Friday, August 31, 2007

Fighting consumerism with more, better consumerism

In The Old Country getting ready to go to school for the first time meant finally getting your hot little hands on a school uniform. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, that uniform, but I am pretty sure that was because of the most excellent cultural conditioning and of what the uniform symbolized-- the entry into that cooler than cool club-- rather than its actual aesthetic. Because its actual aesthetic? Not so much, at least not in its everyday version, what with its brown and black color scheme.

The point of this particular trip down memory lane is that in this country the hallmark of sending a child to school, and to Kindergarten in particular, is (correct me if I am wrong, of course) acquiring a lunch box. Have you tried that lately? Because I am apparently completely out of touch with the recent developments in the lunch box evolutionary history. I remember plastic or metal, but mostly plastic, with some design or other on it. Now it's mostly cloth with insulation on the inside. I was, to my credit, aware of the increasingly popular merchandising of said lunch boxes with beloved cultural icons of the generation. I mean, what Dis.ney release would be complete without a corresponding lunch box or three?

But still, I believed that equipping my first-born with a lunch box that would be both practical and acceptable, in that I would not be subjecting myself to the daily danger of either falling into a diabetic coma due to its unbearable cuteness or throwing up due to its disgusting gender and cultural conditioning, would be a relatively easy proposition. And so armed with this overly optimistic expectation we set off for the big box toy store OF DOOM (I am totally cribbing Niobe here). The choice of locale, for the record, was due to my aunt bestowing upon Monkey a gift card to the said retailer OF APOCALYPSE. If you are curious as to why I believe that place to be truly EVIL, you should try walking in with a five year old girl. Because I find that even the best-behaved and mature of them turn into whiny whining whiners when confronted with the overabundance of the pink! displays! of! Bar.bie! merchandise! OF DEATH. But I digress.

So we went there. And found nothing, and I mean nothing, we could agree on. Lunch boxes merchandised with the characters Monkey wanted to take home and I could put up with were just impractical. And the one shape of the thing I thought would work for our purposes didn't come in any characters she was interested in investing with the awesome responsibility of guarding her sustenance and simultaneously telling her classmates who she is as a person. Or something like that. We left sans the lunch box.

That was over a month ago. A little bit later, while Monkey was enjoying her time with grandparents, I found an excellently practical lunch box at a price club where we shop. It zipps along the top, rather than on the side, it is roomy, and it comes with three containers, all fitting neatly inside, one even with extra insulation for promised maintenance of thermal state of its contents over extended periods of time. When Monkey got back, I took her to the store to show her what I found and to have her select from among the multitude of available choices (pink or blue-- original, I know). She didn't want anything to do with it. It was too plain. We would decorate it ourselves, I promised, it will be the best lunch box ever. I suppose it is a sign of Monkey being five and under the illusion that mom knows what she is talking about that she agreed to this plan.

The plan, though? It was not exactly well-formed. I thought stickers or stencils. I was aware that regular stickers won't do, since the outer surface is covered with cloth-like thing, but I had vague notions of stickers that would stay, the extra-strength stickers, if you will. We struck out at our favorite local toy store, but they did suggest an art store. I know, DUH! So we went, and OMG! Stickers! Everywhere! Plus, on sale, so you know-- rock on. We spent some time choosing the stickers. D@ra was clearly coming home with us. But we had a long talk about one of those Princ@sses whose role in a D.isney classic comes down to looking pretty and waiting for the awesome prince-- about why she likes her (pink dress, pretty), but would she want to be friends with her? In the end it came to choosing two out of three-- D@ra, her pal Di@go, or the infamous pretty in pink airhead. And can you believe it? The princess went back on the shelf!

So we took our loot home and went to town on the poor lunch box. It came out pretty well, if I say so myself. Here is the front view:

We do have a ton few stickers left, but that's ok because I plan to try scrapbooking some time before I am 60. In the end, I didn't save any money compared to buying an expensive kind of a lunch box, but I hope that this was a worth-while experience. This will at least probably be the most original lunch box in her class, and maybe, just maybe, this exercise planted an idea in her that it is actually ok to check the "none of the above" box every once in a while. Or even add it to the choices yourself. And then check it.

P.S. And here is the rest of our handiwork, going counter clockwise around the lunch box:


niobe said...

It's absolutely perfect.

And congratulations on your narrow escape from the lunchboxes OF THE UNDERWORLD!!!!!!

Beruriah said...

Wow that is an awesome lunchbox!

I am impressed, & glad it doesn't have that princess on it. I hate pink princesses, despite or perhaps because of my own niece's total obsession with them.

The toy store of the Apocalypse? To this day it still sends me into fits. The lights I think, since most big box stores do that.

Phantom Scribbler said...

You guys! Cut it OUT! You are giving me the giggles OF DOOM!

meg said...

I love this. It's so much cooler than just buying one.

I am afraid of all the Disney stuff too. I didn't have any of that growing up in the UK. I don't know if Barbie was even available, but it was banned in our house anyway--and I wasn't terribly interested. I mean I thought Paddington bear was cool!

I'm not sure what the toy store of the Apocalypse is, but if it is a big box store, I'm sure I would hate it.

Monkey will have the coolest lunchbox in school, for sure!

Lori said...

Oh... that is so darn cute. I am going to have to remember that idea when Baby Girl gets ready for Kindergarten.

Okay, but how are the stickers staying on so well? Are they special fabric stickers? I'm just curious.

slouching mom said...

What a fantastic idea. Luckily for us, Jack didn't object to a plain lunchbox.

A gender difference, perhaps?

Lori said...

Upon a more careful re-reading (yes, my mother is right, I do read too fast), I see that you did mention you had to find "special" stickers. You see, it pays to pay attention the first time around, Lori!

Rosepetal said...

It's the coolest lunch box ever.

MB said...

WAY better than anything that the folks who work for THE RAT could do. Fabulous, I say!

Julia said...

Thanks, guys! Y'all know how to make a girl blush :).

Beruriah, I am allergic to the princesses and to Dis.ney altogether. I can only deal with Pi.xar stuff. I am so glad she chose to put the damn thing back on the shelf.

Lori, yeah-- they have these stickers that stay. Unfortunately, some of them may rip, I think. But Monkey and I talked about how we will be ok with that.

ms. G said...

"both practical and acceptable, in that I would not be subjecting myself to the daily danger of either falling into a diabetic coma due to its unbearable cuteness or throwing up due to its disgusting gender and cultural conditioning,"

I am commenting a bit late, but that is a great line, and I just had to tell you so. That is why, if I am ever lucky enough to have living children, I have no idea how I am going to be able to buy them basic items. Way to go on the personally decorated lunch box! I love it, by the way. And you know there will be a ton of other kids that think it is so cool her mom did that with her.

kate said...

That's awesome!

I was upset when i couldn't find Chloe a metal lunchbox. Eventually i found one at CVS, though it is small for a lunch box and thus is called something else. Alas, it features the princesses. But, being as it was metal, i had to buy it anyway.

For a toy store debacle see my blog in a few days, i need to upload pictures first.

Bon said...

it totally rocks, Julia.

and seriously, i commend you on your escape. or rather your hard-won success at avoiding the Apocalypse. whatever. :)

when i was a kid, i had a nice orange Muppet lunchbox. where are the friggin' gender-neutral Muppets when you need 'em?

Anonymous said...

Great idea! My concern would be the stickers lasting. My 7 year old sometimes comes home with her lunchbox so gunked up that wiping it out doesn't cut it - only a good scrub with hot water and soap will get it really clean.

Aite said...

When you first told me you were decorating Monkey's luchbox, I assumed that was the thing to do and I just happened to be ignorant of the ritual. But apparently you are a tail blazer. A trend-setter. Awesome!