You don’t need to have read anything by Kierkegaard, Camus, or Sartre to understand existentialism—you need only spend an arduous hour (or three) wrapping gifts to experience the full magnitude of its implications.

You’ll be sitting on the floor surrounded by packages of various sizes, the kind that lend themselves to being concealed by wrapping paper more easily than being tossed in a gift bag. The only tools at your disposal for this maddening exercise are a pair of scissors, a roll of scotch tape you discovered hiding under the AA batteries in your junk drawer, and the fleeting belief that what you’re doing serves a purpose.

You’ll be optimistic at first, wrapping a gift or two with moderate success, but without fail, one of the following events will happen and shake the wobbly foundation of your conviction…

– The piece of wrapping paper you’ve cut won’t be big enough, exposing a sliver of the package within that’s just wide enough to show what it is, despite your meticulous efforts to cut a piece of wrapping paper larger than necessary to avoid that very outcome

– The piece of wrapping paper you’ve cut will be too large, resulting in some crazy origami folds that look like they were made by a 6-year-old

– The roll of wrapping paper will develop a long skinny tail, the leftovers from larger pieces being cut from it, in such a size that isn’t useful for anything you’re wrapping

– You’ll realize you forgot to remove the price tag from something, and you’ll have to unwrap a gift you already finished wrapping to remove it. Upon re-wrapping, it’ll turn out considerably lumpier than before.

– The cat, dog, or weird exotic pet you own that’s misunderstood by all your family/friends will decide there’s no better place to lay down than on your wrapping paper. 

– Despite occupying roughly three square feet of space, you will lose the tape and/or the scissors under your ass or in a pile of scraps. After experimenting with some creative profanity variations, you’ll check the couch cushions and the trunk of your car before looking in those two obvious places.

I'm sorry, Jim, but no office prank is worth wrapping a fucking swivel chair.Image source
Sorry, Jim, but no office prank is worth wrapping a  swivel chair.
Image source

Eventually, faced with folding another oddly shaped flap, you’ll reach your breaking point.

Why am I even doing this—it’s all going to be ripped off anyway! I’m creating something I know will be destroyed in a matter of seconds. What’s the point? WHY SHOULD I GO ON? This isn’t worth it.

Nothing matters.

In this crucial moment, you’ll have come face-to-face with the unforgiving amorality of wrapping gifts.

There’s no justice, no fairness, and no meaning. Through our struggles to tie a bow that doesn’t look like a flaccid penis, to adjust the shiny patterned paper to fit snugly, or to make some ribbon lay flat, we’ll desperately search for inherent value in our actions and find none. You’ll have transformed into the Christmas Myth of Sisyphus, doomed to meticulously wrap gifts whose coverings are destined is to be destroyed with moments by the excited, eager fingers of those who receive them.

It is technically pointless to conceal a gift in beautiful paper and ribbon that’s going to be torn to pieces, but the one redeeming aspect of this senseless act of masochism is the excitement on the part of the gift recipient. The curiosity sparked by the size or shape of the box, its contents made mysterious by the same paper that wouldn’t cooperate no matter how you cut or folded it. There’s a smug satisfaction about being in the know while the giftee violently shakes their package in an effort to identify a vague sound or incessantly asks questions about what’s inside. It may be a horrible, awful, loathsome chore, but giving that wrapped mystery and excitement to someone is sometimes better than the actual gift you chose (…oven mits? Really?).

As you put the finishing trimmings on your gifts, cursing down the halls instead of decking them, know that what you’re doing is worth it in the best possible way, and only wimps exclusively use gift bags or pay for professional gift-wrapping.

29 thoughts on “Gift Wrapping and Existential Despair

  1. Losing the tape. Oh God yes. This post made me really happy all my gift wrapping is already finished…otherwise, had I a night of wrapping ahead of me, I think I would have just thrown in the towel early 🙂

    1. So I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not, but let me just say, if wrapping presents if your favorite, I envy you. I may never get to that point.

      Merry belated Christmas!

      1. But I said I’m not being sarcastic 😀 I really do like wrapping presents. But then in school I also enjoyed wrapping my books, and still do – when I buy a hardcover I wrap the dust jacket in heavy-duty plastic like they do with library books so it won’t get damaged. I guess that makes me weird.

  2. I hate wrapping gifts with a passion. It’s another of those things that should be taught to young people at some point so they have a clue how to do it even half assed later in life. When I see one of my gifts grabbed from the pile and the grabber says, “geez, who wrapped this thing?” It makes me want to punch them in the face and yell, “I did it with love you fucking dick!” Merry Christmas!

    1. Agreed! In third grade they should’ve been teaching me how to wrap gifts, not write in cursive. We see how useful that shit is nowadays.

      My gifts always garner that reaction, too. Merry Christmas! A few days late.

  3. I’m decent but not brilliant at it. They come out looking nice, but it takes more time than I feel it should. But my husband is some kind of gift-wrapping guru and his packages all look so beautiful that I feel like I need to at least try to measure up.

    1. There’s always one gift-wrapping prodigy in every family. I wish I was it, but I’m not. I think what I wrap comes out looking mediocre, but it’s not getting any ooh’s or ahh’s.

  4. I am the queen of origami packages! I’ve come to terms with my shortcomings, as has everyone else (I never have to fill out the “from” part of the tag). One time someone tried to wrap my gifts for me out of pity. He’s no longer around… I think he disappeared along with the tape.

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