It's a blistering summer afternoon, and The Boy, Girl Cousin and the neighbor kids are gathered in the backyard comparing notes on Domos. Small, blocky creatures with pointy teeth, Domos originated on Japanese television and are now, for vague reasons, a hot commodity with kids.
The Boy acquired his first Domo at the Chesterfield County Fair. It was a top-shelf prize on the midway, and he was pleased as pie to have won it all by himself. The thrill lasted for a couple of months, and then he started whining about having only one Domo. "Most other kids have at least ten thousand Domos," he complained, and I thought that was amusing enough to post on Facebook. That led some very sweet friends to send him a boxful of Domos from Oklahoma (heretofore referred to as the OklaDomos).
More recently, he has become the proud owner of a Domo dressed as a sock monkey, courtesy of the Easter bunny, and a fuzzy Domo snood that was reduced to $5 at the mall because it was no longer snood season (if there even is such a season). The Domo snood leaves his head so rarely that I have forgotten what his hair looks like, and Tad has taken to calling him Little Edie. You could say that it was the best or worst five bucks we've ever spent, depending on whether you were looking at it from the "cost per wearing" point of view or the "how weird does my kid look to normal people" one.
Among Domo devotees, the latest must-haves are tiny plastic figurines that come sealed in a cardboard box. You don't know which one is in the box until you buy it. There are fuzzy ones, glittery ones, rainbow-striped ones, transparent ones — and they are $9 a pop. Nine bucks for a 2-inch-high plastic creature that doesn't do a damn thing.
The last time I saw that kind of clamoring for something so useless was in the late 1990s, when Beanie Babies were the rage. I was teaching English in China, and even the rarest and most sought-after Beanies could be found at street stalls in Beijing for only a few yuan. Undaunted by the "one Beanie a month" law U.S. Customs had put in place to prevent a flood of black market Babies, my American bunkmate smuggled a veritable menagerie home in her pantyhose. I told her if she got caught, I was going to deny ever having met her. There was no way in hell I was going to Chinese prison over a pastel jellyfish named Goochy. The only collectible fad I ever went in for was Wacky Packages. They were trading-card-size stickers that parodied grocery products (Cap'N Crud, Gutterade, Crust Toothpaste), and you got two stickers and a piece of gum for a nickel. I stuck the stickers on my Osmond Brothers lunchbox and compared them with my friends' stickers at school. Years later, I found out that cartoonist Art Spiegelman was behind Wacky Packs, and it made me proud, like maybe our obsession with them was driven by some subliminal recognition that the artwork and concepts were superior. But mostly we just thought they were hilarious.
This is not The Boy's first foray into slavish devotion to a fad. He dabbled in Pokémon and doted over a carefully curated collection of Bakugan balls. Fortunately, his love of LEGO products has kept him from going too far overboard into the world of conspicuous collecting. And LEGO I can justify. A $9 hunk of plastic that looks like a tater tot with a face — not so much. Friends with older children tell me I should be grateful that we missed the Silly Bandz years. I remember seeing one kid draped with so many of them that he looked like a Maasai bride. While I'm sure they were a headache for parents, they were also a quarter apiece. If I could persuade The Boy to swap Domos for rubber bracelets, I could make a tidy resale profit on the secondary Domo market, if there is such a thing. Who am I kidding? Of course there is. How else are we going to get the ultra-rare orange flocked Domo?
My kingdom for a Wacky Pack. Two for a nickel, and the gum wasn't all that bad, either