They arrive daily starting in September for the obsessive-compulsive Christmas shoppers to get an early start. Pounds of catalogs every day. I must admit I like most catalogs because I have grandchildren near and far. I hate big box toy stores, those noisy warehouses of fun with their scarce staff and miles of aisles. But is it me or are the catalog people getting more and more desperate to sell anything? Who makes these toys? And who would ever buy them?
For example, there are the wind-up racing grannies, hunched grey-haired figures hanging on to walkers that, “move at crippling speeds that would cause most pacemakers to malfunction.” Good for a laugh the ad says. Oh, really’ This is pictured right above the slot car racing grannies in wheelchairs. I’m not making this up. Let’s see – ageism, sexism, disabilityism. Seeing these infirm granny toys tip over and crash must be a hoot on Christmas morning.
Another catalog has a series of toys that emit electric shocks. A ball shocks randomly as you toss it around to other children. Bad luck if you catch it at the wrong moment. Another is a competition to see which child can last longer holding a joystick that produces shocks that get increasingly stronger and longer in duration. Whoever lets go first loses (6 AAA batteries, not included). And there is a memory game. If you can’t remember the sequence of sounds and lights the device has shown you, you get shocked. Try that one with granny and see who wins.
Under the more educational section are several items related to money. There is green money soap, guaranteed to contain real U.S. currency up to a $50 bill. Supposed to provide an incentive for kids to wash their hands, a kind of cleanliness roulette. What kid would not just cut the bar apart to get at that bill? Or you can buy the money boa, a long fluffy scarf of fake dollar bills worn by a young man in a fedora and a purple striped suit, captioned, “Pimpin’ ain’t easy.” This is educational how?
Under the category of “Put Some Fun in Your Stocking” (all items under $10) is a pencil sharpener shaped like a nose. Insert pencils in nostrils, twist. Good lesson for kids. Another sharpener is shaped like a naked behind. Insert pencil where’ Presumably for the adults is the garden gnome that is perpetually mooning the neighbors, and spouse remote controls that issue orders like, “Honey, pour me a cold one.” All these toys are interspersed with more common and less frightful classic children’s games and toys. This is not a gag catalog despite the farting salt and pepper shakers for Santa to put in the stocking.
And finally, there is a sophisticated and expensive museum catalog that includes a build-it-yourself wand scanner so your kids can practice their chosen profession, airport screener’. A perfume mixing lab, for girls age 6 and up. And the creative cosmetics lab kit is for ages 12 and up. Is this science for girls’ The adult and child size skeletons are just creepy. Even more creepy is the boy in the catalog picture listening to the skeleton’s chest with a stethoscope. Uh, too late to check that heart, kid.
Picture Christmas afternoon playing a new board game with dad – Portfolio. This is a strategic game of asset allocation. “Players buy and sell stocks and bonds, deal with inflation and battle world economic factors as they compete to build the best portfolio.” Ages 12 and up, no batteries required. Kids too young’ There is a Portfolio Junior edition that, “scales down the concept of asset allocation.” Ages 5 and up. Scrooge would be so proud.
Another card game exposes kids to art not to appreciate its beauty, but to collect it through “ruthless auction bidding” (including the substitution of fakes) to teach shrewd art collecting.
For devoted parents, there are sample standardized tests from all 50 states to give your children at each grade level to make sure they are on track in school. No child left behind, or no child’s behind left untested.
Other educational toys in this catalog are a take-out plastic food toy designed to give children exposure to “ethnic” foods (or stereotypes’) including Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese dinners. “Perfect for use with the cash register sold on this page.”
OK, so I am old and not hip. I don’t like the racing grannies with walkers and in wheelchairs. I am traumatized by the toys that emit electric shocks. How much fun is asset allocation anyhow’ Peace on earth, good will to men’ ” I’ll see what the next few dozen catalogs bring, but I think I’ll buy the grandkids Tinker Toys this year.
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