The Lewis Wrapping Method:  Part 2
by Jeff Lewis

Step 5:  Use Creative Wrapping Techniques to Disguise Content

If you’ve gotten this far, you probably adhere to the theory that, ideally, gifts should be wrapped in a way that doesn’t disclose their contents.  What’s the fun of getting a CD-shaped package with a CD inside?  It’s much more fun to receive a CD if it takes the shape of a tennis racket, but is slightly heavier than a ream of office paper.  Actually, nearly everything is more fun to unwrap when shaped like a tennis racket, except, of course, a tennis racket.  Even your most spatially astute friends will drive themselves crazy trying to guess at the contents of their gifts if presented with five tennis racket-shaped packages.  You may think I jest.  Try it.

In the past, I’ve unfortunately presided over some exceedingly complex wrapping jobs that made recipients look foolish when they tried to open them, as well as ones that needed very sharp scissors to undo.  I’ve phased these out of the Lewis Wrapping Method, so here are some excellent disguising techniques that will allow both you and the recipient to retain your dignity, more or less:

Suspension Systems—If you have breakable items, create a suspension system, fashioned out of rubber bands.  This is an excellent strategy for Shakers.  A small vase, suspended in the box that held your toaster oven—given to you last Christmas by your aunt and uncle—will baffle said aunt until the very moment she tears open the box.  Take your time when creating the suspension system, test it for faults and don’t let the aunt use scissors or the vase will gain velocity.

Boxes Made Out of Boxes—This is another technique aimed at Shakers.  If you plan to give a solid, unbreakable item to a Shaker, construct a box out of six cereal boxes and some duct tape.  Let the unbreakable item sit freely in this large box and tape it securely closed.  The Shaker will marvel at the reverb.

Yarn Trail—Expand on the time-honored yarn-to-the-red-bike tradition by leading recipients on a wild goose chase through the woodpile and into the garage.  If you don’t have that much yarn to waste, use a combination of yarn-like items (garden hose, speaker wire).  Possible satisfying conclusions to the w. g. c. include:  a) the present is actually under the tree, b) the present is packed in the storage bins underneath the old paint cans, or c) the present is really good—like in the commercial where pudgy, balding man gets an SUV from his super-model wife.

Give the Gift of Befuddlement—Empty red herring boxes, placed inside the main box, can be fun for the recipient—at least the first time—but true befuddlement occurs when your brother-in-law opens his gift bag and finds his own James Bond DVD collection, covered with Streets of San Francisco-era pictures of Michael Douglas.  I didn’t think of this until now, but the effect can be multiplied if the DVD collection is wrapped to look like a choo-choo train.

Layering Doesn’t Just Save You From Hypothermia—Even the most seasoned Lewises and honorary Lewises mess up from time to time.  If this happens, don’t start over!  Just get a bigger box and add a layer.  If you are using cereal boxes, this is very easy because they nest well.

Multi-Level Packages—If your recipient is a chess lover, create a 3-D chessboard, using wrapping paper rolls and three raisin bran boxes.  These are nuggets I’m giving you.  Nuggets!

Bon Bons—Roll the present in fancy tissue paper or colored plastic wrap, so that the ends extend beyond the present.  Tie a ribbon on each side of the present so that it looks like a festive tootsie roll.  This works well with socks, although I prefer to add a package of spaghetti noodles to make the package feel more intriguing.

Unbalanced Center of Gravity—Few things mask a present’s identity as well as an unbalanced center of gravity.  How many boxable gifts are there in the world with a drastically unbalanced center of gravity?  Not many.  That’s why a ream of office paper—strategically placed—can turn an “I bet I know what this is!” into a “What the…?”

(Note to self:  Look for the popup book/ream of paper that you forgot to include in last year’s spreadsheet.)

Step 6:  Know Your Recipient

As you can see, the Lewis Wrapping Method uses a variety of sophisticated physical and psychological tools that can be overwhelming or even offensive if given to the wrong person.  For example, don’t wrap your brother-in-law’s DVD in Michael Douglas pictures if you suspect he has a crush on Michael Douglas (this is just an example; he doesn’t).  Also, I’ve learned not to count on two-year olds to appreciate deconstructionist wrapping.  They won’t understand why the wrapping paper is inside the present, or—alternately—why the gift is in a state of “pre-unrapture,” with ripped and crumpled paper stapled to the Tonka Truck box.  Give these gifts to friends who own $500 plastic chairs.

Important Note:  Staples are not a clever packaging medium for young children.

Above all, make sure you have the right audience, or the words “F*&$#^! idiot” will be clearly discernable on their brow.

Step 7:  Prepare For Last Minute Hitches

Bring gift bags, extra paper, scissors and other tools of the trade on your trip if you’re not holding Christmas at home.  If you are in a bind and run out of paper, use the newspaper, preferably the comics or the glossy parts.  Target ads are colorful, especially around Christmastime, when they add green to their red and white motif.  Be ready to raid your relative’s pantry for cereal boxes if you run into an unexpected crisis—distant relatives in town—that requires last-minute candle wrapping.  Ideally, you should have extra presents wrapped for this scenario.  (The tag can read “This is Special, just for you.”)

Step 8:  Avoid Cat Urine

This should be obvious to most, but I’ve learned from experience that there are corner-cutters out there that...well, let me give you the details.  I have a relative that routinely leaves her gift wrapping—and gift buying, for that matter—until the very last minute.  About five minutes before she needs to leave for the Christmas festivities, she rushes hurriedly around the house, grabbing random items and stuffing them into many bags, which she gives to each family member as a “wrapped present.”  Among the items that I’ve received from her are:

While these activities and gifts may nominally fall under the umbrella of the Lewis Wrapping Method, they violate it’s loving heart and soul.

Step 9:  After the Wrapping

If you are away from home, you’ll anger your host if you don’t clean up the preposterous amount of wrapping jetsam that you’ve generated, so bring your own recycling bin or vacuum cleaner to the festivities.  If you’ve followed the Lewis Wrapping Method, you’ll need to go very carefully through the debris because it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of your presents will get tossed out if you don’t.  While you’re at it, of course, check for reusable boxes, bags, bows, etc.

Caveats

If overdone, the Method can get tiresome for the older generations around the tree, and can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome if you do not wrap ergonomically.  Similarly, if you don’t temper your initial stabs at the Method, your relatives’ expectations may run too high, making it tough to satisfy them in subsequent years.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to carefully consider your storage options for the wrapping media that will build up as the year progresses.  Many boxes can be flattened, but more likely than not, the items will need to be stored out of sight in the basement or attic.  If that’s the case, you may need to bug bomb your boxes when the holiday season rolls around.  Cat urine may be bad, but nothing says, “Bah, Humbug!” like a brown recluse spider.

Happy Holidays and happy wrapping!

Copyright Jeff Lewis, 2004