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Fit To Be Tied

by Stephen Lautens


February 28, 2003

I’m crossing the final frontier. I’ve decided to purge the basement of all the gift bows we’ve been saving.

For years I’ve sat at Christmas, birthdays and events in between while people carefully unwrapped presents and set aside the paper and bows "to be used again".

I’m going to go out on a sexist limb here, and suggest that the need to save wrapping paper and bows seems to be pretty much restricted to women. For men, wrapping paper, ribbons and bows are only an impediment to quickly getting our hands on the present underneath. We consider them a speed bump on the highway of gift-giving.

My father’s greatest joy was to get out a big green garbage bag at the end of any family present-giving occasion and stuffing all the old wrapping paper into it. This was done frequently over the calls of my mother to "take off the bows first!" The rule was, if it touched the floor, it belonged to Dad and went into the bag with no hope of an appeal.

Men just haven’t the patience required to carefully peel back the tape so the wrapping paper doesn’t tear, let alone the organizational skills to refold, store and reuse it. I know of one friend’s wife who actually collects up her used gift wrap and irons it to get the little creases out of it.

I’m pretty sure we have an iron in the house somewhere, but I can tell you the last time it was used it was to hold open a door.

My grandmother has her own way of solving the wrapping paper dilemma. She has been known to use an entire roll of tape to wrap a present. By the time you’ve torn, cut and bitten your way through multiple layers of clear sticky plastic, there’s pretty much nothing left of the paper underneath. Sometimes there’s not much left of the present either.

My friend Rob uses the weekend comics to wrap his presents, so there’s no guilt involved in tearing through them, although the ink has a tendency to rub off on your hands, pants, sofa and any small children in the room.

The invention of gift bags has been a godsend, not only for men who are gift-wrapping challenged, but for those of us who still feel a small pang of guilt about tossing all that useless paper away at the end of a party. Old habits die hard. Gift bags are great and easy to reuse, as long as you don’t mind getting a "Happy Halloween" bag for your birthday.

In our house we finally gave up on saving and trying to recycle wrapping paper a long time ago, but the bows continue to plague me. My wife still seems constitutionally incapable of throwing out bows, even if they’ve been sat on, squished or otherwise mangled beyond any reasonable future use.

So in our basement sits a huge plastic tub of bows that have come off presents going back decades. The bottom layer has bows I recognize as having come came off our own wedding presents thirteen years ago. They’ve been waiting that long to be recycled. Either that or my wife has plans for a second wedding that doesn’t involve me.

Just to be on the safe side, they’re heading to the curb some garbage day soon, even if it’s going to have to be under the cover of darkness.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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