I wrapped my sister’s wedding present in what may or may not have been Christmas wrapping paper. For a moment I was mortified and wondered if I’d be ridiculed for the rest of my life.
I talked myself out of that soon after, although the initial blow to my perception of self worth resonated for a while yet. I bought a new roll of wrapping paper, one of few that wasn’t specific to birthdays at the store where I also bought a card (funny how there would be low stock of one in a place that sells the other…) and the colour scheme wasn’t ill suited – grey and dark blue and purple and white and silver. The pattern on it looked like strings of beads and circles and chandelier-type shapes resembling Victorian wallpaper but without being a pattern.
When I unrolled it upon getting home, however, by trick of the eye the circles easily became ornaments and the strings of beads could look like tinsel. It’s a stretch to say the Victorian shapes were snowflakes so that’s what I used to argue that it wasn’t Christmas wrapping paper. It was ambiguous, for all occasions. I never fully convinced myself, but I decided not to toss it and buy more (and I will admit that’s partly to save money).
I could also reason with myself that I wouldn’t be there to look at her unwrapping it because I could use avoidance tactics until she was done unwrapping everything from everyone who bought her and her husband a gift. She may be too exhausted to notice, or may simply not agree that it’s intended for the Christmas season. It’s irrelevant to the purpose of what it wraps, and the thought and time and effort put into everything else, but a joke is a joke and this might very well haunt me for years to come. It exposes what I had successfully hidden for so long: that I’m kind of imperfect.
Okay, I’ve never successfully hidden that fact. I screwed up enough times at the actual wedding for stories to last the rest of my life, not to mention the past thirty years of obvious flaws including terrible wrapping jobs. It’s a stereotype that I’m a bumbling unfeminine person who couldn’t make something look nice and put together to save my own life, and I try so hard to prove that wrong. It doesn’t matter how many neat and tidy feminine things I do right. All it takes is the wrong wrapping paper and there I am being a tomboy again, with no sense of grace or class.
It will take a mind-blowing wrapping job to break this etched impression of me, with just the right wrapping paper and an air-tight fit, with some kind of certificate of authenticity that I did in fact wrap that myself. Or I could just take the easy way out, seize control of the joke, and use Christmas wrapping paper for every gift I give in the future. But I’ll wait to see if I’m made fun of before I make that commitment to never do anything right ever again.