Hey look, it’s another one I told before. Well screw you, haters. This is my favorite Valentine story and I must share it with the masses (read: 10 people) who read this blog. Not counting the people who’ve read this before.
I ventured to the 99 cent store yesterday. I’m sure you have one of those stores in your area – I’ve never driven through a town that didn’t have at least one. Some of the stores might mark up for inflation (Everything One Dollar!), but it’s the same idea.
I like this store. They have shelves filled with name brand stuff – Palmolive dishwashing soap, Scott paper towels, Arizona ice tea – as well as shelves brimming with name brands imported from other countries. Like a box of Tampons from Japan – you recognize the name and the branding symbol, but you’re not sure if you’re buying super size or light days. For 99 cents, you just wing it.
Every 99 cent store has at least two aisles devoted to kitsch. Small, useless statues. Plastic hand held games that haven’t been seen since the 1960s. Precious Moment knock-offs emblazoned with cheesy sentiments. I always walk down the aisle in amazement, wondering who actually buys these things and why.
I found out the answer to that burning question yesterday. Those kitschy items are bought by the desperate. Men with shaky hands and darkened eyes who, when pressured, make bad life choices. If having an affair isn’t a problem in and of itself, shopping in the dollar store for both your paramours just reeks of bad karma.
So I’m in the store picking up some paper towels and Scotch tape. As always, I find myself in the kitsch aisle. There’s a display that’s obviously meant to catch the eye of the cheap Valentine shopper. A row of plastic men with Barney Gumble physiques, arms outstretched, gut sticking out are placed at eye level. Chiseled on the base of the statue are the words I Love You This Much!
This is what passed for sentimental tokens of love back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. A whole line of these statues called Sillisculpts made their way into our homes and wet bars, their big eyes and bulging stomachs standing guard over our shag rugs and linear furniture. That the inventors of these statues – the Berrie brothers – went on to form one of the most profitable stuffed animal companies ever is a bit alarming, as they built that empire on the backs of people who thought plastic sentiments made for good gifts.
The statues that line the shelves of the 99 cent store aren’t genuine Sillisculpts, but they are from the same mold, so to speak. Trite sayings, cheap plastic, deformed people, animals that appear to have been part of some bold experiment in cross breeding – they’re all right there in the most bizarre Valentine’s Day display since the Vagina Monologues.
A nice looking middle aged man comes down the aisle. He stops in front of the row of plastic statues and begins fondling each one, seemingly to judge the sturdiness of the plastic. He picks up the guy with outstretched arms then puts him down. Picks up a wide-eyed girl who is saying "You’re the BESTEST!" Puts her down and fiddles around with the Barney Gumble guy again. I notice a wedding ring on his finger. He’s also holding a Valentine’s Day card he’s going to purchase along with his piece of kitsch. He puts the card down on the shelf to better caress his would-be purchases and I notice it’s one of those double entendre cards that say "I love you" but mean "Strip naked and blow me." I’m thinking that this guy is in deep shit if he goes home with that card and 99 cent statue for his wife. I think about offering a little unsolicited advice, but keep my mouth shut because, who am I to judge? Maybe his wife likes cheap tokens of love. Maybe she thinks Barny Gumble is hot.
His cell rings. I recognize the ringtone as Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy and a little warning bell goes off in my head. He’s aplaya.
So I stand there, feigning interesting in a plastic frog with felt heart eyes. His little froggy hand is holding up a sign that says "I’d croak without you." I listen in on Mr. Playa’s half of the conversation. It’s not hard to do, he’s talking loud enough for me to think he wants me to hear him be the manly man that he is.
I know, sweetie. I know. But if we can’t be together on Valentine’s Day, we have the rest of the year to be together….
Yes, darling. Aruba does sound lovely. I just have to umm…wait…for umm….the right, uh, time….
It’s you, baby. You’re my real Valentine. Heheh, after all, who’s getting the fur coat? And who’s getting me? Hehe……
I swear he winks at me, but I turn my head, my attention diverted by a stuffed dog that has seen better days. It’s ears are ragged and it smells like pepper, a smell that vaguely reminds me of church carnivals. The dog comes with a marker and there’s a piece of white felt draped over it’s back. You’re supposed to write your own sentiments on the dog.
Victoria’s Secret, eh? That pink one I liked so much? Really? Hehee
The guy picks up the Valentine’s card he left on the shelf, glances at it and suddenly looks disgusted. He sticks the card back on the shelf, shoving it between the smiling clown figurine and the lighted seashell. His voice goes down one notch.
Well, I have to buy her something. You know how it is, uh uh…mmhmm….oh god, silk? Really? You what? Right now, you are?
I have this curious urge to check out the guy’s crotch because I can tell from the tone of his voice he’s sporting wood. Whoever is on the other end of the Do You Think I’m Sexy line is playing him for all he’s worth. Instead, I grab the frog with the felt eyes and walk up to the cashier. Sexy guy has officially creeped me out and I want to get out of the store and back to my safe little world where people only buy 99 cent figurines as a joke. Because in the scenario I came up with, Sexy guy is buying that for his wife, while his mistress in pink silk is getting fur. I wonder how the wife will react. And then I wonder if that plastic statue is heavy enough to inflict damage if brought down on someone’s head. Probably not.