Feel the Burn
December 14, 2015
Posted By: Shaunescy
Written By: Shane Borrowman
I wrap presents badly. I always have. It’s a birth defect, I suspect, and I’m a little sensitive about it. So I compensate by calling attention to my problem. I wrap small boxes in seven yards of wrapping paper, using packaging tape to hold the torn edges in place. I use newspaper for some packages, even when I actually have normal wrapping paper to use. I put bows on at random, sometimes slapping two or three on a single package, usually not using any at all. I ignore the existence of those to/from labels entirely; instead, I write directly on the paper itself, usually with a thick, black Sharpie. Small presents go in huge boxes, often with a cinderblock to add confusion. Large presents get a handful of marbles. That’s all standard stuff. Funny, from my end, and within expected parameters of nonsense tolerance.
Christmas, it seems, brings out my inner jerk. An inner jerk who is, honestly, not too far in to begin with. He kind of lives right up near the surface, normally held down by only the most superficial level of inhibitions and concern for others. Splash one or two beers on the guy, and out he comes.
When it’s time to wrap presents, though, no alcohol is required.
This year, I invented a new form of cruelty entirely.
Rather than writing names on the presents for my kids, I began to write notes. One package, wrapped in newspaper, is obviously a video game. My son will know this just by touching it. So on the wrapping, I wrote, “John, you know what this could be…” Because he does know it’s a game…but there are many, many games he wants. On another present for him, I wrote, “John, This is a shirt. But what kind of shirt…?” The box itself is a shirt box. The present is not, of course, a shirt. It makes no noise when shaken, however, and has almost no weight. So…maybe it is a shirt?
My daughter bears the brunt of this cruelty, though. I bought her something she wants. Something she wants very, very badly. Something she likely knows, on some level, that she’s getting. That present, small enough to be held easily in one hand, available on store shelves almost anywhere—from Target to Family Dollar—went into a box that, originally, held a futon mattress. It’s the biggest box I’ve ever wrapped. It took a huge amount of wrapping paper, and I legitimately had to use clear package tape to hold the thing together. The weight distribution was weird enough that I had to lean it in a corner, up against the tree and the wall.
A good father wouldn’t have gone this far. I am a mediocre father at best.
Having gone this far, I went further. I thought about writing “To: Sam From: Dad.” No, I wrote, “Sam, This is a sweater. A nice, fragile sweater. Mom & Dad” (no point in me taking the blame alone when I can bring Mom into the mix, entirely without her knowledge or consent).
I giggled as I wrote this. I admit it. I did not laugh. I giggled.
That note is killing Sam. She’s afraid to touch the package, fearing that the contents may actually be fragile. She has no idea how heavy the box is or if it makes noise when shaken. Because she can’t touch it. I literally find her standing in the living room, staring at the package.
I do nothing to alleviate her suffering. I am a bad man.
The kids got even, though.
For my birthday in early December, not long after packages started to appear under the tree, they gave me a new electric razor. It’s nice. Norelco, rotating heads, beard trimmer. Use it wet or dry, the instructions I barely glanced at tell me. For the first time in my life, I’m literally getting a good shave…after three decades, apparently, of shaving badly with other tools, from disposable razors with single blades to expensive electric devices (completely unlike the present I just received). So I get a great shave now…on my face.
My neck is a different story. Either I’m using the razor wrong or my neck skin is just more sensitive. Whatever the reason, this awesome Norelco is burning me so badly that I can’t button my collar.
When I mentioned this to John and Sam, they both shrugged and were entirely unsympathetic.
Shane Borrowman is a native of Anaconda, father of twins, and professor of English at The University of Montana Western. He has published on a wide range of topics, including the development of boxing in Renaissance England, medieval Arabic philosophy, and American zombie films. He is editor or co-editor of four writing textbooks and six collections of original scholarship. Visit http://www.shaneborrowman.com , home of Shane's blog, Kairotic Palaver