mind that he or she may be going through above-average December stress.

WHY I'M GRUMPY: I HATE SHOPPING

Now, I'm not going to bore you with the details of my attempt to buy a copy of The Office-Season Five on DVD for my cousin EXCEPT to say that when one branch of BEST BUY didn't have it, they sent me over to another branch, assuring me that the second place wouldn't sell out before I got there because THEY had SIX copies in stock. An HOUR later--after talking to about three BB employees at the second location and following one clerk around the store for who knows how long as he tried to field questions from a million other customers--he informed that in fact HIS location was also out of the DVD.

That poor guy; I should've gotten his name, because he deserves a medal.

As for BEST BUY ... To be fair, I've successfully purchased electronics from them many times in the past. But man, right now, I am one seriously unsatisfied customer.

WHY NEW YORK CITY IS THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH (DESPITE THE MADDENING CROWDS AND LINES)

One good thing came out of my BB odyssey, however: As I was on my way from the Chelsea branch to the Union Square branch, I stopped at a light ... and looked over to see an ENORMOUS open-mouthed lion next to me. He was taller than I was, that feline!

"What are you doing here in the city, Mr. King of the Jungle?" I shouted.

The big cat did not answer. But the man in a knit hat who was rolling him across the street explained to me that Mr. King was actually a drinking fountain, and that he was going on sale immediately at a store called Olde Good Things.

WHY I'M NOT GRUMPY: NEW CLOTHES!

Deciding that I would simply order the stupid DVD online and hope to hell it arrived on time, I decided to do some holiday shopping for myself, at Loehmann's, a small phenomenon of a retail chain, which I believe is unique to New York City. Loehmann's bills itself as a discount designer clothing store; so it's a bit like Annie Sez--or like T.J. Maxx, only with much better clothes. Anyway, check out all the great stuff I got.

(In case anyone is wondering, the two blouses are made by Max Studio; the sleeveless top is by Flores; the purple quilted skirt is Millard Fillmore Clothing (named after the 13th President of the U.S.A.); gray skirt is Romeo+Juliet Coutre; and champagne belted skirt is Billtornade.

I also got an awesome little white headband from CaroLee.

All for $222! Not bad, right. That's Loehmann's for you. My receipt says: YOU SAVED $724.91 OFF DEPARTMENT STORE PRICES.

I also stopped by Housing Works--the best thrift stores in the city, which also allow you to shop online--where I got a calf-length hooded down jacket, made by Esprit, for TWENTY DOLLARS. The zipper is busted, but even after factoring in the cost of a seamstress, I feel like I got a huge bargain. And now I'll be warm, biking around Brooklyn all winter!

Finally, I grabbed a couple bottles of my favorite dessert wine, made by Ipsus, so that I can have something festive to bring to holiday parties.

THOUGHTS ON HOW TO SURVIVE THE WORST SHOPPING SEASON OF THE YEAR

1) Find out what your relatives want on Thanksgiving--and tell them that if they don't get you their requests by December 1, they may very well be receiving cash, check or money order.

2) Order as much as you can online.

3) Treat yourself to some new clothes while you're at it?

4) FLIRT WHILE YOU SHOP!

Peeps ... any other thoughts on how to get nice gifts for everyone on your list without giving yourself agita?

xxx

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dear commenters:

-Amber: I cracked up when I came home from my shopping binge last night and saw your note. Are you happy?

-E and E (and A): it's good to know you agree with me, re: yesterday's post.

-and Edwinna! you almost died when you were five? tell us more!

What Do You Think?