Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Tradition: Crappy Wrapping

This is a tradition beginning with two facts: One, I'm kind of clumsy and sloppy about craft stuff. Two, I'm especially bad at wrapping gifts. I don't know what it is that gives me such trouble (apart from the fact I can't cut remotely straight, which surely doesn't help) but watching me wrap presents is like watching a velociraptor try to build a house of cards: sad, and a little bit scary.

To cope with this I started a tradition in my family: excessively complicated, confusing, and crappy wrapping jobs. For a while this mainly meant abusing masking tape or using the wrong sort of paper in a package (for instance, paper towels) but over the years it's become a bit of an art. We knew things had maybe gone too far the year my brother Alex wrapped a present in ten thousand layers of plastic Target bags. He tied each one closed. This took me maybe ten minutes to peel. I was crying from laughing by the end of it. We made Christmas clothes out of the bags. I'm not quite sure, come to think of it, what was in there. Presumably nothing to warrant the complexity of obtaining it.

Nobody's done anything that difficult since, but we've been competing for style. Last year, for instance, I disguised a present for said brother by taping a ring of silverware around it, then wrapping the resulting mess. I've propped open DVD cases and wrapped them that way to disguise their contents. I've attached action figures to the tops of presents. Alex made his own wrapping paper by taping starburst wrappers together with scotch tape. (This was, thankfully, for a pretty small gift; it took forever.) Last year I probably did the best one I'll ever do: I took two books I'd purchased for my brother Ben, slid them into the back of a twelve-pack box of soda, and then slid most of the (empty) cans back in. When I was done it looked like a freshly opened twelve-pack, and he had to "open" it by removing the cans.

Come to think of it this tradition descends from my grandma's old habit of wrapping very small gifts in a series of nested boxes, bags, and etc. Good times, in any case. It livens up the proceedings, makes for a few laughs, and often the bad wrapping is more memorable than a good job would have ever been.

Right now I'm a little nervous because Tracy spent like an hour and a half upstairs last night wrapping my gifts but outwardly they look completely normal. What the hell did she do to these things?


  1. All these disguising ideas are pretty brilliant. I just bought Sarah a CD and wrapped it and was like, Well, that's obvious.

    Clearly, Mike, you need to send this post into the past. A week should do it.

    I used to always wrap things in newspaper. I hated the idea of buying pretty wastepaper and really was too lazy to go buy it anyway and usually I could find entertainingly absurd or personally relatable small-town news items. Then I brought a comics-wrapped gift to my first and only baby shower and felt like a cretin when I saw all the gifts that looked pulled straight from a diamond necklace commercial, stacked against the wall. Then while I sat drinking coffee this voice in my head was like HEY MAN DON'T YOU REMEMBER DIDN'T YOU READ SOMETHING ABOUT HOW NEWSPRINT CAN MUTATE AN UNBORN BABY? I about had a breakdown while the mother worked through the tasteful pastel boxes on her way to my abomination. But now I think the newsprint was fine. The baby at least isn't mutated, at least not in a way that has manifested itself yet.

  2. Yeah, CD's and DVDs and stuff make this sort of camouflage a little bit necessary. Thankfully my family has always appreciated my "thrift" / creativity and I have fostered a weird enough persona that I could get away with it outside my family but I haven't tried, would probably feel like a tool.

  3. You would definitely inspire people. I am already excited to try some of this next year.

    First idea: CD buried in a paper box of sand that erupts onto the couch and floor when opened.

  4. Oh man, that's a great one.

    Or like a small, cylindrical device that fits into the barrel of a gun. Like a fancy pen or something. And the gun isn't loaded but you slide the pen down the barrel, and to get it out the person had to get up close and personal with the gun. And you don't tell them it's not loaded.