Used Gift Bags Are the Real Hero of Summer


Rituals of aging degrade with each generation. For example, millennials are getting married and having kids later than their parents, due to, I am told, buying all that avocado. That's a different essay.

Certain rites remain nonnegotiable, though. For example, adulthood means overseeing a drawer of plastic grocery bags. Even people who don't really use plastic grocery bags have this drawer because we feel guilty throwing them out. We just keep stuffing them down until the drawer creaks and the bag edges stick out like squids falling off a boat.

The other lawless love child of age and wisdom is a closet of used gift bags. Alternatively, the user may store bags in a container under the bed or fold smaller gift bags inside ONE GIANT GIFT BAG. This is an advanced technique! The most noble warriors, and by this I mean Mothers of the Midwest Who Moved to Florida, have organized gift bags by size, color and occasion. A corresponding Sterilite box contains bows, ribbons, tape and scissors. The Sterilite is labeled.

Not me. My bag closet is Chaotic Neutral, gift bags sliding into towels, batteries, Easter baskets and Command strips missing the sticky part. But Bag Closet is busy right now.

Summer is peak gift bag season in my family. From May to June, we celebrated my dad's birthday, my husband's birthday, my birthday, my stepdaughter's birthday, Mother's Day and Father's Day. It was like Gemini Christmas spread punishingly over weeks. No, none of us could afford it. Yes, we are interested in part-time work.

During one of our 17 celebrations, I uttered, "Do you think ____ will notice if we use the same bags her friends gave her yesterday?" Reader, she did not notice. Gift bag experts know why. The best gift bags are transferable, utilitarian and forgettable, like the music at the grocery store. The best bags don't have messaging, but rather a subtle daisy motif, or, like, cerulean geometric shapes (no glitter, please). They bounce seamlessly from Uncle Roberto to Baby Betty, crinkling, crumpling, tearing, gazing wearily upon the vast barbecue horizon and proclaiming, "I was here."


Oh, but gift bag people can specialize. Need a burlap wine bag that says MR. AND MRS.? Right this way! Need a "#1 DAD" bag with a 3D trophy? It is slightly bent in five places! Need a Santa bag that says "STEPH" in Sharpie because my parents don't use gift tags? Please, come on down! Need a bag that says:





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