Thursday, March 4, 2021

Potato Head

I’m old enough to remember AND I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP when the purchase of The Toy Formerly Known As Mr. Potato Head did NOT include a plastic potato head: instead YOU HAD TO PROVIDE YOUR OWN POTATO AND AGAIN I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

You got a box of body parts — noses and eyes and mouths and a torso and just a whole jumbled serial killer’s worth of disembodied stuff — and your mom would give you AN ACTUAL POTATO (yes, we were rich then) for you to Have Your Way with.

Each of the parts had a sharp little spike sticking out of it — because toy safety laws back then mandated that if 8 out of 10 children were not maimed or killed by the toy, that was a fine and legal toy — and you’d stick this and that body part ONTO THE ACTUAL POTATO YOUR MOM GAVE YOU.

Hilarity/monstrosity ensued: a nose BELOW a mouth, eyes on the back or maybe even a third eye with a prominent eyebrow, a torso or two sticking out at a random angle above the head. And children back then were VERY comfortable with gender-fluidity when building their very own Potatx Head Entities: the Missus had a mustache and smoked a pipe, the Mister had lovely eyelashes and carried a purse. It was all Good Clean Fun (except for the starchy milky juice that eventually would bleed out of the potato holes you made) and you’d cackle with pleasure at the anatomical indignities you’d put your little potato personage through.

Eventually you would tire of your handiwork and set it aside — and it was THEN that The Toy Formerly Known As Mr. Potato Head delivered important life lessons: the potato decayed, the area around the body part holes would darken and turn slimy. At some horrifying point the mouth might fall off (kindly keeping the potato from screaming), the potato would get soft and squishy and before long downright appalling, an Abomination Unto God: life’s inevitable decline graphically played out before Mom would take the potato away, the now-hated potato, the problematic-smelling tuber, once vibrant and possibly two-nosed, now tossed into the trash.

At some point they started including plastic potato-shaped heads with TTFKAMPH and stole these important life lessons from children. America, like those original potatoes, grew soft.

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