I’ve always been interested in fads. Interested, but not involved. I’ve only been able to enjoy them at a safe distance, restricted by my providers. My family never let me or my siblings be part of any cultural bandwagons. We would only get the thing long after we wanted, when it could only be found in discarded bins of highway thrift stores. Laggards at best, while the early adopters have moved on to the new one.
The Slinky is presumably the first toy fad, back in ye olde December of 1945, right after the second war to end them all. Yeah, that’s what these veterans needed when they came home. You’re trying to navigate a shell-shocking relationship with your wife who you barely knew when you got deployed, you got a bunch of kids who don’t all look like you, and every damn one of them is begging you for this ridiculous slinky – a coiled metal wire that flips down stairs. Tell me that wouldn’t remind you of when you were stationed outside Yokohama and the samurai kamikazes came spinning at you from the top of the hill, flipping their nunchaku around until all you remember is waking up in a makeshift hospital getting your pinky toe amputated by a man with a gun to his head.
Then there was the incomparable Pet Rock in the mid-70s. Toy companies finally realized the product no longer needs to be great, as long as the marketing is. Hey kids, wouldn’t it be amazing if your life was like the kid in the commercial, surrounded by bright lights and happiness derived solely from a rock that makes you forget about your dad spending all his days and money at the pub because he never received any love, or even a simple coveted slinky, from his own parents.
Beanie Babies, 1993. There were thousands of them, and some people had to have them all. Really helped that spoiled generation. Thousands of investors are sitting on these little plush animals, waiting for the eBay populace to begin its clamor, throwing money at them faster than their shrewd owners could electronically catch it.
Now the squid hat, remember if you can, is the fad that resonates the most with me, for what it represented in its heyday. Looking back, my parents were right in refusing to cave when we wanted faddy things, knowing it would only exacerbate the consumerism boiling in the pot of my generation. Everyone in my class had pogs, or Pokemon cards, and I’d never get to join in, but to be honest I didn’t give much of a care. Then one year, the squid hat was the new thing, those toques with like dreadlocks coming out of them, and EVERYONE got them for Christmas. Except me. And oh man, did I want one. So I cried about it, I figure, so that my parents could hear my defeated screams, but still I never got one. Fast forward a little over a thousand days, and underneath that wobbly Christmas tree is a brand spankin’ multi-coloured squid hat, which hasn’t been popular for a long time at this point. I put it on and quickly realize how foolishly stupid it looks, which I think was their point in getting it for me in the end. I still have the present, to remind me that whatever I want, once I finally get it, it will be too late for me to derive any happiness from it – a lesson we should all learn before the end of the end of the day of the end.