Coming undone is just a part of the joy of season

December 19, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

For those of us who struggle with wrapping paper, scissors and tape, who fumble mightily with tissue paper, ribbons and bows, this has always been the cruelest season.

Oh, the wrapping-impaired don't seek your sympathy.

Nor do we want your money.

And we'll never ask you to buy trash bags from us, or mail little collection envelopes to your neighbors, or donate old but serviceable vehicles for our use.

All we ask for at this difficult time of year is your understanding, for a kindly pat on the back instead of a snicker when we hand you a gift wrapped in a lumpy, shapeless mass of paper with way too much Scotch tape holding it together.

At this point, statistics on the wrapping-impaired are hard to come by.

But here's what we know for sure: There are millions of us out there.

We are young and old, rich and poor, black and white and Asian and Native Americans.

We are a Rainbow Coalition of the pig-fingered and the inept.

We're the frustrated, the howling, cursing masses who fail to leave a two-inch overlap of paper at each end of the box we're wrapping, and therefore have to "patch" one end, making the whole thing look even more hideous.

Yes, the overwhelming majority of us are men.

But it's precisely because this affliction affects one gender so dramatically that we need a unified effort to address its causes - and, God-willing, to find a cure.

Over the years, the wrapping-impaired have developed coping mechanisms to get through the holiday season.

Some of us foist our wrapping needs on others: on wives and teenage daughters, on sisters and aunts, on the nice lady manning the Free Gift-Wrapping! booth tucked in the back of the department store's ground floor.

Or we simply give up and stop giving wrapped gifts altogether.

That's right, we start using those little gift bags.

Oh, if you only knew how much relief those little gift bags have brought to the wrapping-impaired!

If you only knew how much pain and embarrassment they've spared us.

What the Salk vaccine did for polio patients, what the portable inhaler did for asthma sufferers, the gift bag has done for the wrapping-impaired.

Why, with gift bags, we in the wrapping-impaired community almost feel "normal" when exchanging presents.

But it's a feeling that doesn't last. Because pretty soon we're forced to give a gift that's too big to fit in a gift bag, something that has to be wrapped.

Then, of course, all the horrible memories of past botched wrapping jobs come flooding back.

Which red-lines our anxiety levels to such an extent that, of course, we botch the next wrapping job we undertake - and the one after that, and the one after that, too.

You talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The wrapping-impaired know all about that.

As of this writing, there are few places for the wrapping-impaired to turn for help.

Support groups, for instance, are almost non-existent.

Oh, small groups of us will sometimes sit around and discuss our condition - often with a six-pack or two of beer to ease the pain.

But pretty soon the discussion veers off in another direction - to the quarterback situation of the Ravens, say, or the need for the Orioles to acquire a front-line starter, or who wants to get a pizza.

And by the end of the night, the result is always the same: The beer is gone.

And the wrapping-impaired have gained few insights into their condition, and why they can't seem to improve at a task that seems like child's play for so many others.

No, the fact is, most of America remains indifferent to the plight of the wrapping-impaired at this point.

Instead of tolerance and understanding, what we get are fuzzy platitudes and hoary pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps exhortations.

It's all in your head, people tell us. I bet you could wrap nicely if you really wanted to.

Others say: Look, all you have to do is make sure there's enough wrapping paper at each end of the box to fold over so it covers everything. Now stop all this nonsense and just do it.

Gee, thanks.

That'll sure make the wrapping-impaired feel better about themselves.

Happy holidays to you, too, friend.

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