NPR’s Youth Radio features a spot called “What is the New What” –observations on those societal evolutions in our day-to-day lives that become generational signposts. Recent Youth Radio commentators have observed Gas Prices are the New Curfew, Thai is the New Latin Flavor and one that will make any Youth Radio’s parent cringe — Sex without Condoms is the New Engagement Ring. (So much for Tiffany’s classic solitaire in a platinum four prong setting.) Alas, since Youth Radio is the name of the game, it seems they want to hear from the youth, not those youth at heart. Loath to waste a perfectly good piece of writing, I post my observation below.
Gift bags and tissue paper are the new gift wrap and ribbon. Back in the day, gift wrap paper came in rolls or in flat packages lined up on racks like cards in a solitaire game with plaids, flowers, stripes and checks for suits. There was satin ribbon for tying and ribbed ribbon for curling. The spools sat stacked in neat rows, colorful as a 96-count box of Crayolas. For those with two thumbs and/or no time there were ready-made bows round and colorful as faerie pompoms.
Before gift bags and tissue paper became the new gift wrap and ribbon, wrapping presents was an art form. It allowed time to envision the recipient of our gift opening it with delight. There was the partnership between parent and child at that crucial moment when the ribbons had to be tied and Mom needed the nearest child’s index finger to “hold right there” until the knot that would hold the gorgeous present together could be tied.
Then there was the moment when the recipient marveled over the wrapped present, prolonging for a moment the anticipation of opening it. Gift openers fell into one of two camps: the tearer-intos (usually children) and the gently-slit-and-folders (mostly their elders). Beautiful, but ransacked, paper would be stuffed into the trash can along with the ribbons, their curls now a bit awry and spent. The carefully slitted paper would be folded back along its creases and saved for wrapping smaller presents, a book perhaps or the occasional gift of jewelry.
But now that gift bags and tissue are the new wrapping paper and ribbons all of that is disappearing. Little creative energy is spent opening a glossy bag, laying some preselected matching tissue in it, plopping in a gift and then filling the cavity with a few more sheets before fluffing the edges into some semblance of festivty.
And there goes the anticipation for the giftee. No easing tight ribbons off the corners of a gift box or cutting into them to release their hold. No more diversity between the puller-offers and the slit-and-folders, either. Were all just reacher-intos now, our gift bags reusable and politically correct. If we don’t reuse the tissue we crush it tennis ball size so as not to take up too much room in a landfill.
No, a simple delight is missing now that gift bags and tissue are the new gift wrap and ribbons. Good thing Rodgers and Hammerstein are not writing My Favorite Things today. “Mailing envelope and tape strips” just doesn’t have the same lilt as “brown paper packages tied up with string.”