Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Treatise on Silly Bandz

If you know me at all, you know I like to be on the "inside" of things. I have probably mentioned this before on this blog, because it actually affects a large part of my life. Advertising, commercials, trends, crazes, fads - all of these consumerist techniques intended to make unaware Americans like myself spend more money on things I absolutely DO NOT NEED - were completely and utterly created with me in mind. I fall for the simplest you-must-buy-this advertising. Some examples:

I still have over 100 Ty Beanie Babies, with the tags on, in cases.
I have owned a pair of skinny jeans since the year 2006. [I purchased them despite the fact that really, they are not meant for people who are in fact, not, "skinny."]
I have a fedora, purchased this year, that I rarely wear. [Although I would like to rectify that...]
I have a headband with a GIANT bow on it. [I do wear this, in fact, but did I need to buy FOUR MORE? Probably not...]
I own every shade of nail polish that has been featured in Glamour, even though I am not allowed to wear it at work.

I could spend a lot of time listing all the things that I bought because they were popular, then never used/wore them, felt bad about not using/wearing them, tried to use/wear them, hated every second, but still have it because I spent money on it and who knows, one day I might actually use/wear that ill-fated item?

I'm not going to psychoanalyze myself here. I'm here to discuss the latest and greatest fad in kiddie-culture, one that until recently I had not bought into - silly bandz.

I'd first heard about these shaped rubber bands from an NPR feature on Silly Bandz, the latest and greatest trend in relatively-affluent-kid-dom. If you're interested in hearing/reading the intellectual, sociological analysis of this rather silly craze, you can find it here.

I'm ashamed to say it, but I was at first terribly disappointed that I hadn't heard about silly bandz until the radio, and I wondered if I was losing my touch with the it-item of the moment. Then it hit me.

It's perfectly acceptable, in fact probably preferable, for a 23-year-old professional young woman to have absolutely NO IDEA what in the hell silly bandz are. Alas, that is not how I work. Life, to me, is a competition, and because I had no idea what silly bandz were, and I spend much of my life keeping up with those it-trends, I had indeed come close to failing.

Then I decided I wasn't going to buy silly bandz [okay, my roommate told me I couldn't buy them because I wasn't 8 years old. A valid reason, I thought]. Until I saw multiple young twentysomethings wearing these brightly colored pieces of silicone. That was it - I absolutely had to be a part of this. I mean, I work with kids the majority of my life, right?

So, long story short, I started with four silly bandz that Kate brought to me from her brothers. After one day at Camp Naper, I fell headfirst into the craze that is rubber-shaped bands. My first trade was a lobster for a multi-colored [red, white and blue] liberty bell. It was the gateway trade. Now I have purchased three packs myself and spent at least an hour of my life trading them with nine-year-old campers. My life feels complete.

Not seriously. But I will say that while these bands are ridiculously useless and a complete waste of money, they brought me closer to those campers. It was a way into their hearts, and that is something I definitely treasure. [I don't care if that is a form of bribery - it's the same reason I watch the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon and buy Hannah Montana watches; it gives me ice breakers to remind them I'm not THAT old, and I might actually be a fun adult. Okay, maybe that's just for my own sanity, but that's for another time].

I probably could have found something much more useful on which to spend that $9. In all my years of buying the "it", thing, however, I've also discovered that trends like silly bandz really do encourage community, togetherness, and belonging. When there was a child at Camp Naper who did not have a silly band, three or four were offered to him by those who had hundreds around their wrists. And that is a beautiful thing to see.

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