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The man's guide to gift wrapping

By Tracey McKinney
On December 3, 2002

Let's face it. As a general rule, men usually do a miserable job of wrapping gifts. Those who actually try--which are few and far between--seem to suffer from the same collective pitfalls: lack of planning, fear of scissors, and the misconception that overuse of tape and clusters of giant bows act as some type of camouflage on a poorly wrapped package. No matter what the original box may have looked like, they end up with something that resembles a paper mache summer camp project gone terribly wrong.

Those who do make an effort always have this sheepish, embarrassed look when they produce that childish blob from behind their backs or when you discover their handiwork, lurking amid all your tastefully wrapped packages, under the tree on Christmas morning.

Inevitably, they'll shrug and grin boyishly, as if to say, "Hey, I tried." And that's definitely a start. You guys just need some help cleaning up those details.

Like any project, you'll need to start out with the proper tools. It's nice if you buy your own stuff, or at least replace what you use. Nothing makes women madder than when we go to wrap something on Christmas Eve and find out you've used the remaining 50 sq.ft. of gift paper on your mom's Garden Weasel.

Other than paper and tape, you'll need a good pair of scissors. Rusty box cutters, straight razors, kitchen or pocket knives, and hedge trimmers are not appropriate substitutions.

You'll have to do some preparation before actually getting down to the act of wrapping. We'll call this pre-gaming. When you buy a gift, especially clothes, ask for gift boxes. This is the best way to make sure you get them and that they're the right sizes. Also ask for a gift receipt. When you wrap the clothes, put the gift receipt in the bottom of the box. This will insure that you don't lose it. This also keeps us from having to think of a diplomatic way of asking for it later.

To get started, go to a room with lots of floor space or a flat working surface like a utility table. Spread all your tools and presents out. Be sure to take the price tags off of gifts. First of all, it's tacky. Secondly, if we want to know, we'll find out what everything costs eventually anyway.

Wrap big presents first; that way you can use the paper you've trimmed away to wrap smaller ones. When you wrap clothes, put a sheet of tissue paper in the bottom of the gift box. The lids will probably have writing on them. Set those aside. The tissue paper will hang over the sides; it's supposed to.

Fold the garment neatly and place it inside the box. Fold the tissue flaps over the top to partially conceal what's underneath. Put the lid on and tape the top to the bottom to keep them from coming apart during wrapping. Voila! You're ready to wrap.

The hardest part about wrapping is getting a piece of paper that fits. It's hard to estimate how much you'll need. Keep in mind that dimensions include the top, bottom, and all the sides. You can fold the edges of the wrap around the item as a guide.

Remember the old saying, "Measure twice, cut once?" That definitely applies here. There's nothing worse than cutting your last piece of gift wrap and then finding it's 1/2 inch short of covering the package. If you have trouble cutting in a straight line, get the wrap with the grid on the back. It costs a little more, but it's worth it if you don't waste as much.

Time to tape. The most important thing to remember here is "Less Is More." Generally speaking, if it takes someone more than five minutes to unwrap one of your gifts, then you've probably used too much tape.

Fold the long flaps over and tape them to the bottom of the box. This keeps it from sliding around inside the paper. This also keeps us from being able to open one end and slide the box out for a sneak preview.

When wrapping things besides clothes, put odd-shaped gifts into boxes to make them easier to wrap. It's also a good idea to use boxes to camouflage the size or shape of really predictable gifts, like CDs and stuffed animals. I once spent two weeks unnecessarily mortified about opening what turned out to be an electric toothbrush in front of my parents and grandparents. If only he'd used a box.

Remember, it's the thought that counts. A poorly wrapped gift is much more romantic than not trying at all. Also, don't try to pass off a store-wrapped gift (or worse, one done by your mother) as your own. We know when you're lying about wrapping something.

Keep in mind, a Kroger bag with a twist-tie is neither an ingenious nor original solution to gift wrapping. Athough you may think you are the first man to have this idea, you are not.

Also, don't be intimidated, and don't think you can spare yourselves the embarrassment by whining around to us about how it's something men "just can't do." Any one who can build a three-tier deck in his backyard in a weekend, while half drunk and grab-assing with his buddies can surely do something as simple as wrap a present.

I can't be adamant enough on these last two points.

For the sake of descency, please use moderation with bows and ribbons. You just can't cover up a 4-inch paper gap with creative bow placement; it's simply not possible.

Lastly, don't be afraid to trim the paper. There is never an occasion that warrants using 12 sq. ft. of paper to wrap a pair of earrings.

I know this seems like a lot of hassle, and you may ask yourself, "Is presentation really that important?" After all, you spend all this time, money, and effort on something that just gets ripped off and discarded after five minutes.

We know exactly what you mean, guys. It's the same way we girls feel about lingerie.

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