Today I went to…the Hello Kitty store.

James’s niece, despite the best efforts of her family, is very girly, very into pink and Barbie and Hello Kitty. I drew the line at Barbie, which meant that someone had to go to the Hello Kitty store for her Christmas present, and somehow, for reasons I’m still not entirely clear on, that was me.

I feel like I have narrowly escaped some kind of horrible, brightly colored fate, like being crushed by the Teacup Ride at Disneyland or something.

However, it could have been much worse. As I entered, a perky young sales clerk came up to me and chirped “Welcome to Sanrio!” (Sanrio is the brand that slaps the kitty on everything.) And she drew breath again, and I braced myself for some intense horror, and she said, instead, “I love your shirt.”

I looked down at this point, wondering if I had somehow blacked out and put on a bubble-gum pink shirt with frolicking bunnies while I was unconscious, but no, it was my slightly grungy Betty Page T-shirt, featuring a half-naked pin-up of Betty in black fetish leather with boots that appear to go most of the way to her collarbone.

“Nobody knows who Betty Page is these days!” the clerk lamented, which led to a discussion of the great benefit of Betty Page to society, a conversation one does not generally hold while surrounded by pastels and Hello Kitty coffee makers and sandwich presses, while screaming rugrats swirl like piranhas around your ankles. But it was good.

I eventually made my escape with a backpack and some indecipherable Japanese stationary, which for all I know exhorts children to overthrow their capitalist running dog masters for the greater glory of Hello Kitty. (Actually, I’d be way more likely to buy it if that was the case…)

I’m sure there was a point in my idealistic youth when I vowed to get children meaningful, educational, non-exploitive gifts that would awaken them to a greater love and understanding of the world which they inhabit. And instead I find myself staring blankly at my reflection in the side of the Hello Kitty toaster.

But I was good. I did not, even though I KNOW it exists, ask if they carried the Hello Kitty vibrator. Because that would have been wrong. Satisfying, but wrong.

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