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Worst birthday card ever

August 26, 2010

My dear friend Sarah’s birthday is at the beginning of August.

I possibly would be more on top of my shit if the kitten calendar hanging in my kitchen weren’t still open to the month of June.

Sarah’s been spending the past several weeks on Cape Cod for work, though, so I had plenty of time to procrastinate on picking a proper present for her. To my surprise, I selected something suitable — two CDs by She & Him — in a timely fashion. Sarah has a straight-girl crush on Zooey Deschanel. She can have her over my cold, lifeless body.

We made plans to have dinner together a few days ago. No worries, I thought cockily. She’s taken care of. You found her gift with time to spare.

That was true.

But I’d forgotten to wrap it — an epiphany I didn’t experience until about 10 minutes before my shift ended, and I was meeting Sarah straight from work.

You can fix this, I reassured myself. You work at a newspaper. It’s pretty much a firetrap. There are piles of paper *everywhere.* Wrap it in newsprint. Everyone loves a devoted recycler! You’re saving a defenseless endangered tree in the rain forest from meeting a pulpy end in vain. Or wherever newsprint comes from. Maybe a lumber yard? You know alarmingly little about your industry. You should Google this. Later. In the meantime, you’re a hero to the environment and an awesome gift-giver with a conscience. Win and win.

As I enveloped the music in an inky page and smoothed out tape along the seams, I felt quite smug that I’d managed to save face. And a tree. Which is almost as important as saving face.

Then I realized that I’d also forgotten to buy a card.

Not cool, Berger. Not cool.

I raided a secretary’s desk, but found only Post-it notes. As you may know, I’ve been watching an embarrassing amount of “Sex and the City” lately, and all I could think of was when Berger breaks up with Carrie by writing “I’m sorry, I can’t, Don’t hate me” on one of those obnoxiously yellow sticky sheets. Carrie, shockingly enough, never forgave his thoughtlessness. If Sarah were in her right mind, she wouldn’t accept my apology, either.

But it was a Post-it note or nothing. I swiftly scrawled a few sentences before rushing out the door.

Sarah was already at the restaurant in Chinatown when I arrived, and I immediately handed her the pathetically packaged present to get it over with. “I’m so sorry,” I huffed. “There’s no excuse. It’s late. And I’m terrible …”

“BEST BIRTHDAY CARD EVER!!!” she roared, much to my relief.

In the end, this is probably why we’re friends. Lacking pretense but with a penchant for presents, and never one to stand on ceremony, Sarah recognizes a fail so epic that it’s actually a win.

Thankfully, for the sake of our friendship, I fail epically a lot.

It’s my gift that keeps on giving.

Hallmark should call me.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2010 6:34 AM

    you can wrap a present? that’s some mad skilz… corners sharp enough to pass a military inspection!

  2. August 26, 2010 7:10 AM

    It’s like impromptu origami. That’s your secret ninja training coming to the fore, isn’t it?

  3. August 26, 2010 8:02 AM

    True friendships don’t stand on ceremony…..they roll with the punches, they evolve, they are flexible …true friends don’t keep a “checklist”…..this is soooo trite (so was what I already wrote but it is true) they “accept us warts and all”….

    My birthday tends to be celebrated for a month because of wonderful friends like you who are late but still thoughtful!!! I look forward to the celebration dragging on and on!

    I have wrapped many a gift in newsprint ! May have to try the “post-it” card myself!

    Here’s to friends like you and Sarah!!!

    But….you may want to change your calendar!

  4. August 26, 2010 8:14 AM

    LOVE.IT. (In a straight-girl crush kinda way…) I’m so stealing this idea.

  5. August 26, 2010 8:49 AM

    I’m going to go ahead and say that the best wins usually stem from epic fails. It means that all is right with the universe.

    And, as if it matters, I ttoally would have been charmed by that sticky note birthday card too.

  6. August 26, 2010 9:31 AM

    Um. From now on, that is my go-to birthday card. AWESOME.

  7. August 26, 2010 9:51 AM

    I’ve never understood wrapping paper. You spend $6 to have it ripped off in 10 seconds and thrown in the trash. I prefer the newspaper idea. So you get like triple words score for your wrapping on a) Style, b) Being Green and c) improvisational skills. All in all…kick ass birthday scenario! Well done you!

  8. dru permalink
    August 26, 2010 9:59 AM

    My ex boyfriend ( who, incidentally sent me a letter this morning which is still sitting un-opened just to the left of the keyboard ) once wrapped a present for my parents in newsprint. They laughed and thought he was being ironic since the present was a book called “You might be a redneck if…”

    He was not.

    I hate wrapping paper because I always want to keep it. News print or cloth is a MUCH better idea. Thumbs up for being a dedicated i-forgot-to-buy-wrapping-paper-but-i-also-love-the-earth-er. 😀

  9. August 26, 2010 10:36 AM

    I’ve been sitting over here WAITING.

    I was worried you ad PTSD from the Jesus/Leg Shaving Post. (Those are just not words you ever think are ever going to be separated by a slash).

    The thing I like most about that episode is that she gets out of a pot bust for having dated an asshole.

    You never think about the silver lining of situations like that.

    • August 26, 2010 4:42 PM

      You’ve correctly diagnosed my disorder. Well, at least one of them.

      I’ll be disappointed if this post gets less than 200 comments.

  10. Obiwan Ben Buckley permalink
    August 26, 2010 11:05 AM

    At least you didn’t wrap it in The Track.

  11. August 26, 2010 11:34 AM

    Fucking EPIC, dude.

  12. August 26, 2010 1:00 PM

    My best “worst” birthday card was made from sugar packets, bar napkins, and those cheap postcards advertizing raves you find by the bathroom. I was so touched they made the effort to do something funny and memorable, even if it was born from the fact they completely forgot my birthday! I still have it.

    PS- In our house the traditional wrapping paper for birthdays is newspaper, so I think you’re golden!

  13. khickey11 permalink
    August 26, 2010 1:29 PM

    Hallmark absolutely SHOULD call you!

  14. August 26, 2010 2:25 PM

    actually, she’s right. that’s totes awesome! I never know what to do with birthday cards, but one like that? I would save.

  15. August 26, 2010 3:18 PM

    i, too, was just waiting, waiting, waiting for your next post. the last one? hard to live up to, i’d imagine. thank you for coming back to us.

    all of my gifts are wrapped in recycled silliness. so empowering.

    and also, M. Ward (him of Him & Her) is my boyfriend. zooey, she’s cool too. that’s a hot gift, i’d say no wrapping or card was necessary at all.

  16. August 26, 2010 4:39 PM

    Dude. Come on. Presents substitute for cards in my world.
    Unrelated: My birthday is in March.

  17. Alex permalink
    August 26, 2010 5:18 PM

    I have only seen one episode of Sex and the City. And this is the one. Three years ago, I had never seen a single episode of Sex and the City. And then my “fiance” (I say that in quotations because he never actually proposed to me, he just introduced himself to all of my neighbors under that title) left me on a post-it note. To give him credit, he used an industrial sized one.

    Last week, my first relationship since the Post-It left me (not with a post-it note). But we did share a mutual love Zooey Deshanel. And last night, my girlfriend told me I should start a blog since I’m single. And I said, “oh… it could be kind of like “Alone.. With Cats”.

    So congratulations, you have managed to sum up my entire life with your post!

    And your post-it was much better than his… or Berger’s…

  18. August 26, 2010 6:11 PM

    i suck. you don’t. brilliance.

  19. August 26, 2010 6:15 PM

    You’ve hit the nail on the head here. It’s the prose of the “card” that matters not the foldy bit or the pictures (unless it’s porn…good porn not bad porn. By good I mean good-looking…oh fuck it).
    My point: People like to hear that they don’t suck and also they’re competitive so they like to know that you do suck. Except for your friend Sarah, I’m sure she’s lovely and is just really super happy she doesn’t suck and also likes the CD.

  20. August 26, 2010 10:09 PM

    Hey, any friend of mine that buys a present can wrap it in whatever they want – even if it’s just the cellophane shit it already came in. Also, the card can be a sticker on the front that says, “Includes the Hit song X” Really, I’m all about the merchandise; the thought can suck it.
    Also, totally psyched to see you writing. First you go all stealth on us and then you come back and get swarmed. Let’s hope this is the beginning of something wonderful (again.)

  21. August 26, 2010 11:50 PM

    Dont be so hard on yourself. Those are some sharp ass corners and great wrapping skills you have… even if the card did suck balls. lol…..kidding …… it was great.

  22. August 27, 2010 1:01 AM

    I’m really grateful you added the hyperlink to Google. I had no idea what it was.
    I missed you, my cyber friend.

  23. August 27, 2010 1:18 AM

    wait. you work at a newspaper? in what capacity? if i’m being too nosy, then you can tell me in a personal message at my email address ( hahaha

  24. August 27, 2010 2:31 AM

    I always wrap in newspaper! I’m too cheap to buy paper someone will just rip off and throw away. And I am awwed by your friends taste in music! She must be the most amazing person on the planet. She & Him are lekker!

  25. August 27, 2010 2:52 AM

    I can get jiggy with the idea. (I have no idea what getting jiggy means. It’s almost 2 am. So…) This should be a movement. Now you saved more than one tree!

  26. August 27, 2010 11:39 AM

    Um… how did you know about my obsession with post-it notes?

    ‘Cause I’m assuming telepathy.

    Or stalking.

    I’m cool with either.

  27. August 27, 2010 3:24 PM

    I thought your post-it would read something more like:

    I’m sorry (this isn’t real wrapping paper).
    I can’t (seem to think of everything like buying a real greeting card).
    Don’t hate me (because I bought your ass a cool gift).

    But I do like the “I suck. You don’t” touch. That was solid.

  28. August 27, 2010 3:25 PM

    By the way, I hate Jack Berger.

  29. August 28, 2010 8:41 AM

    Whoa…Wrapping gifts? I get so frustrated that I shove everything in a gift bag with tissue paper.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been a big fan of cards. Unless they have money in them.

  30. August 28, 2010 7:30 PM

    hey it was my birthday this week – where’s my Post-It?

  31. August 28, 2010 8:49 PM

    Nice wrapping job!

    One of the best reasons for having a child is that instead of having to remember to buy a card for anyone, you can, at the last minute, hand the kid crayons or markers and a sheet of paper and have them make a card. Because then it’s all homemade and cutesy and even if it does look ridiculously bad, the person can’t say anything negative about it to ANYONE because then they look like an asshole. Who critiques a child’s heartfelt handmade birthday card? Not even Hitler.

    Looking forward to the day when we are close enough friends to epic-fail each other.

  32. August 30, 2010 9:54 PM

    You were resourceful procuring wrapping material, the finished wrapping job looked great and you saved a tree!

    And the Post-It? Sheer brilliance!

    That’s a whole lotta epic win!

    Until I read your post I’d never heard of She & Him. Thanks for the Google link because, geek that I am, I used it to look up She & Him as I read your post.

    Oh, and thanks for adding to my girl crush list. 🙂

  33. August 31, 2010 3:25 AM

    I recently bought my future sister-in-law a birthday card with a cartoon dinosaur on the front. Inside it said “Have a t-rex-ellent birthday!”.

    I should have taken the post-it route…

  34. August 31, 2010 1:29 PM

    best. card. ever.

  35. redg_rl permalink
    September 4, 2010 10:30 PM

    a haiku

    splendid as your cats
    failure isn’t your forte
    gift-wear of the year


    1. dear editorial dieties, please let ‘forte’ not be misspelled (oh the horror)

    2. ‘gift-wear’ can be non-traditional & er, hottt? you know, like wrapping a present in earth-friendly & wonderfully recycled ways, a paper bikini for a winter scarf present to wear, etc.. spice up things in yr stocking?

    3. 2. makes very little sense & this is why YOU are the writer here & a wonderful friend & human being to boot. cheers!

  36. September 8, 2010 12:55 PM

    My group of friends have all come to the unspoken understanding that we don’t give gifts anymore. We just buy eachother beer. Really nice beer in big bottles…or six packs. And then it’s totally appropriate when the gift-wrap is just a plastic grocery sack, and the card is just, maybe, the reciept floating around at the bottom.

    Although…I’ve used the grocery sack wrapping for non-food gifts as well. My mom wasn’t very impressed though.

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