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The Man’s Guide To Wrapping Christmas Presents


It wasn’t a Christmas present, but one for a birthday that truly exposed my weakness. Armed with a small roll of paper and some packing tape—because having kids means never having Scotch tape—I set about my task. Soon, I would be through the entire roll of paper and a large amount of packing tape. Eventually my task was completed, and the present wrapped, albeit poorly. At least one corner was mildly exposed.

On its face, wrapping presents should be something we men embrace and excel at. It’s got angles, it involves measurement, and it requires precision. But we do not. Perhaps it’s the delicate unpredictability of the paper or perhaps it’s that we eyeball everything instead of measuring twice and cutting once. Upon completion, we invariably end up with a mess with soft corners, at least one tear, ends more wadded up than neatly folded, and a whole lot of tape.

It’s not for lack of effort. In fact, we put the same effort toward wrapping as we do toward shopping for the present that is being wrapped. So maybe it is for lack of effort, but that’s not the issue right now. Well, it is. Men aren’t the ones who came up with gift wrapping, though. There’s no way men would devise such a frivolous and nefarious strategy for giving gifts.

Except we did. So, until we build a time machine and go back in time to kill people — starting with J.C. and Rollie Hall, the brothers who started a company you may have heard of called Hallmark — we’re going to continue to be stuck wrapping presents.

We’re Gonna Need More Supplies

The process kicks off simply enough, with a last-minute trip to the store or, if we’re especially prepared, a swing through Amazon while we still have time to get baubles and treacles shipped. Then, we start the process with the aforementioned eye-balling of a rectangle of paper. We roll out the paper, set our box on it, grab some scissors, and tear the paper.

From there we roll out more paper, eye-ball another rectangle, and apply a little more finesse to our cut. That’s not the end, though, because the paper comes in standard widths, so there’s a bit more trimming to be done. So we try to guess how much we’ll need to fold to cover the ends. There’s a distinct possibility this stage ends in either cutting off too much or tearing the paper again.

Assuming we don’t do either of those things, we do the one simple step: we tape the pieces together, occasionally even managing to do so on the bottom of the present. After that is when things start to get wet and wild as we attempt to practice the ancient Japanese art of origami. Instead of a swan or one of those little boxes you can blow up, we’re tangling with the most difficult of folds. I think it’s called the end-triangle.

Here’s Where It Gets Complicated

First, we take the corners and start folding the bottom paper — which is now on the top because we flipped the box over when taping the pieces together — into triangle-esque shapes. For a visual representation, please refer to slides four through seven in this pack of lies that pretends it’s easy. Then we exert a little too much pressure while folding, tear the paper again, and head back to the eye-balling stage.

Eventually, we make it all the way to through the origami stage without tearing anything and it’s time to make it look neat and clean and free of visible tape. What we’re going for is this:


What we actually achieve is closer to this:Badly wrapped, messy Christmas present

At this point, we have to decide whether we’re going to roll with this abomination or start over. A variety of factors go into this decision. Who is the present for? If for a significant other, how long have we been together? Do we have enough materials left to even undertake such a task? Are there any gift bags anywhere? Why didn’t we just go with a gift bag?

If the present is for a parent or coworker, it’s good and doesn’t need to be re-wrapped. If it’s for a significant other, it’s probably good, too, unless it’s early in the relationship and we’re trying to front. If this is the case, men need to take themselves right back to the store where we bought the gift or somewhere else that offers such services and pay someone to wrap that present for us. If we’re going to put up the façade, then we need to drop some coin and do it right.

As to the materials angle, meh, remember that we could end up doing a worse job and then we’d have to go out and buy even more wrapping paper and tape.

About the Colored Stuff That’s Stuck Onto the Paper

When receiving presents, ribbon and bows get in the way of whatever we’re trying to unwrap. We’ll be tempted to add these to our own presents, and for good reason. They might cover a small portion of all other imperfections of the glob of paper and tape inside which we’ve hidden a present. In our case, let’s get fancy and use both.

After adding ribbon and bows, we’re so close to the end now, we can taste it. It tastes like bourbon with a hint of Scotch tape. There’s only one step left. It’s the easiest, but most important, step. It’s also the one we forget every freaking year. The present is going to need a tag designating who gets to fight through layers of tape and ribbon.

We don’t have those, but don’t even sweat it. We can just write the name on the paper itself, somewhere near the middle bow. Preferably this should be done with a Sharpie, but a regular pen will do if a Sharpie isn’t available.

It Really Is About the Thought

When we hand over our presents, we may get funny looks. Some will accept it as an expression of our raw masculinity. Others will see it as proof that the thought is what counts and that wrap job doesn’t seem like it has a lot of thought behind it. But as long as some thought went into what’s inside, we’ll be fine.

We can easily prove this with a thought experiment. Imagine two boxes, Box A and Box B. In Box A we have an impeccably wrapped vacuum cleaner; in Box B, a very poorly wrapped set of plane tickets for a trip to Hawaii. Which present would your girl rather receive?

Exactly. Now pour some bourbon, kick back in the opulence of your misshapen and poorly wrapped presents, and have a Merry Christmas.