- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2008

“Open it,” Theresa said as she handed me my Christmas gift, “but don’t freak out when you see the box.”

This could have meant a lot of things. My friend Theresa loves to surprise people with unique and sometimes expensive gifts. There was no telling what she had done to make my Christmas present a special one.

I peeled the wrapping paper off the square box to reveal the unmistakable pink packaging that comes from only one store — a place where I never shop — Victoria's Secret.

This was a critical moment. I didn’t want to hurt my girlfriend’s feelings when she clearly was excited to present a gift she had chosen just for me.

Secretly I prayed she was only recycling the box.

“Oh my goodness,” I said faintly. “What could this be?”

I hesitated before opening the top, looking left and right to see who was sitting near us in the restaurant where we had met for our annual gift exchange. Underneath the pink tissue paper was a black satin kimono and a generous gift card. “Feel free to take this back and get whatever you want.”

“Wow,” I said. “This is quite the gift.”

Sensing my unease, Theresa unleashed a friendly lecture she obviously had rehearsed in advance.

“I know you — you’re too practical,” she said. “You would never go to Victoria's Secret to buy something frilly or feminine. But you’re going away soon on a vacation with your husband, and I think you should have a little something in your suitcase that makes you feel beautiful. So just get over the embarrassment and get yourself to the mall.”

Girlfriends don’t mince words.

I thanked Theresa and promised to enjoy the process of indulging myself. Then I went home and hid the box in my closet.

A week later, I put the Victoria's Secret gift box on the kitchen counter next to my purse as I organized myself for an afternoon of errands. “Victoria's Secret?” my daughter asked, shooting me a raised-eyebrow look.

I explained the gift to Katie, who recoiled at the thought of her mother shopping for lingerie. “I think you should get pajamas,” she said. “And they’d better be flannel, missy.”

Victoria's Secret doesn’t sell flannel. In fact, as anyone knows who has ever walked past the chain store’s display windows, it doesn’t sell much that could be labeled “pajamas.” Nevertheless, I was armed with an item to exchange and a gift card from my friend, along with her niggling to buy something sophisticated and special.

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