My five-year-old daughter and I are eating lunch when she casually starts reminiscing…
Brontë: So I really enjoyed seeing the Eiffel Tower with you…
Me: We haven’t been there yet.
Brontë: Yeah, I’m PRETENDING.
Me: Oh, okay. So, we could see the entire city from far above…
Brontë: Because SOMEONE hasn’t taken me yet.
Me: We will go someday. I promise.
Brontë: Can we get a baguette?
Me: Yes–you know what that is?
Brontë: Yeah, a giant bread. Can we see Madeline?
Me: Well, Madeline is pretend, but we can see the places she goes.
Brontë: Can we say “Bonjour” to people?
Me: Of course! They’ll like that… you should always say “bonjour” to people in France.
Brontë: That means “goodbye,”
Me: No, it means “good day.”
Brontë: Yeah, like saying “bye.”
Me: No, it’s more like saying, “Hello.”
Brontë: You’re being RIDICULOUS, mom.
So… color me shocked that my five-year-old already knows about the Eiffel Tower and baguettes and how to say “bonjour.”
I suppose I am taking French classes and watching French films and maybe she’s picked something up. Even if she’s questioning my basic French knowledge and shaming me for not already have taken her to Paris, she seems fairly culturally adept for a toddler.
(That mother is me. I’m the mom in this scenario.)
Scene: It’s lunchtime. Mom has lovingly prepared a princess-pink divider plate with a bean burrito and a handful of strawberries, with the stems scooped out, because her daughter has loved strawberries since infancy and couldn’t possibly reject this particular member of the produce family.
Brontë, the daughter, has wolfed down the bean burrito but is inexplicably looking askance at the handful of strawberries, preparing to make random shows of her Power of Choice by rejecting them…
Meanwhile, her little sister Bridget has wolfed down all of the strawberries while rejecting the burrito outright.
(The child is hovering in a hummingbird blur over her seat, her butt never really resting on the chair and her eyes clearly longing to throw toys in every direction instead of continuing the archaic snooze-fest our society keeps insisting is lunch.)
Brontë: I don’t want to eat my strawberries. Bidgie can have them.
Me: Just eat one.
Brontë: I don’t want to.
Me (picking up one of her strawberries and making it talk in a chirpy voice): “Brontë, eat me and help me fulfill my destiny as your lunch! I’m soooo tasty… Don’t throw me away and make me feel sad!”
Brontë (Taking a bite and shrieking): “OW! My legs are GONE… I can’t walk anymore!”
My 3-year-old daughter Bridget is starting to sting together sentences and have actual conversations, which is when I think parenting starts getting real fun.
I mean, I love them before that and all, but it’s a whole lot of screaming and you-cleaning-up poop before intelligible sentences come into play. Graspable language is when you start getting to hear their hilarious, unfiltered take on life.
Like the other day, when Bridget started nosing around my coffee cup…
Bridget (pointing to my coffee): That COFFEE.
Bridget: I drink?
Me: No, drink your milk.
Bridget (sighing): I smell? Smell good.
Me: Okay, you can smell it.
She grabs the cup, closes her eyes, and inhales.
Bridget: Smells GOOD, mama… I drink?
Me (grabbing the cup back): No, Bidgie.
Bridget (hands on hips): YOU drink!?
Me: I’m a grown-up. This is a grown-up drink.
Bridget (stomping away): This is… POOP!
The funniest part was how she clearly meant to say “This is a bunch of bullsh*t!” before stomping down the hall, but she did the three-year-old version of baby-swearing instead. Given the look on her face, I could practically hear the proper obscenities falling into place.
(Aww, she wants to drink lots of coffee and swear… she is mine.)
So, lately I’ve been thinking about how Participation Trophies are a great idea…
Psh, calm DOWN everyone. I figure that most of you reading this are currently either 1) assuming I’m being sarcastic, or 2) quietly ranting to yourself about the spoiled Millennials and their unbelievable sense of entitlement after getting participation trophies their entire lives, except:
I’m actually dead serious, and
I’m not a Millennial, remember? I’m a Gen Xer who probably likes to complain about Millennials as much as my friends, even though they aren’t really that bad but life looks much different in retrospect and one of the great consolations of aging is pretending we had the world all sorted out before these lunatic punks got their hands on it.
(Kids, you’ll understand what I mean in about ten years when you’re rolling your eyes at all the Gen-Z shenanigans as cocky youths look at you sideways when you mention Justin Timberlake because seriously grandpa, who the hell is that!?)
But I digress.
My point is that kids, in fact, should be praised for participation. Not as a replacement for winning or losing, because winning and/or losing is a fact of life that kids will either learn to accept or spend much of their adult life throwing irrational fits whenever things don’t work out the way they wanted, which is frankly a parenting fail. We can’t be spending their childhoods validating the idea that the universe has dealt them an unfair cosmic blow whenever they find themselves slightly inconvenienced.
But… in addition to declaring winners and losers, we should definitely be praising participation and effort.
Why? Because sheer effort and persistence is a HUGE part of success.
You see, sometime around the 1980’s, while I was growing up, experts had roughly decided that low self-esteem was the root of a huge number of social problems, such as kids not reaching their full potential. Violence, addiction, and chronic unemployment probably all traced back to dysfunctional families that made kids not feel good enough about themselves to achieve anything productive in life, or so went the thought.
So, with extremely good intentions, parents and teachers were coached to basically tell every child how incredibly unique, brilliant, attractive, and insightful they were. They got to hear this all the time, whether or not they had actually accomplished anything, in hopes that their achievements would eventually meet the inflated self-images everyone had been feeding them.
Problem is, when kids believe everyone thinks so highly of them, they’re reluctant to try anything they’re not naturally good at in case they fail miserably and thereby screw up everyone’s high opinion. It actually makes kids afraid to try.
After years of seeing how You’re-Already-Awesome parenting methods worked out, researchers finally put on the brakes. DON’T tell your kids how brilliant and unique they are, the experts now tell us.
So what’s a parent to do? We still want them to feel good about themselves, right?
Yes, it turns out. But in a way that praises the process, not the result.
In other words, praise your kids for making an effort, for sticking to something, even after having lots of problems doing it right. Praise their work, their persistence, their bold moves of not giving up the first moment they encounter difficulty.
Because honestly, that’s a huge part of achieving anything. The people who graduate college aren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ’s, but the ones who keep working at it, keep studying, keep doing lots of research and writing papers that they turn in when they’re supposed to, even if they have to bang their heads on the wall repeatedly before a concept they’re struggling with eventually sinks in. Same goes for getting promotions at work or any other winning measures you can think of.
We have this myth of God-given talent (at least in America) that culturally plays out in movie after movie and really messes with our heads. The idea involves some of us being natural quasi-demigods who are blessed with abilities that will raise us above our peers with little effort on our parts.
It’s a fun fantasy, all the glory with very little work… much like playing the lottery, where our lives are radically changed after only spending a buck at the convenience store before allowing the universe to whisper the lucky numbers into our chosen ears.
Along those lines, I remember a movie I was once forced to watch in a college film class that left me incredibly bitter about the entire idea: Running on Empty.
In the film, River Phoenix plays a kid with natural piano abilities who could never practice on an actual piano because his parents were fugitives from the law. Because of this fact, he could only practice on a soundless keyboard, without lessons, until he manages to one day snag an audition at Juilliard, where he plays a slow, easy, emotional song that immediately gets him enrolled on full scholarship.
The movie was praised by critics, but left me spitting mad.
Why? Because I’ve actually auditioned at Juilliard and know how stupid the entire movie’s premise really is.
See, before I was a whimsical freelance writer and offbeat parent reporting on her strange toddlers, I was a music performance major who played the flute competitively since the age of eight. I’ve played on TV, I’ve trained internationally for world premiere recordings of original compositions, attended the most prestigious music camps, went to a renowned conservatory, and have won more awards than I’ve bothered to count.
(Obviously, it didn’t end up becoming my line of work. My advice to aspiring classical flutists: consider taking up the bassoon.)
But I’m not sharing this information to brag. I want to relate how I was one of the last kids in my fourth grade class to make an initial sound on the flute, but I persisted. I kept at it when all of my friends were watching cartoons after elementary school and when they were later attending parties and sneaking Zima in the 7-11 parking lot. While other kids were learning skateboard tricks and practicing the Roger Rabbit behind closed doors, I was memorizing hours of music marked by painstaking metronome clicks, etching it so beneath my fingers’ skin that I could later reproduce it under the stress of a thousand dimly-lit spectators… tens of thousands of hours of playing songs excruciatingly slowly, moving up click by click on the metronome until, weeks later, I could execute a five-second rift quickly enough that no one could sense that I wasn’t born playing it.
Yes, I had talent, but talent gets you absolutely nowhere without years of focused, hard work.
And many, many other people have talent too. It’s an equation that gets you nothing without rivers of sweat. It’s an equation that every little duck in a little pond faces upon entering the larger waterways.
Kids watch movies about River Phoenix, who never practices on a real piano until he one day sits at Juilliard and feels the gods move his fingers until landing a full scholarship at the most coveted Conservatory in the world. Psh, there are kids from Detroit to Beijing, with enormous talent, who have been practicing the piano for hours a day since the age of five… and still don’t make it.
Yet movies like Running on Empty make it seem like whatever you’re meant to do will just naturally happen. It’s enough to make you think that any supernatural talents would instantly manifest, so if you’re not automatically good at something, why even bother?
Which is kind of what just happened with the last generation of kids.
Our city libraries have a summer reading program that rewards kids for logging books they’ve read. After so many books, they get to pick out a free book. After even more books, they receive a reading medal with their name on it.
The idea of winning this medal has been unbelievably motivating for my kids. They cared far more about that achievement medal than winning a free book, which by any objective standard would seem to be the bigger payoff. They even cared more about medals than being entered into a raffle for winning an iPad.
Since we go to the library every week and I read new books with them every night, winning the medal was inevitable, but they still asked me how many more books it would be until they received their medal… every night.
When we’d finally read enough books, they squeaked and danced a happy dance around the house. They were incredibly proud when walking up to the front desk at the library to receive their medals and uncontrollably danced around the library, squealing, showing off their medals to anyone happening by. They wore their medals to bed that night and made sure to let the neighbors and their grandparents know they had earned medals for superior reading.
And I think it was a great program. Kids should be recognized for trying, for showing up, for doing the work. Because that’s one of the main secrets to making things happen in life: you have to keep trying.
Not wanting to cram my daughter into a pink box from the get-go, I painted her room green, bought her gender-neutral toys, and avoided onesies that said crap like “I’m so pretty” like the plague.
And… I still ended up with the girliest girl that ever walked the planet.
Since she was two years old, Brontë would beeline for the pinkest, fluffiest dress she could get her tiny hands on before sneaking my lipstick to smear all over her face so she’d look fetching enough to host the stuffed animal tea parties she was constantly throwing in her room.
I didn’t think she’d even heard about tea parties, yet there she was… constantly debating the relative merits of various Disney princesses with the giant bears and dinosaurs sipping imaginary flower tea and helping themselves to the pink hors d’oeuvres she’d pretended to lay out on plates.
It was a real head-scratcher.
After she shoved enough trucks aside in favor of dolls, or screamed in enough agony when asked to put on pants, I had to start wondering if… maybe… gender norms weren’t entirely a pack of lies.
Whereas Brontë would throw Hollywood-worthy scenes whenever she scraped her knee, Bridget would punch the trees and walls around her like a miniature Hulk.
While Brontë would run away sobbing whenever one of the playground girls were mean to her, Bridget would literally roll her eyes, fart at them and laugh.
The hilarious thing is, while Bridget absolutely loves her sister, sometimes Brontë’s super-dramatic, hyper-feminine antics get on her last nerve. Like the time Brontë was acting out some romantic fantasy car date between a prince and princess and the moment her back was turned, Bridget replaced the prince with a giant dinosaur then laughed herself stupid after Brontë shrieked in outrage:
Or the way Bridget loves grossing out her sister. We had this dialogue the other day…
John: What should be eat for dinner?
John: We’ve had pasta for the past three nights. What else would you like?
Bridget: Popcorn and salt!
John: That’s just a snack. What do you want for dinner?
Bridget: Fish cones and bone sauce!
Bridget (miming swimming fish with her hands): FISH CONES and BONE SAUCE.
Brontë: That’s DISGUSTING.
Bridget: Fish cones, NOW!
Brontë: EWW, GROSS!
Bridget rolls on the floor laughing.
Or the other day, when the girls and I were walking home from the library when Brontë notices a dandelion in the grass…
Twirling, she says, “A candy-lion! My favorite! I want to make a wish!”
Holding her skirt with one hand, she bends over to pick it with the other. Like a Disney princess, she prances around with it for several minutes, striking poses and saying, “I wish I wish I wish in my deepest heart, the greatest wish that ever…”
And in the middle of her soliloquy, Bridget rolls her eyes, stomps over and blows all the dandelion petals away.
“MYWISH!” she says, stomping away like Finally, we can go home in peace.
I’m not sure whether she was commandeering Brontë’s wish flower or if getting Brontë to stop prancing around was actually her wish, but it was pretty funny, either way.
But it just goes to show that this gender question isn’t quite that simple. Some girls roll out into a glittery cupcake universe from the start, while others are more… sarcastic.
And we don’t fall entirely into either camp. Brontë loves Legos, Outer Space and superheroes, for example. whereas Bridget also loves smelling perfume and having me paint her nails.
Tuesday is library day, which the girls love because of its set routine.
First, we load water and snacks into the girls’ backpacks and the past week’s books into mine. Then, we walk out of our neighborhood, pausing on our way to stare at the bizarre cacophony of objects in the Vietnam Vet’s front yard.
Doll heads, Snoopy statues, American flags, ancient tools in a gravel maze of cacti and rosebuds… to me, it represents lingering existential puzzles. But for Brontë and Bridget, it’s a Where’s Waldo of disordered beauty. They always point out something random before moving on.
We hit the boulevard where I always pick up Bridget and squeeze Brontë’s hand to cross the street. Knowing this, Bridget reaches both arms up as we approach, then pushes her face into my neck as we wait for an opening before trotting across. I set her down as we continue past the lost animal posters, the guttered fast-food cups, the place where the skateboarding kids’ skunk-toned air turns to jasmine bushes.
The kids greet the Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting in front of the library in flowered dresses and well-ironed suits, then they charge toward their respective book return slots. Bridget always goes to the left, and Brontë to the right. I hand them books to return until my backpack is empty.
Then we walk to the park to play before Storytime begins at the library. Sometimes we meet our neighbor there, but she was busy last week. So instead, the girls ran to the playground after immediately ditching their backpacks and shoes, as they always do.
I sat down on a nearby bench, trying hard not to judge the lady who was at least well into her seventies wearing short-shorts that just walked by because I hate those preachy 30 Things Not to Wear After Thirty lists and shouldn’t be so damn hypocritical. It was warm outside, so I should cut her a break, even if I’d never wear something like that myself. Even Jessica Simpson would have trouble pulling those off.
Showcased flesh aside, I was wondering if we’d have to drive next week because it would be too hot to walk when I noticed Bridget walking up the big, spiral slide again. Dang it… I’m always telling her not to do that because it creates a traffic jam with the kids at the top, but there were no kids at the top right then and sometimes parents have to pick their battles so maybe I’ll just let it slide.
Let it slide, let it slide… shut UP, annoying brain with your terrible puns.Climbing up the slide must be incredibly fun, considering how badly kids want to do it. Like a spiral mountain-climbing event. Aerial geometry.
And that’s when Bridget started screaming.
I walked over confused, because she’s climbed up that slide a thousand times before.
“They boarded up the slide because the slide is hot,” the grand dame in short-shorts told me.
OH. Bridget’s freaking out because she’s trapped. That makes sense. I reached my arms up toward her.
“Come here, baby,” I said. “I’ll get you down.”
And then loudly, the lady said, “Well, she CAN’T walk down the slide because she ISN’T WEARING ANY SHOES!” (subtext: Only a monster of a mother would let her child run around without any shoes on).
Then, without missing a beat or pausing for breath, she worked up her most martyred-sounding tone and yelled, “I guess I’LL have to GO GET HER THEN,” before shoving me out of the way to reach the slide bottom.
Panicked by the sight of a crazed old lady in hot pants advancing upon her, Bridget shrieked before jumping sideways off the top of the slide into my arms. Irritated by the forced parkour, I twirled her away as the lady let out a frustrated HMPH! and one more “she WASN’T wearing any SHOES!”
“She walked UP the slide, didn’t she!?” I yelled back, wondering why the woman thought trying to cart a hysterical toddler backwards down a spiral slide wouldn’t be dangerous and whether she would later recount her heroically-attempted rescue of the poor kid whose mom wanted to boil her feet to all her friends, who would then pontificate on how social media and participation trophies ruined the Millennials.
Well, we made it to library Storytime, where the kids had a blast and learned all about the Storybook Summer Reading Challenge. If they read five books and log reviews into the website, they get to pick out a free gift book. If they read twenty, they get a SUPER READER medal with their name on it.
This is beyond exciting for my kids and all they can talk about. They want that medal. They’re hungry for it. It has their NAME ON IT.
It will be easy, since I read Brontë a different story every night. We always check out three books for Bidgie to choose from, but she always picks the same one… whatever one she happened to read first. Bonus points if it’s Dr. Seuss though, whom she loves, even though Brontë inexplicably HATES him.
For Brontë, I try to select a bunch of different styles and genres to open up her brain. I usually get a couple of weird ones to make her think. She usually loves them.
But not the one we read last night.
It’s called “In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak. It was published in 1970, but looks like something out of the 1920’s: a little boy falls asleep, floats out of his clothes and into the dough of three chubby bakers who want to cook him because they think he’s milk…
The boy fashions the dough into an airplane, then flies over a huge glass bottle of milk. Jumping inside it, he gets a pitcher to bring back to the bakers, who then sing a happy song about having milk for their cake. The boy makes rooster noises before floating back into his clothes and his bed.
It was mildly disturbing, to tell you the truth. I was curious about Brontë’s take…
Me: So, what did you think?
Brontë: That was… weird.
Me: Yeah. I’m sensing you didn’t like it.
Brontë: No, because that little boy was NAKED.
Me: He was.
Brontë: And then he GOT into the MILK. Naked! I do NOT want naked boys in my milk, momma. He could PEE in there!
Brontë: Or even POOP!
(The girls laugh hysterically).
Me: Okay, so in your review, you want to say, “I thought the naked boy in the milk was weird because he could pee in there.”
Brontë (very seriously): YES. Or poop. Don’t forget that part. I don’t want to see any more books about naked boys in milk. You write that.
And I did. Anyone researching children’s books in Sacramento libraries can now read all about how this one contains disturbing imagery of naked little boys in milk jars who could spontaneously pee and run everybody’s breakfasts. I can’t help wondering if that lady in hot pants will someday come upon it and spontaneously combust.
I also can’t help wondering if there was some deeper, more intricate symbolism in the book that both of us missed. That couldn’t have just been about being baked naked in Oliver Hardy’s cake, right?
Hopefully, Brontë will like tomorrow’s batch much better, but on the other hand, her negative reviews are much more entertaining.
Maybe because wild imaginations often lead to paranoia, I’ve never been much of a natural saleswoman. I can still remember wondering, as a tiny child, exactly what the fifth dentist had against Trident gum.
So, given my cynical streak, I find my 5-year-old’s natural salesmanship startling. Maybe it’s her wild optimism. She almost already sold me the impossible, just the other day…
Brontë: Mom? You know what would be really nice?
Brontë: A bunny pet. That would be GREAT. Look at our yard… just pretend we had a bunny hopping around. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Me: Yes, that would be super cute, but…
Brontë: Picture a BLUE bunny pet, just chewing on the flowers, sitting by the waterfall…
And for a brief moment, damn it, I found myself picturing that adorable blue bunny. Brontë knows blue is my favorite color, you see, and she’s already incorporated this fact into her marketing.
Marketing that was effective enough to make me briefly wonder if getting a bunny was actually feasible, even though I know blue bunnies don’t really exist. It didn’t hurt that Brontë has worshipped bunny rabbits since she was a baby, so I could almost hear her delighted squeals upon seeing one.
She probably doesn’t remember how it all started, but I do. See, when she was an infant, she liked rubbing fuzzy blankets on the skin above her upper lip. In time, she grew to favor bunny stuffed animals because they had two long ears that were perfect for rubbing under her nose and dragging them around with…
“Yellow Bunny,” a yellow bunny with long, fuzzy ears, became one of her favorite toys and yellow, her favorite color. She’d blame many of her stuffed animals for the messes she got caught making, but Yellow Bunny could never do any wrong.
It didn’t stop there. She always loved the books I read her at bedtime, except one called, “That’s Not My Bunny.”
On each page, it would show a different bunny with tactile parts for babies to feel. It would have a bunny with a bumpy section on a page, for example, and the text would read, “That’s not my bunny, it’s too bumpy” until you finally get to the perfect bunny at the end and it says, “THAT’S my bunny!”
It was cute, but not to Brontë, who felt that all bunnies were, in fact, HER bunnies and we were pretending she was judging and rejecting them in the most hurtful ways imaginable She’d sometimes have to shut the book and throw it across the room to stop the lies.
It upset her so much, I had to quit reading it. And later, bunnies would invade her dreams. She’d dream about pink and purple bunnies driving around in cars, all stuffed in like clowns in a Volkswagen, or pink and purple bunnies raiding the fridge before setting out fine meals around the dining table. They’d smack their paws on the table with chants of “Bron-TEE! Bron-TEE!” to lure her down the stairs…
Brontë is vaguely starting to understand that I write a blog about her and her sister, which she finds fascinating. She wants to see it sometimes, pointing out “THAT’S BIDGIE!” or “HEY, THAT’S ME!” when the pictures go by. She wants to know what I’m talking about in the articles and giggles when I remind her of something funny she once said.
It means she’s more wiling to give me space, now, to tell the world about her hilarious antics. Even if I’m starting to wonder if her junior-high self will resent me for once reporting on her potty-training fails.
Brontë: It’s a GREAT bunny. Why didn’t you write words under the bunny picture, mommy? You wrote words under the other ones. You need to write what that bunny is saying because I WANT TO KNOW.
Her obsession makes me curious about how she’d react to a real live bunny in the yard, except we can’t have a baby bunny jumping around five cats and it would HAVE to be a baby bunny because, well… I’ve had bad experiences with grown-up bunnies before.
Back when I was in college, my grandmother once bought all my cousins stuffed animal bunnies for Easter, but because she knew I loved animals so much, she wanted to get me a couple of real bunnies instead.
Which was a very sweet gesture, except she had me pick from a pile of grown up bunnies that all seemed to HATE people. That’s when I had this reckless thought:
Okay, these bunnies are insane, but if I pick a boy and a girl, I could tame a baby bunny and sell the rest to a pet store.
Not knowing anything about rabbits, picking a boy and girl rabbit ended up being much harder than it seemed. I figured I’d grab two with different-looking genitalia and time would inevitably reveal which one was which.
It did. About a day later, the rabbits fell in love and they quickly became known as Patrick and Katherine.
Except later that day, Katherine was looking awfully dominant. Maybe I had it wrong. Katherine quickly became known as Kirk.
Except next day, Patrick was on top again.
It wasn’t long before I realized that Patrick and Kirk were really, REALLY into each other. Like, into each other all day, every day, taking turns… expressing themselves.
And those bunnies were bastards.
Not because they were gay. I don’t have bunny homophobia or anything. No, it’s because every time I gently tried to pull one away from its frenzied love-making, it would leave multiple bloody scratches along my arms with its back feet. They would flat-out attack me for trying to be friends with them, then run over to bury their head into their lover’s side as though they’d just been horribly violated. The other one with lick his face to help him get over the shock.
Even my rats hated their guts. That’s right, I had a couple of rat pets at the time and because of that experience, I’m fully aware that rats are approximately ten-thousand times smarter than bunnies, despite the terrible rep.
Because the rats used to tag team the rabbits in ingenious ways. One would crawl up the side of the rabbit cage to distract them, while the other would crawl up near the rabbits’ food dish to throw handfuls of rabbit food on the floor that the rats would later pile into their own cage, since the bunnies were to big to retrieve it.
After about fifty episodes of this particular rat con, Patrick finally figured out what was happening. He indignantly rabbit-kicked the rat who was stealing his food, which made the rat jump onto Patrick’s back and start furiously pulling out Patrick’s fur in handfuls while biting him. Patrick jumped around in circles, unsuccessfully trying to kick the rat, until I ended up picking Patrick up and oh-so-carefully extracting the hysterical rat while hoping not to lose a chunk of skin.
The rat didn’t hurt me, but Patrick responded by leaving a ten-inch gash on my arm. Meanwhile, Kirk looked truly baffled, though I swear he shot me a couple of dirty looks.
So… clearly… we can’t have an untamed rabbit on the premises. Those suckers are MEAN, despite being adorable. And a baby bunny wouldn’t last long.
Yet despite my sordid history with a couple of angry rabbit perverts, I was still briefly charmed by Brontë’s visions of blue bunnies dancing around the yard.
That girl’s got a future in marketing, if she isn’t too busy being a Jedi princess unicorn in Outer Space.
You might’ve noticed that Bubbles and Beebots looks different now.
I may keep on tweaking it until I’m happy. But see, B&B is now getting enough foot traffic to receive advertising invitations and I had to rework its layout into a more ads-friendly theme.
Which is kind of exciting, though I won’t be expecting more than pocket change for a bit. Maybe just enough to get my kids some ice cream at the zoo… don’t you want my adorable kids to be able to eat ice cream, folks?
There. That was my best attempt at salesmanship because I’m so NOT a natural saleswoman. I figured I’d try the guilt angle, since it comes so naturally to parents and as far as I can tell, advertisers usually work their magic using one of a few tools:
Again, a natural selling-point for parents, since we already feel so responsible…
Hey, buy these spoons that tell you when food is too hot, so your trusting baby won’t end up burning her poor little mouth!
Sure, this cereal costs three times more, but there’s a cartoon princess on the box and cartoon princesses make your kid HAPPY. What kind of a monster doesn’t want their kid to be happy?
Using dogs and cats works well too. Aren’t they your best friend?? Don’t they deserve the best!?
Mostly of being socially ostracized because not buying Product X will make you disgusting.
I mean, what if you use a substandard deodorant and end up stinking up the subway? You’ll put your arm up to hold onto the rail, and… BAM! No more invites. You wouldn’t want to gross out your taxicab cab partner, would you?
Or toothpaste. What if that woman you’ve had a huge crush on for ages finally walks up to talk to you and you melt her eyebrows with your jalapeño egg salad breath? Don’t be so GROSS.
It also works with more literal fears about your physical safety. There are always tons of commercials for home alarm systems whenever you’re watching a crime show.
I’ve been noticing a theme here, and it mostly involves our fears of being judged. We don’t want other people to think bad things about us.
And on the flip side, we DO want them to think good things. Like, it’s great to have a fashionable product because then everyone will know you’re on the level. Or if you’re a hipster, you want a product that ISN’T popular, so you can be part of the elite club that actually appreciates it. We don’t want the ads to look too rehearsed or glossy, in that case.
Let’s say you think that girl from the Sketchers ad is pretty hot and you’d like to look like her or date her (or both, depending on your persuasion). So, maybe if you wear those tennis shoes, some of her hotness will rub off on you and then you can rock her awesome figure without having to do any crunches or lay off the Cinnabons.
And hey, Benicio Del Toro is pretty macho and successful and maybe you could also be a world traveler if you tossed back a few Heinekens. At the very least, you’d be cool.
Eh… my terrible natural salesmanship is becoming all too apparent. In fact, I should probably pull this post before any actual advertisers read it.
And go back to being a manic pixie who occasionally mentions poop tantrums. It’s what I do best. 🙂