The Anatomy of a Present

As the countdown to the largest gift-giving holiday in the US continues (I’ve got my eye on you, countdown widget, and your cheery “53 Days!” message), I’d like to conduct a totally unscientific analysis of the item known as the present.

We all know it’s what’s inside that counts, so it’s time to go shopping. Whether from the comfort of your footie pajamas in bed or while out on the town, enjoy hunting for that perfect something for your special someone. I have some suggestions for this part, but they belong in a different post.

And now, we wrap!

You never get a second chance at a first impression, so make the presentation count. I would say the percentage of joy from anticipation alone goes up at least 25% for a beautifully-wrapped gift; add another 10-15% if that bow looks professionally tied. (Source: family and friends’ ooh-and-aah volume levels the year I spent three hours perfecting the multi-loop bow).

Roll out your lovely paper, grab the nearest pie plate or toddler to keep the ends from curling back up, and try to cut a semi-straight line. Measure twice and cut once — or, if you’re my father, don’t measure and cut once too many times and start again. Cursing under your breath is optional.

Now that your gift is swathed in its outer coverings, take your preferred rustic twine/shiny ribbon/string from the cat’s toy and wind it around the box a few times. Tie a simple bow if you really like the recipient, or tie increasingly difficult knots if you want some entertainment later (thanks, mom).

Bonus points for coordinating wrapping colors to the tissue paper, ribbon, and tags. Extra bonus for heavy, metallic foil wrapping paper, just because it’s my favorite.

Now that we’ve torn through our beautiful and thoughtful outer layers in frustration and thrown them to the floor in a heap for the cat to play with, let’s consider the box.

Some boxes come with their own predetermined meaning — little blue boxes, I’m talking to you — and need little else to build anticipation. Other cardboard constructions need all the help they can get. Loosely pre-folded along crooked, perforated lines, these department store packages take a whole lot of love to make them attractive trappings for what’s inside. I strongly suggest heavy usage of clear sticky substances.

If you’ve managed to fold, cut, tape, and tie your way to this point, congratulations. Take a step back and admire your handiwork, noting any crooked seams and errant ribbon curls (“Six. Inches.”). If your package looks like it belongs under Martha Stewart’s tree in her latest December issue, you’re good to go.

If not, you’re faced with two options.

Option one: gather up all of your gifts, make a list of which person is supposed to get what, and truck them all down to your local mall where a troop of friendly Scouts will happily wrap them all in reindeer-themed paper with matching stick-on bow for the low, low donation cost of whatever you have left in your wallet.

Option two: remove all attempted wrappings. Place item(s) in cute, holiday-themed bags. Shove fistfulls of tissue paper on top. Pour a glass of your favorite adult version of eggnogg, and pat yourself on the back for surviving another round of holiday gifting.

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