Friday, February 1, 2013

Dear American Baby

Dear Friends,

It's time to crack open a bottle of Lemon Pledge...  Hard Taco is 20 years old! Multiply 20 x 12, and that's very close to the number of opportunities you've had to ignore the song of the month and scan the rest of the digest for pictures of politically subversive onesies. Shall we find out if you still have what it takes to pull this off? Okay, here's the new song, "Animal Feet." It's a fun, frenetic folk-rock ditty that sort of reminds me --

Oh! You're on to the next paragraph. Amazing! 20 years and you've still got it.

Throughout my childhood, publishers sent my dad free magazine subscriptions, hoping he would display them in his office. Most of these were mailed to the office address, but for some reason, American Baby came to our house. Maybe it was because Bush Sr. was in the White House, but there was just something about that magazine title that filled me with nationalistic pride. I had to give it a quick look, and soon I was hooked.

Would you like to purchase a subscription to Un-American Baby for just three easy installments of your freedom?
According to their own market research, 100% of American Baby's 6.1 million readers are adults, and over 90% of them are women. Nevertheless, when I was 13, I was obsessed with this magazine, and it had nothing to do with the cute babies. Frankly, I've always found homely babies more interesting, because their personal narratives are so real. What drew me to American Baby, however, was the advertisements. I knew it was wrong, even then, but I used to get a strange sense of nostalgia when I read ad copy about toys that nurtured infant development.

This brightly colored fabric bag is full of surprises that will stimulate cognitive development. Set of 9 musical rings are textured for a richer stacking experience!

Lump in throat.

The cheeky frog-shaped blocks are made of German beech wood and provide fun sensory stimulation that promotes the two most important forms of early exploration: grasping and probing.  Now she can grasp and probe throughout those crucial first 0-6 months and beyond!

Tears welling up. I know it's just an ad, but that baby's brain is growing so fast, and this toy is filling her little mind with so much wonder! Waaah!

The other highlight of American Baby, of course, was the sex column by Dr. Pepper Schwartz.

Time out. Let's just agree that Pepper Schwartz's graduate degree was not just a career move. Fate has a way of driving people with certain first names to seek doctorates. That is why medical school admissions committees have such a hard time turning away any applicant whose first name is Jay, Dre, Who, Doom, No, Evil, Octopus, Feelgood, or Assisted Suicide.

Time in. As much as I loved her name, Dr. Pepper penned the least sexy sex column ever. After all, her target demographic was the readership of American Baby magazine, and we've already established that only one of the magazine's regular readers was a 13-year-old boy. The other 6.1 million felt that the best way to address the topic of sex was shhhhhh, the sound of your footsteps is disrupting my baby's sleep-wake cycle and I can't shut up about what happens if he's 10 minutes late for his nap.

A classic reader question for Pepper Schwartz was, "Dear American Baby, My body is so different and I'm too tired for intimacy. What should I do?" There was also,  "Dear American Baby, My wife is always tired and thinks she is overweight, but I still find her attractive. What should I do?" Every now and then, a reader would simply write, "Please, please, please let me go to sleep. I promise I'll read your column tomorrow if you just let me go to bed now."

Her stock answer to all of these questions was cuddle a lot and be patient with each other. Nice, proper advice. Fast forward two decades and let's find out where Dr. Pepper Schwartz is now. Yep, she's writing a sex blog on the AARP website, and this new demographic expects a much smuttier dialogue.  "Dear AARP, I never imagined anything like this would happen to me..."

With warmest regards,