Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Doodle Bra

Last week, I went on a one-day road trip with my nieces, Molly and Caroline. They girls are early teens – 14 and 13, respectively.

While making our cold, windy, and rainy way up to Ogunquit, Maine, the girls provided entertainment by reading from Seventeen Magazine.

Now, I was never a big reader of Seventeen, my era’s teen Bible, which may explain why I didn’t figure out how to choose fashionable clothing, wear make up, or flirt until I was well into middle age (if I ever did). But I did see Seventeen on occasion, and my recall is a lot of madras, a lot of bangs, and a lot of articles on whether it’s okay to beat a boy at tennis. (Not if you want him to ask you back out.) A girl from my high school was featured in a column one month. Her claim on fame was having a brother who was made the national poster child for Down kids.

Seventeen has come a long way, baby, and it ain’t all good.

Forget “should I kiss on the first date?”

These days, it’s an article on how to avoid STD’s during summer flings. (Don’t forget the condoms.) This was accompanied by a first-person cautionary account of a 14 year old who acquired a tan and herpes on a fun-in-the-sun family vacation to Mexico. Whatever happened to mini-golf? Olé! (O-lay?)

In contrast, there was some teeny, wholesome throwback advice on how to have a fun date. Why not suggest a McCafé? Absent the product placement, this could have been found in the teen-mags of my era. So perhaps all is not lost.

My favorite article was about a young woman who had started a company with her father. Their big idea was so, well, big idea-ish, that they got friends and family to invest in it. The investors (and I’m going from recall of Caroline’s narration) included the boyfriend of Rachel Segal – the inventor, or discoverer, or whateverer of the Doodle Bra. The beau had $10,000 saved up from his Marine tours, which he sunk in Rachel’s business. In retrospect, he would have been better off financially if she’d suggested a McCafé.

Doodle Bra, you may well be asking yourself. What, pray tell, is a Doodle Bra?

Well, it’s a plain old vanilla bra that you draw on with washable pens. It’s similar to the Doodle Bear, which was why Rachel’s Daddy Dearest, Randy Segal, made the immediate connection when he saw his daughter strutting around in a bra that her friends had doodled on.

The Eureka moment, or perhaps the Billy Ray Cyrus moment, is born. Let’s call it a Doodle Bra and sell it on the Internet! We’ll be rich! We’ll be famous! Our ship has finally come in, in the form of a plain white bra and an erasable marker.

But you have to spend money to make money, and the Segals needed other people’s money to make their money. Which seems only fair, since the Segals were the brains behind the outfit.

Fast forward a while.

The Doodle Bra is making some sales, and getting quite a bit of publicity. (2009 must have been a hectic Pink Slip news year. How else to explain how I missed the Doodle Bra?)

And then the investors started making polite inquiries.

Come to find out, unbeknownst to Rachel Segal, Randy Segal and his wife (I’m guessing she’s Rachel’s step mother, because she’s only 11 years older than Rachel but, hey, you never know), have been living (and vacationing in Hawaii) off of the investors’ “investment”.

Rachel is no longer on speaking terms with her father, who’s made reimbursement and done some short time for his antics. And she hopes to keep on keeping on with the Doodlebra biz, which has this to say for itself:

The goal of DOODLE BRA™ is to provide a multipurpose product for girls and young women that inspires creativity, fun, and sharing of ideas while still being an affordable necessity…Each person can design and create their own fashions over and over again for the price of a single garment…The DOODLE BRA™ allows the customer to maximize their spending power by receiving happiness and entertainment for the value of purchasing the necessary garment alone…

Multipurpose product: bra and creativity-inspiring, happiness conferring, and entertainment producing item.

Well, wouldn’t you get the same bang for the buck – maybe even more bang – with a tee-shirt? Also a necessary garment and one on which you can show off the post-doodle results in public.

The DOODLE BRA™ is about empowering young girls to be comfortable with their sexuality while still having fun and knowing it is “GREAT” to be girls…

Ah, but a tee-shirt (unless it was a wet tee-shirt, which might end up with doodles being smeared) would not do such a good job “empowering young girls to be comfortable with their sexuality.” So it just had to be a bra (because tweener boys are so in touch – get it? in touch? hah-hah -  with their sexuality that you don’t need a Doodle Jock).

Now, I well understand that, given the sexualization/ trashification of our culture and commerce (which has become our culture), tweener girls need to hear some straight talk about sexuality in a way that the relatively chaste and relatively chador-clad girls of my era did not have to.

Case in point: My niece Molly has a parochial school classmate whose 8 year old sister did this fill in the blanks when her mother said “Sticks and stones can break my bones.”

But whips and chains excite me.

In the breathless words of Rihanna. Who was, of all things given her lyrical bent, a victim of domestic violence.

If an 8 year old Catholic school kid is exposed to this matter…

So yes, indeed, parents are going to have to have R-rated conversations with their children while they’re still little ones. Either that or home school them; make all their clothes out of homespun; don’t allow any access to TV, music, or the Internet; never set foot in a Toys ‘R Us; and, if it is ever necessary to go out of the walled and shuttered family home, blindfold the kids until they get to the next walled and shuttered safe house.

Still, to me, there’s something a bit perturbing about positioning bra-doodling as a good and healthy vehicle to making tweeners understand what’s meaningful and appropriate with respect to their nascent sexuality.

And tweeners seem to be getting younger:

DOODLE BRA™ comes in “training bra” type called a “Cami” for girls as young as 5 years old and older.

Five years old. Isn’t that the age when you’re still supposed to be worrying about peeing in your pants, writing your name in block letters, and tying your shoes?

By the way, Doodle Bras go up in size to 42 DD which – scourge of obesity aside – probably surpasses the needs of the tweener community.

Girls from today on will only know that when you start to become a young lady;

You get your first “DOODLE BRA™”.

That moment used to occur around getting your first bra-bra. And/or your first period.

In those days, the only thing we got to write on was an autograph book. Or a stuffed “autograph hound.” On which you writ in permanent, indelible ink. But in today’s ephemeral world, who wants anything permanent? I have to say, worry about the Communists aside, it was a lot easier to be a kid back then.

As for Doodle Bra, in a canny product line extension, there’s now a Doodle Pantie, which gets us even closer to that tweener – “girls as young as 5 years old” -  sexuality that the Doodle Bra folks want girls to get comfortable with.

I suppose that at a time when the top 1% of the population are on their way to controlling 50% and beyond of the nation’s wealth – at which point, Banana Republic will shift from being a consumer brand to serving as a sobriquet for the good old USA – I suppose I should be more in favor of someone from the bottom 99% taking a shot on the goal of movin’ on up.

But I can’t help but thinking that the Doodle Bra is yet one more handbasket in which we’re all heading to hell in.

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