Catalogs are just as bad as social media. They represent misleading images of family life at the holiday seasons. Everything is perfect. All the homes are decorated in color-coordinated splendor. The feasts, complete with table settings laden with holiday plates (what the hell is a charger, anyway?–as if  sets of dishes with turkeys, or dreidels, or Christmas trees are commonplace. Who has these? The garlands. The lawn decorations. The perfect lit wreaths hanging in the windows without a single cord showing. It doesn’t matter which religion you expose–there is a catalog layout to make you ashamed of your pitiful efforts at your house.

But what aggravates me the most is the gifts. Who came up with the idea that people should make their own wrapping paper? Was it Martha Stewart? Because I would like to punch that individual. The Pinterest boards that show gifts around the tree that are themed. Brown wrapping paper–probably butcher paper. Where in Hell does one get butcher paper? Then you have to get a potato, cut out a stencil of a tree, or a menorah or some other suitable image, and dip that in homemade dye (recipe not included). After lovingly wrapping each gift, you stencil on the image. But wait. There’s more:

Go out into your yard, or if you don’t have one, go to the nearest forest. No kidding. Bring a hand woven basket. Wear your thermals, because this will be an all-day process. Scour the forest floor for pinecones, berries that aren’t poison (no directions included), attractive twigs that you will gild later (no recipes for gilt included), and sprigs of pine. If there are no pine trees, then you went to the wrong forest, and that is your fault.

Go home. Warm your hands in front of the fire, maybe sip a nog of some kind (if you have a recipe for that), and proceed to deftly decorate your stenciled packages with first, ribbon that ties into perfect bows. Naturally, most bows tied by your average American are both crooked and imperfect. Yeah. So this is the first inkling that things are not going to go well. Then, you must stick your forest gleanings into the bow in such a way that the berries look startlingly red against the brown paper, they don’t fall off as you manipulate the fragile twigs they are stuck to. Then you manage to somehow glue a tiny pinecone next to the berries without getting Elmer’s all over the paper, where it will dry and look like mucus.Still with me?

Use a calligraphy pen to carefully write the receiver’s name and yours on the gift. Or, if you do not have artistic handwriting, you can make your own tiny gift tags out of heavy, gold card stock that costs $25 for fifteen sheets. Use pinking shears to cut them out. Fold them over so that your inferior handwriting isn’t an issue, and affix them to your package with satin ribbon that is the same color as the main ribbon (or else the entire effect will be ruined.) At this rate, each gift you wrap will represent at least four man-hours of effort.

But what a thrill that will be for the recipients of your gifts, as they rip apart your paper, forest souvenirs, ribbon and gilding to uncover the iPhone charger or Smart Wool Socks! This will take approximately ten seconds, and they will tell you that they already have an iPhone charger or that they are allergic to wool. The catalogs don’t say anything about that stuff. Because when you turn the page, they reveal what your turkey and roasted Brussels sprouts should look like when they come out of the oven, and that elaborate, holly-leaf latticework on your pies, golden brown and glistening with some sort of Vermont maple syrup glaze.

Indeed. So here I sit, Scotch tape in hand, no pinking shears anywhere, with the Rudolph wrapping paper that was on sale at Wal-Mart last January. I curse the catalogs and use too much tape. My gifts look a little lumpy and uneven. I use several patterns of wrapping paper. When I am finished, I am a little embarrassed.

Curse the catalogs.

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