December 1995. 

I was not quite six months into my two-year sojourn as News Editor for the Durant (OK) Daily Democrat, commuting back and forth each day from our home near Tishomingo and wondering during the drive each direction what I was going to get my wife for Christmas. Seems I have that problem every year, but this particular year it seemed especially difficult to decide.

Hoping for some guidance, one evening at supper I threw caution to the wind and asked Melissa point-blank: “Is there anything in particular you’d like to get this year?”

Her answer surprised me a little. “Yes, I’d like a new vacuum cleaner.”


“Yes, really. We need one; the one we have now isn’t working so great anymore, and now that we have both a four-year-old and a dog to clean up after we’d better get one that does the job.”

So that year for Christmas I bought my wife a new vacuum cleaner, and she was genuinely happy to get it. I felt good about that…

…Until I went back to work the next day and my co-workers asked what I’d given my wife for Christmas. Every last one of them reacted with horror, as if I’d thrown the aforementioned four-year-old and family dog into a fire or something.

“No woman wants a vacuum cleaner for Christmas,” they all told me.

“MINE did,” I assured them. “She even ASKED for one.”

Nobody believed me. Some of them suggested that my wife had simply been testing me, and I failed the test. One went so far as to proclaim that if my wife HAD asked for a vacuum cleaner for Christmas, it was because I had somehow brainwashed her. 

Their reactions shook me up enough that I told Melissa about it when I got home that night. She assured me that they simply didn’t know what they were talking about - and the next time she stopped by the office for a visit, she made a point of telling all of my co-workers that yes, she did ask to get that vacuum cleaner for Christmas.

“No, you didn’t,” one co-worker responded. “He’s brainwashed you.”

At which point my dear wife smiled sweetly at my co-worker and called her a name I’d never heard her utter before, even under her breath. Then she gave me a quick kiss and the cheek and headed back out to her car to go do some shopping, leaving me to accept for the rest of the day all those dirty looks from the co-worker who obviously was not used to being put in her place. Not that I minded; she kind of had it coming…

These memories came flooding back to me this morning as I was scrolling down through met Facebook page and came across an old magazine ad from the 1950s someone had posted, showing a man on Christmas morning giving his wife - you guessed it - a vacuum cleaner. 

Given my past personal experience, I was not too terribly surprised by the outpouring of venomous vitriol in the “Comments” section of the post. The remarks were universally negative, ranging from “Well, that’s one way to ruin a marriage” to “Yeah, you know he’s not getting any tonight.”

All I could do was shake my head and say to the fellow pictured in the ad: “Hang in there, buddy. I know what you’re going through.”

The moral to the story? I don’t know that there is one, really, except perhaps this: People, don’t ridicule someone if they’ve given their spouse a vacuum cleaner or a blender or some other household appliance for Christmas. The spouse may have asked for it. 

And besides, it’s really none of your business.