Friends, if you’re like me, people approach you every Christmas season and say the same thing: “O wise and beautiful Jeb, how can I streamline my Christmas cheer-flow [CHOW] while maximizing gift-output [GUT]?” I say the same thing every year: You can only increase Christmas CHOWGUT by embracing a post-wrapping holiday and moving your platform toward unadorned, naked gifts (GIFNUDE).
My startup already has $250 million in capitalization.
Gift wrapping is fine for some—suckers, mostly. It’s further cost and effort added to a gift, and for what? Avoidance of ingratitude, I say. What other message can we draw from others’ dislike of a bare gift?
Evidently, the thoughtfulness and expense of the gift itself is insufficient without further ornamentation. Maybe you could put the gift on a bed of silk pillows dotted with rose petals in a chariot pulled by griffons. Maybe a princess could Bedazzle™ the griffons with rhinestones and magically keep them from screaming while we’re at it.
Besides, gift-wrapping is a nightmare. It’s not an abstruse art, but only really conscientious parents or members of large social circles practice it more than a few times per year. You, average human, screw up and waste material, mis-fold, rumple things, finally get back into form and then…you’re done for another six months!
Like learning how to unclench every part of your body while in the dentist’s chair, it’s a skill that returns to muscle memory just moments before it’s not necessary again for a long time.
It’s time to disrupt this cycle of craft abuse. If we’re ever to advance as a people—and shove it to the fatcats at Weyerhauser—we need to reject the crass consumerism of Big Paper. But you’re probably not ready for that yet.
In the meantime, I offer these four respectable alternatives to gift-wrapping that will set you on an evolutionary path toward freedom.
1. Feign Incompetence
When presented with any intolerable task, your best bet is passing the buck to someone who, through some misguided excess of concern, chooses to prevent others from observing how much you suck. Which pretty much means this is an exclusively masculine tactic.
We should object to Hollywood’s depiction of men as sofa-bound bozos reminiscing about scoring touchdowns in high school, flushing toilets and refusing to have sex with their wives. Especially the sex part.
But Hollywood’s other depiction of men as well-meaning galoots is a real savior here. The secret is to smile as broadly as possible while turning the gift process into a total abortion.
Under no circumstances should you demonstrate any aptitude at wrapping. In fact, aggressively fail at it. Grab the most expensive roll of paper—you know which one, the thick and textured kind—and cut off too little. Then cut off too much. Fold it like you’re trying to make an origami duck that’s just been spatchcocked by a postal van. Eventually, someone else will rescue you from yourself.
With any luck, after a couple years, the doubling of the other person’s workload will see them give up too. Now you’re both to blame, which is to say you’re both blameless. This is how it works in Washington, and it can work for you too.
2. Gift Bags
Yeah, you could do this. If you’re a coward. This is just another kind of paper, filled with tissue paper, and it costs more than a roll of wrapping paper, because Big Paper knows that you’re too lazy to wrap on your own and too chickenshit to just show up with an unwrapped blister pack, hand it to a kid, and say, “Here you go, Brantley, it’s a Transformer. I think it’s MegaDork. Go fuck yourself.”
Speaking of which:
3. Santa That Sumbitch!
You remember when you were a kid, and you’d tear downstairs at first light and see all those gifts that Santa left under the tree, unwrapped and lovingly placed among all the boxes and bows? We’re already infantilizing everything else in the United States—Hi, I’m here for my physics class/loan application in my flannel goddamn pajama pants—we might as well do it here too. Every gift is Santa’s, every person a child again!
Playing up the Santa angle is effortless. I do it with my son every year. “Whoa, Durian-Conor Lund,” I say, my arms magnificently spreading to address the cornucopia of unwrapped gifts I have left around the house for him, “looks like Santa knows you did extra well in your Mandarin classes! He knows that in 12 years you will have fast-tracked to a lesser-Ivy’s smartphone-app development college!”
Durian-Conor understands risk/reward, and so should you. Because there is no downside to the Santa Strategy. You just have to execute it.
Step One: Save your receipts. Step Two: Buy adhesive or ribboned to/from tags. Step Three: Wrap nothing, address the to/from tags and be sure to sign “Santa,” then apply them to the gifts. Step Four: Stay up doing drugs until everyone’s gone to sleep, then nestle your presents among the gifts under the tree. Not enough room? No problem! Strew the gifts throughout the house, in rooms applying to each recipient, like a Santa scavenger hunt. Ho ho ho! Looks like Santa left this bottle of scotch and box of ammunition on the banker’s desk in dad’s office where he cries when he thinks we’re asleep!
There are only two risks to this gambit, both of which are manageable. First, some miserable ass might try to claim that he (it will be a he, trust me) was Santa’s Helper and got these gifts. Since you probably passed out in your clothes in a chair, reach for those receipts in the back pocket and wave them at him, in front of everyone.
Ask if he has the same receipts you do. Ask if he thinks Santa’s that much of an idiot that he’d double book the gift purchases. Are you calling Santa an idiot, Mitch? (He’s probably named Mitch.) Speaking of which…
Second, you might get some other relative or friend pulling you aside and saying, “Come on, Santa? Really? You’re so lazy you’re going to do the Santa thing?” Look them evenly in the eye and smile, but try to keep your smile lopsided, like you’ve forgotten how to do it right. Take them by the hand. Say their name and thank them, warmly, for joining you at Christmas and appreciating your generosity. Then tell them you were only following orders. From Santa.
Slowly squeeze their hand until you can feel the bones start moving around in it, and ask, “You’re not saying you don’t believe in Santa, are you?”
4. The Un-Unwrappable Affront
This is by far the most dangerous of all anti-wrapping tactics, because it demonstrates not only an ability to wrap but also ruthless precision. This tactic’s virtues stem from from its incredible cheapness as well as a hostility so focused that it inspires future relief at your failure to wrap anything at all. This is a wrap job of such overwhelming force that it compels others to demand that you never turn a sheet of paper toward a fold again.
Step One: As you’re exiting a bar, grab as many copies of the local alt-weekly newspaper that you think you’ll need. This makes the alt-weekly staff feel good, because they think more people are reading it, and it makes you feel good because what you’re doing is very close to stealing.
Step Two: Put whatever you’ve bought into a featureless box, and stuff it with as many wads of the alt-weekly as necessary to keep the gift from moving. At all. Stuff it until the idea of further space within its confines is impossible. You not only want to make it futile for the recipient to try guess what might be inside, you also want to give them the impression that you have given them a completely solid object. Maybe you gave them a block of wood. They should dread this, unless they are Swedish.
Step Three: Exactingly, painstakingly, brilliantly wrap the shit out of that box with the alt-weekly. Tri-ply the wrapping. Then double it. This technique exhibits a paradoxical impulse on your part. On the one hand, clearly you made no effort to get any good wrapping paper for someone. (Quite the contrary, they’re going to have blackened hands from the newsprint smear that ensues from trying to unwrap it.) On the other hand, you wrapped this exquisitely densely. You clearly know what you’re doing, and what you’re doing is not friendly.
Step Four: Take a razor blade and a roll of duct tape and bind the gift both lengthwise and across with two straight strands of tape, to make it look like the gray newsprint has been festooned with two shining silver bands of ribbon evenly and symmetrically spaced across the gift.
There you go—that thing’s goddamn near impregnable.
I did this once 15 years ago, and by the end of the scratching, clawing, agonizing unwrapping process, the recipient begged me never to do this again. Everyone did. Even the onlookers looked pained. Unfortunately, that was on the East Coast, and this year, an insolent friend on the West Coast dragooned me into a Secret Santa with all the trappings. He didn’t know. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not an acceptable excuse.
So I took three 12-packs of Coors Light—the Silver Bullet—and Krazy Glued them together at the sides, until they formed one massive box. (It was also unbelievably heavy, so for thrift’s sake I had to ship it via a Surinamese mail service four weeks ago, which means it’ll be skunked as hell by the time it arrives.) Then I wrapped the box in half a dozen layers of alt-weekly before binding it with the duct tape. The whole thing looks like a gleaming cube. That’s what you’re getting for Christmas, Jon. You’re getting a cube. Fuck you, Jon. Your gift is impenetrable.
The Gathering Storm
I concede that this process can be frightening and unfamiliar for those attempting it for the first time, but I promise that one of these tactics can work for you. Yes, it’s disruptive, but inefficiencies lurk within the Christmas gift economy, and until we’re willing to confront them, we are never going to break the sclerotic hold of Big Paper and unlock the potential inherent in the season.
After all, did not the Magi bring the newborn Christ gold, some frankincense, and a wad of myrrh? There is no mention of papyri, ribbons, or bags. Only the essentials. Especially the gold, which will be vital when Bitcoin servers and the fiat money economy collapse and we need to barter amongst roving, armed neo-feudal bands. Let us get back to our roots. Let us loose ourselves from the bindings of meaningless paper.
Merry Christmas, everyone!