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A couple weeks ago, I was stopped at the intersection of Fairfax and Beverly, and a billboard over the corner gas station offered me this:

photo via Brett Craig/CD

photo via Brett Craig/CD

While waiting for the left turn arrow, I pondered the billboard’s connotations. (Yes, it’s a long light.) A diet cola catered specifically toward men seems like an oxymoron in and of itself…if not just plain unnecessary. Like, does this mean that all other diet colas that have come before were created specifically for women? OR, were they created for all mankind, and if so, should we females be offended that the first gender-specific soda–a DIET soda, no less (honestly, which gender do you think generally throws more money at THAT industry?)–is marketed especially toward Dudes? Well, no, I’d really prefer to have the male-to-female salary gap closed before I throw a fit over not having a lady-tailored cola drink…

But I kind of love the billboard, and the entire Pepsi Max marketing campaign, even if it serves no other purpose for me than an object of amusement. I don’t know much about the world of advertising (I have seen a few episodes of Mad Men, though), but I like to imagine the sort of things that got tossed around that particular brainstorming session.

“Nothing flashy. The colors should be dark, sedate. The soda’s for men, so the signage should be simple.”
“Choose a font that’s easy to read. Men can’t understand those frilly fonts, like cursive and whatnot.”
“A slightly crushed can is the way to go. It appears a little world-worn, rough around the edges, like dudes. Also, it’s reminiscent of shotgunned beer cans being crushed against foreheads, so it works on a subliminal level, as well.”

There’s a couple other billboards around town that are even more…specific, let’s say.

photo via Brett Craig/CD

photo via Brett Craig/CD

photo via Brett Craig/CD

photo via Brett Craig/CD

“All men, no matter what age, are convinced they can have the body of Brad Pitt if only they tried. So they should look at this beverage like a step in the right direction. Also, any ad that has the word ‘boobs’ in it works on a subliminal level, as well.”
“What do all men have in common, no matter the demographic? The love of bacon. Except, of course, for the Muslims and kosher Jews, but we’ll reel those guys in with the man boobs spot.”

Oh, how the mind reels…

As it stands, the idea of a dude-specific soda just seems pretty fucking dumb. I mean, come on Pepsi! Don’t you remember what happened with Crystal Pepsi?! Or better yet, your top competitor’s attempt at cornering the grunge music loving, plaid shirt and combat boots wearing, Gen X demographic? (Okay, I totally bought into that second one, but I was a highly impressionable, sugar-lovin’ middle schooler.)

There is *one* thing that would make this whole Man Soda thing totally awesome, if you ask me. (Pay attention, Pepsi marketing team.) Just as you have to be over the age of 21 (or have a decent fake ID) to buy alcoholic beverages in the US, the same sort of rule should apply to the new Pepsi Max for Men. No, I don’t mean to suggest that only individuals over the age of 21 should be allowed to purchase your delicious (I’m sure, I’m sure) new beverage. No. I’m suggesting that some sort of rule and/or restriction should be put in place which would ensure that ONLY MEN (your target demographic, after all) are allowed to purchase said delicious beverage.

I know what you’re thinking. Outrageous! Sexist! Inflammatory! Perhaps. And, Dear Pepsi People, if your current sales of Pepsi Max for Men are reaching or surpassing your projected goals, then please disregard my suggestion. But if for some crazy, unforeseen reason your sales are slightly lackluster, then please consider the following. If a woman is denied purchase of your delicious new beverage, she will be outraged, yes. But also, her curiosity will be piqued. As she makes her way back to her car after being denied at the 7-11, she’ll wonder to herself, “What does Pepsi Max for Men have that regular Pepsi doesn’t?” And like a booze-loving teenager without the benefit of a quality fake ID, she’ll scan the parking lot for a kindly male stranger she can slip a wad of bills to and send inside to retrieve her forbidden prize, all the while thinking, “I have to have this precious nectar.”

For here is something you may not have considered, Dear Pepsi People. While dudes jonesin’ for a tasty diet soda may be a niche market of sorts, there’s an even nichier market that wields more power, more impulsive decision making, and more obsessive desire–Women Who Want What They Can’t Have.

Think about it. You know where to find me. And, you’re welcome.

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Photos are kind of a big deal in my family. We document everything and trade prints like baseball cards. Just about every moment of my childhood (as well as my sister’s, all 7 of our cousins’, etc.) is committed to film, and my grandmother houses a collection of photo albums that span 6 decades and the entire length of a wall in her living room.

Not only do we love taking pictures, we love looking through the albums whenever we’re all gathered at my grandmother’s (aka Moo) house–arguing over who was the cutest baby, reliving awkward pre-teen hair and clothing choices, and retelling embarrassing family stories. It’s what we do.

I was in Dallas last weekend for my oldest uncle’s third wedding (third time’s a charm, right?), and when my mother brought over an old box of pictures she had unearthed during a recent move, I was curious to see some pictures I’d never seen before (not that looking at the same fat, naked baby pictures of myself over and over again isn’t entertaining).

The pictures she found were mostly of she and my father–stills from their “courtship days,” a few never-before-seen wedding shots, and a handful of pictures from their days of early wedded bliss.  She let me snatch a few of my favorites for my own personal collection.  Even though these pictures are “old,” they’re new to me, and I love looking over them, weaving what I know about my mother and father with what I imagine, creating a story to go along with each snapshot. I thought I’d share a few…

Mom, June 1978

Mom, June 1978

The date on the back of this picture tells me that Mom was 20 years old when this picture was taken. That’s her dad’s Datsun she’s sitting on top of, and it’s parked in the driveway of the house where she grew up, the same house where me and my sister sleep in her childhood bedroom when we visit Dallas. I’m not sure if she’d met my father yet when this was taken. She’s such a sweet looking gal, with her bare feet and classic 70s ironed hair. Whenever I look at this picture, I think: “You are going to have a baby in exactly 5 years.”

Dad, 1957

Dad, 1957

And what do I think when I look at this picture? “Nice bonnet.”

Mom & Dad, Summer

Mom & Dad, Summer

Classic. I’m not sure when this one was taken, but they both seem to have that “we’re-not-yet-bound-to-each-other-by-law” glow about them, wouldn’t you agree? It looks like they’re at some sort of tailgating/picnic/pool party, and judging from the cup in my dad’s hand and the slightly smarmy expression on his face, there’s surely a keg nearby. And you might be saying, “Oh, well judging by the mustache, this picture must have been taken some time in the 1970,” but my dad had his ‘stache well into the 90s, so it’s not an accurate historical marker in his case… Looking at this photo, it’s pretty clear who I got my hair genes from (my crazy mop could certainly pass for a man-fro some mornings).

Mom behind the wheel

Mom behind the wheel

I may have inherited my ‘fro from Dad, but I got my penchant for sunglasses-as-headband and driving with both hands gripped to the steering wheel at 10 and 2 from Mom.

Mom on her wedding day

Mom on her wedding day

I so love this picture. My mother has been a Dr. Pepper afficionado for as long as I can remember and, as this photo proves, much longer than that. She’s always insisted that Dallas Dr. Pepper tastes different–better–than Dr. Pepper from anywhere else. Something about the “fizz,” she insists… When we lived in Knoxville and San Antonio, she would buy crates of the stuff during our Dallas visits so she could have her own personal stockpile. If me or my sister drank one of her Dallas Dr. Pepper’s accidentally (okay, sometimes it was intentional–I agree, they do taste just a titch better, but mostly, I just liked the cache), she would react as if we’d just drank the last drops from the canteen while stranded in the desert. She moved back to Dallas a few years ago, and I’m convinced that easy access to her favorite beverage was the main reason for her relocation.

The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners

I can’t remember if Mom told me or not, but I’m pretty sure this picture is from their honeymoon, taken on one of those islands in the Caribbean. They’re so painfully young and happy looking, I feel like this HAS to be from their honeymoon. Their faces in this picture–so open and innocent–make me love them both just a little bit more. I don’t remember my dad ever having such chicken legs since I’ve been around, but here’s the photographic evidence. And what better way to show off your chicken legs than to wear sneakers with no socks?

Mom, Dad, and the Dobies

Mom, Dad, and the Dobies

Unlike Dad’s mustache, the presence of the dobies in old pictures serves as a fairly accurate guage of time. This picture was probably taken around 1981 or ’82, after Mom and Dad had gotten married and bought their first house together, but before I was born. Mom’s holding Daphne, their first dobe, and Dad’s holding Rommel, the new pup. They loved these dogs–when my impending birth was announced, people were constantly telling them that they would have to get rid of the dogs, that Dobermans were a vicious, unpredictable breed and would most certainly maul a newborn. But as it turned out, the dobes were devoted to Baby Me, they’d lay by my crib when I slept; one time, Daphne even blocked me from falling down the stairs.

But even without the dobes, I can estimate the date of this picture if I look at my parents’ faces long enough. Dad’s ditched his mustache (don’t worry, the upper lip shaving stops again in ’83), most likely in an effort to appear more grown-up and professional, as he is now wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase to work at his dad’s company. Mom’s put on a little weight–maybe she was already pregnant with me when this picture was taken, or maybe she’s just fallen victim to the Freshman 15’s sneakier cousin: the Newlywed 19 (okay, it doesn’t look like she’s packed on that much, but I needed something catchy).

At any rate, this picture shows them a little older than the others, not quite as innocent and goofy looking, but still happy and hopeful. I like this picture because it marks the beginning of a family.  Sometimes it’s difficult to look at early photos and NOT look for the metaphorical clouds slowly gathering–false smiles or strained body language. But however hindsight may have afforded these people different choices, however unfamiliar Mom’s and Dad’s current selves may be to their younger selves (and vice versa), these photos offer me a strange sort of comfort. I can’t warn these happy, young kids about the monkey wrenches to come any more than I can foresee all the bumps and curves ahead in my own life, but that doesn’t mean any of us should spend all of our time anticipating disaster or heartache. All we can do–all we SHOULD do– is remain hopeful, make silly faces with friends, smile at the people we love, and take many, many pictures as we go.

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Andre Jordan’s “about me” page on his website, A Beautiful Revolution, gives a–shall we say–colorful description of the artist: “After working for years in dead end jobs, Andre Jordan began wondering if there was a point to anything. When his therapist encouraged him to express himself, Andre turned to art and began drawing and posting his minimalist, unexpectedly hilarious comedic pen and ink sketches on his blog…”

Depressed people usually don’t get enough credit for their sense of humor, but this guy’s got it in spades. His website is hugely successful, many of his illustrations were collected and turned into a graphic memoir, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, and he fell in love and got married, relocating to Lincoln, Nebraska from England.

Probably my favorite section on his website is “Ordinary Love Stories,” a collection of short and tragic love tales, each beginning with the line, “I have fallen head-over-heels in love with a [little Pakistani lady/supermarket girl/socially awkward beauty called Beverly/etc.].” None of the stories end well–usually, they end with the narrator sobbing and sobbing and sobbing…

If you’ve ever had your heart broken, desperately pined after someone who didn’t even know you existed, f**ked up a perfectly good relationship with your own insecurities and stupidity, had the urge to punch your partner (or your ex-partner’s NEW partner) in the face, or lay around in your own misery and filth for days,weeks, or months after being left by a lover—Andre captures all of these experiences in his doodles. Some of them are poignant, others wonderfully absurd, and a couple are so painful you just have to chuckle, or else you might end up sobbing and sobbing and sobbing…

A few more of my favorites:

oh i miss her so

oh i miss her so

love sign

love sign

i love you

i love you