American commerce is generally so good at matching product to aspirations. The happy car consumer, to name one fine example, can usually calibrate his message down to the subtlest nuance. You want to tell the world that you care about the environment and are just the tiniest bit morally superior? You buy a Prius. If your message is “I made partner,” there’s the Infiniti G35 in platinum graphite to herald your success. If you want to convey “Not only did I make partner but I’m having a midlife crisis and will probably divorce my wife if you, yeah, you over there in the baby tee and Juicy sweatpants, give me enough motivation,” you’re gonna go for that Porsche Targa 4S. In red.
Thanks to the merchandising monolith, not only your car but your house, your clothes, your music, and the very food you eat are all networks broadcasting just one channel: Me 24/7. Every purchase you make is an opportunity to tell the world who you are. Which is why it is so shocking and sad that the packagers of our dreams should be letting us down on one of the biggest sticker-price items out there: the child.
I don’t have to tell anyone who might already own one exactly how bad the quality control is on this item. You already know how often the fruits of our loins fail utterly to be the advertisements for ourselves that we had intended them to be. Practically the only model that currently delivers with any predictability whatsoever is the Pint-Size Pro. But not all of us want to tell the world that we would have been all-state if not for that tragic Bengay allergy.
Captains of industry, wake up and smell the underserved demographic. If you can produce retro Scooby-Doo T-shirts that allow us to communicate that we are keenly ironic and tons of subdued fun yet have no prospects of enjoying sex with a live human in the foreseeable future, why can’t you drill down on this kid thing? If Dr. Evil had a Mini-Me, why can’t the American parent? I’m just spitballing here, but let’s at least start with a few of the catalog offerings sure to be a hit with savvy consumers looking for an offspring that will let the world know who they really are:
The Rock-a-Bye Baby: You’re not hip anymore, but your kid is! You’ve got multiple piercings and several strategic tattoos. You still sit in with your band from law school—the Briefs—but your ponytail has gone gray. What to do to renew hipster cred? You can’t wear your Stevie Ray Vaughan hat all the time. How is the world going to know you were meant to be—that, really, inside you are—a rock god? Rock-a-Bye Baby to the rescue! Comes equipped with either vintage Strat or today’s hottest instrument, the theremin. Do Eric Clapton and all things blues rock your world? Welcome Li’l Mister Slowhand to the family! Think the Clash was the apex of musical expression? Junior is gonna be all about London Calling. Still waiting for both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar to die so you can take your rightful place beside Eddie Van Halen? Say hello to your very own little headbanger! Comes with spandex leopard-skin diapers and a name with umlauts.
The Junior Prepster: It isn’t too late to give yourself a trust fund! So what if your own parents totally porked the pooch and failed to bring you into a world of vast inherited wealth? You can still correct this oversight. Logan and Sumner come with squash rackets, sweaters tied around their toned and tanned shoulders, orthodontia, and manners. Show up with either of these models and your invitation to join the country club is in the mail!
The Li’l Geezermaker: You never were hip, but now you’ve got an excuse! Haven’t you always just felt more comfortable in a cardigan and Hush Puppies? Doesn’t the modern world, with its bits and bytes and eye pots, scare and confuse you? With the Li’l Geezermaker scowling at your side, rolling her eyes and groaning, “ Mo-o-o-m,” while you stand there in your jeweled sweatshirt, your message will be clear: “It’s her fault; she made me into a square.” We’ll all be chuckling with you the next time you try to flip the CD over and “play the other side” instead of wondering how you became such a clueless fuddy-duddy. Your kids, Murray and Bertha, are guaranteed to use terms such as “phat” and “sick” in front of your friends so you can shake your head with fond befuddlement and make painfully lame puns (no need to explain that you still don’t understand why “bitchin’” used to be considered a compliment). Have fun saying, “Kids these days!”—and stop wishing you’d ever been one yourself.
The Junior Crusader: God you so wanted to save the world, but where did the time go? You’ve got Pilates at eleven, then lunch with Bev at one, and the plumber said he would show up sometime between four and six, but you’ve heard that before. The day is shot. There’s no time to stop global warming. Junior Crusader to the rescue! Little Terra or Eclipse is genetically engineered to recycle, compost, save rainwater, and distribute guilt-inducing flyers. With your own Junior Crusader out there hugging a tree just as if he’d been raised by socially conscious parents, you can keep on driving your beloved Hummer until the last dinosaur is pumped up. (Available in one color: eco-warrior green!)
The Kay Bailey Hutchison: Nothing says “I’m twenty years younger than I look” like making the scene with a toddler in tow! Imagine how youthful you’ll appear when you excuse yourself from that tedious board meeting by saying, “Sorry, gotta run. I have to rent a pony for Caitlyn’s birthday.” Or, “Sorry, Connor’s got measles.” Or how about this glorious twofer moment? “Hate to leave, but I’m getting some silly award for T-ball coach of the year.” Comes in Cub Scout or Brownie uniform with