I rarely got told ‘no” as a child.
The reason, mainly, was that I asked for so little. It’s not like we were destitute. We were a perfectly normal middle-class family. It’s just that, for whatever reason, I never felt inclined to bug my parents for this-or-that. Even if the thing I wanted cost maybe two bucks, I didn’t have the heart to bug them.
It isn’t that I didn’t want anything, though. I would see things on television, or in stores, which would absolutely captivate me, but even though I was never admonished to not ask for “stuff”, I instinctively refrained from doing so. Maybe it was a sense of decency toward my family. Or maybe I was too afraid of being disappointed. Whatever the reason, I didn’t ask.
But the memories are still there. Allow me to share with you some of the trifles that I wanted so badly as a child, but never asked my parents to buy.
I start with this one, because it’s so ridiculous, plus it shows the insidious power of good marketing. This was goddamned soap. Soap! I’m not sure precisely why this image got burned into my cerebellum, but the combination of the pink box, the smiling child, and the happy anthropomorphic bubble always made me think that bath time would be SO much better if we just had some Mr. Bubble. Plus, it had lanolin! (As if any kid knows what that is).
This brand has been around for decades, and I always regarding this product with a sense of mystery. Why was the child so thrilled to be in the tub? Did a giant smiling bubble appear and start talking to you? The entire scene seemed so fun and child-friendly, but I have a strong, strong suspicion that if this was under the Christmas tree, and I excitedly took a bath that night, I would have been sorely disappointed.
This is just plain evil. I don’t think there has been, ever, in the history of the universe, a Slinky that dutifully went “walking” down stairsteps. They would imply that it does. And it looked so fun. So this made me doubly-jealous, since not only did I not have a Slinky, but we lived in a one-story home, so even if I did get one of them, all I could muster would be one step, and I wouldn’t have the joy of seeing this thing cascade down a flight of 50 steps, never missing a beat. What sort of hideous monster started this lie? Hey, I’ve got kids now, and they got goddamned Slinkys, plus we have a magnificent staircase. You want to know what happens if you try to get it to walk? Well, I’ll tell you. The fucking thing ROLLS down the stairs in a completely ordinary and uninteresting way. It would be just as exciting to roll a plastic cup down the stairs. What fakery!
There is a very specific Jiffy Pop package I sought on the web, but the only one I found was tiny, so regrettably, I don’t have one to share. But the Jiffy Pop packaging I have in mind (again, these things are permanently burned into my cortex) is two kids who are apparently coming all over themselves at the sight of some popcorn popping within the confines of an aluminum wrapper. I bet the popcorn tasted like shit, but it didn’t matter. It was the packaging that mattered. It looked like great fun, and to this day I’ve never tried one.
Slip ‘n’ Slide
What could be more fun on a hot Louisiana day than to have some friends over, turn on the water hose, run toward a sheet of plastic, and go slipping (and, hopefully, sliding) down the track? This looked like a blast! Of course, I didn’t stop to think what it would feel like if a stick or rock was under the sheet, ready to hit me in the nuts as I went roaring past it.
To be honest, there was another, closely-related item to this which I am pretty sure was called the Water Weenie. This very simple toy – – probably by the good people at Wham-O – – connected to your garden hose and was a silly cartoon-like head with some flimsy light water hoses attached, and the hoses would randomly spritz water all over the place. It was kind of the aquatic equivalent of those crazy air puppets you see at used car lots. However, I couldn’t find a picture of it anywhere, so we’ll have to contest ourselves with the aforementioned Slip ‘n’ Slide.
Frosty Snow Cone Machine
Again, the Louisiana heat made this very enticing – – and as I look at this as an adult, I realized what an awesome business it must be to crank out a product for one dollar and sell it for fifteen. Anyway, this thing let a kid drop some ice cubes (of questionable purity) into the top of this thing, and it would shave them into a kind of snow, and – – the best part – – you could to squirt some super-sweet ‘syrup” on top (and only God in heaven knows what kind of crap they put into the syrup, although I bet it immediately gave you cancer). I can’t imagine how many millions of these things wound up at the 50 cent table at garage sales all over the country.
There were probably others, but those are top-of-mind for me. I’m not any worse off for never having had any of them. In fact, I’m sort of pleased with myself that I didn’t succumb to what the marketers wanted, which would have been for me to pester my poor parents about any of this junk.
It did change me in one way, however. To this day, I get a bizarre pleasure from thumbing through catalogs or looking through stores and noting, item by item, how I don’t need a single thing that I’m looking at. It’s a comfort to be satisfied with what’s already under my roof, even without five different delicious flavors.