Saturday, February 24, 2007

Build-a-Bear: The Horror

One of the hazards of parenting is the black hole of kiddie consumption. When Baby Einstein founder Judy Aigner-Clark says she loves "making babies smile," what she really means is that exploiting the bottomless well of American class insecurity is a great way to become fantastically rich.

My twin three-year-olds will never enjoy Gymboree's confidence-building competitive edge. They are mired in self-hatred and will never work at Microsoft. I am to blame.

Normally, I keep these things far, far away. But, Christmas was two months ago, gift certificates must be used, and today was a rainy Saturday. So off to Build-a-Bear we went.

As we joined the long slow line of parents and toddlers therein, I came to understand how evil teddy bears can be.

Imagine a teddy bear store that maximizes profit by combining the efficiencies of the modern factory with the allure of limitless personal choice, as experienced by a toddler.

As one enters, you are immediately confronted with a bewildering array of bears. You choose a model, pull your limp bear-shell from the bin below, and then wait in line to get the thing stuffed at a machine that blows polyester filling. For $3-8 extra, you can stick a voice box wherever you like. Then, with actual bear in hand, you head to the "workshop," where various accessories (hats, pants, shirts, guitars, purses, etc) run from $3-12. "My bear needs shoes!" wailed little Twin B. These were plastic pieces of crap that cost $7. Since when do teddy bears need clothes anyway?

During the 45 minutes in line, Twin A rearranged every item in the store while Twin B grew hysterical at the idea of her bear being stuffed. She had a point. The whole thing was fucking weird.

But we were there, and we had a job to do. I took Twin A out to romp among the balloons in an off-limits display area until mall security made us stop. Upon our return, I cleverly distracted Twin B while Carolyn and Twin A did the deed.

We skipped the freaky computerized product registration that would have given the bears "birth certificates" and fled. Two bears, no accessories, and one surreal hour in hell: All for just$49.

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