…Men Are From the Hot Wheels Aisle, Women Are From the Barbie Aisle.
Getting a Valentine’s gift for your significant other can be as tricky as making a tactical error on The Apprentice. One mistake and you’ll be painfully backpedaling for weeks. Thus the question lurks in the minds of men everywhere–what do women want for Valentine’s?
As the big day creeps ever nearer, the holiday advertising becomes as inescapable as kudzu. Some advertising features sex, and some features romance. And it all seems to be aimed at men doing the purchasing. For Valentine’s is about the myth of men pursuing, not the woman’s art of being caught.
But why is it that men are the ones doing the buying? Shouldn’t love be a two way street? Not a chance buddy, not a chance. And the toys we played with as children are partially responsible.
One painfully popular guide to male/female relationships is, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Perhaps a more accurate title might be, Men are from the Hot Wheels Aisle, Women are from the Barbie Aisle.
Let’s start with a look at how boys are indoctrinated into the world of “Me Macho Tarzan, You Decorative Jane.” The “boy aisle” at the local discount retailer is filled with rows of crushing, maiming, crashing, shooting and body-slamming things. With all of this relentless activity, is it any wonder that a sensitive man is as difficult to find as half-price Godiva?
Meanwhile, back in Barbieland, girls are indoctrinated into cleaning, cooking, grooming, and caring for others. With that in mind it’s hard to consider the Easy Bake Oven and Snack Center as anything other than a tool of capitalistic sex-role indoctrination. Or, as Barbie might say during a political uprising, “Never mind the barricade, girlfriends; lets just make more cupcakes!”
Other things in the girls toy aisle are even more disturbing than Barbie. Like the tiny toy brooms and vacuums that are, as the brand-name tells us, “Just Like Mommy’s.”
The girl games are also troubling. There are classic pastimes like Mall Madness and Prom Date, where girls learn early that you are what you buy and whom you date. These board games may seem passé, but now technology is here to help. Girls now have electronic games to encourage gender-appropriate grooming and mating rituals. One example is the Magic 8 Ball Dateball. This pint-sized hot-pink key chain toy is meant “to answer questions of love and relationships that primarily interest the female,” or at least that’s what a PR folks at Mattel told me.
There is also the Ms. Magazine Teen Quiz, a handheld electronic device full of Q&A quizzes just like in Teen magazine! The device has 250 questions about guys, fashion, the real you and much more! Luckily, your game score tells you who you really are! Needless to say, no matter what the category: Star Gazer, Poised with Boys, Boynanza, Shy With Guys, Crush Conflicts, or A Flair for Hair, it is unlikely to tell you that you are a feminist. According to my wise and perfectly coiffed Aunt Diane, this is an indication that you’ve gone the wrong way, baby.
The closet thing to career planning on the Teen Quiz is the post-fashion-quiz advice, to “Call the Fashion mags you could be a fashion editor or model! You’ve got the look and the lowdown of what is hot and happin’.” Perhaps it isn’t fair to ruin it for them; my encyclopedic knowledge of early 1980’s fashion nuisances hasn’t yet yielded fame and fortune.
So what is the ultimate answer to this cultural divide between women and men, between former Barbie consumers and former Hot Wheels consumers? Well, on a long-term social scale, it isn’t giving your prepubescent daughter adult sized cookie-sheets and pie pans (thanks dad!) And it definitely isn’t buying into this church-and-state separation of the toys of boys and girls. Gender neutral toys are the answer, and we don’t just mean Tinky-Winky and his much-maligned magic bag. It’s long past time for more soccer balls under the Christmas tree, and more boys in the kitchen doing the dishes.
Philosophy aside, chances are you haven’t read this far if you weren’t looking for a painless way out of the Valentine’s shopping dilemma. The answer–as in applying blusher or automotive touch-up paint — is blending. Try a little of the hot ‘n’ steamy along with the sappy sentiment. Tell her that you really like her, and that you bought lingerie in hot pink/ red/ black/ leopard print because it’s her favorite color–not just that you thought she’d look hot in that teddy and you wish that she’d go put it on. Right. Now.
Or you could try writing a poem. There is usually some nice white space on the lingerie gift tag. If you feel like splurging, you can always commission a special poem from a graduate student in English Literature. They could use the work.
But if none of these options appeals to you, a shiny bauble is almost always appreciated. Especially if you are my significant other. Just don’t buy me a vacuum cleaner unless you plan on using it naked.