Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am not a shill (f)or a clown

(or: it is posts like this that may explain why I don't get a lot of offers from marketers)

I recently got an email from a marketing rep. inviting me to an event hosted by Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey (you know, the circus people), targeting "mommy bloggers". The deal was: free pedicures and a chance to mix with the circus elephants.

At the time it seemed like a good idea to check it out. Tuesday was my first day with a new mother's helper and all three kids, and I did not have anything planned with which to distract Ada. When Ada gets bored, things go south quickly. So, despite my misgivings about mentioning to this new helper that I am apparently the target market for a mom blogger event (not to mention my pride at accepting an invite at the last minute), we all piled in the car to see the elephants.

The invitation did not note where exactly the event would be held. The email said "the Rose Garden" (the sports arena where the Trailblazers play) but did not mention exactly where in this vast sports and parking complex we should go. No problem, your intrepid mommy blogger played up this uncertainty as an adventure and Ada actually went along with my cheerful subterfuge.

clown feet
I love me some clown shoes

When we figured out where to go (we followed the clowns) the marketing executive recognized me right away (I'd written to her about shlepping my 3 kids along) and offered Ada a clown nose and circus coloring book. For her part, Ada only brightened up when she realized there were juice boxes and cookies for the taking. She wasn't entirely sure about the friendly clown who tried to chat her up. I think she doubted he was telling the truth about having a 5 year old son. She gave him a look that suggested she doubted whether clowns can really have children. I'll admit that I kind of wondered about this myself.

Ada confronts a clown

When it got close to time for the elephant to make an appearance, several protesters appeared with signs that read "Barnum Beats Elephants." I don't know the veracity of this claim, but the whole rest of the time I kept flashing to scenes from the novel Water for Elephants. I also recalled that Sarah had written about why she would not be taking her kids to the circus. No actual beating occurred in my presence and actually the elephant trainer seemed nice and interested in answering questions about the herd of Asian elephants it keeps. Frankly, I probably would have cared more about the protestors if they had not been holding PETA signs. I mean, I eat meat and wear leather shoes and have a family zoo membership, but I do care about animals getting beaten. But PETA has not won my heart with some of their tactics and campaigns (the whole holocaust campaign, for one). Nonetheless I felt my enthusiasm for the whole circus elephant show wane. It didn't help that it was very warm and sunny and Ian was squirmy in my arms. A lifelong vegetarian, he apparently doesn't like animal shows either.

 Larry and Asia
She was a cute elephant, and a big fan of watermelon

So let's just say that I am not planning on going to the circus this weekend. It is maybe a little because I am squicked that the marketing firm tried to buy cheap press from mommy bloggers for the price of some pedicures and juice boxes, and a little because the circus animal thing is a little worrisome, even if I am not yet totally convinced by PETA. I'm sure Ada would have a good time, but I think I'd be uncomfortable and unhappy and oh who knows, we just won't be going.

Actually, I am only a little bothered by the marketers. That's their job, right, even if they do it sort of transparently. But I was really squicked by a posting from another mom who'd been invited. I won't link to her post because I don't know her and don't want to be (too) rude. But seeing her post about her efforts of the past year to social market her ass off and how this was her reward and evidence of what a good blogger she was, it made me question why I went at all. I hope this other woman enjoyed the pedicure and cookies.

Oh, and I didn't end up getting a pedicure. It was too hot in the sun and Ian and Mira were too squirrelly to make it worth waiting for, free or not. The elephant did get one though, and I can say that her toenails now probably look a bit better than mine.

(I was totally amused that the snack table included a bowl of circus animal cookies. THAT was funny. It almost made up for the fact that the email inaccurately noted there would be "elephants" with an S. Maybe they were counting the ones in the cookies.)


  1. Yeah, I am not a PETA fan. Those jerks make me want to buy a fur coat.

    And I don't even like and/or beieve in wearing fur.

    That being said, I can't justify going to the circus. As much as I hate PETA and their tactics I cannot support how travelling circuses transport animals.

  2. I have never heard the word `squicked' before but think that I might have to add it to my vocab.

    I hope the new helper is helpful!

  3. I have been a veg-head for 7yrs.
    I don't wear leather shoes or belts.
    I hate PETA! They give us a bad name.
    It's embarrassing when someone finds out i'm a vegetarian and PETA is the first thing they identify it with.
    I don't usually tell people I am because they look at me like i'm nuts!!

  4. In total agreement re PETA and circuses. The pedicure connection is totally weird. Like PR person A said "mommies LOVE pedicures! let's do pedicures!" and PR person B said "What does that have to do w/ the circus?" and A said "Nothing, but the elephant(s) have HUGE toenails, so ..."

  5. " do mommies!" Genius!

    I get pestered by marketeers for my blog every now and then (not so much as on my previous one which was less 'villagy'). My general impression is that they never bother doing any real assessment beyond the most basic of sterotypes. Not unlike PETA, I suppose.

  6. I used to work for an animal welfare organization but I loathe PETA's tactics (and I make a very clear distinction between animal welfare and animal rights, which I won't bore you with right here). I avoid circuses with elephants, though and many zoos and aquariums (but not all, it depends on the animals and the organization's record). I don't believe that animals should be made to suffer for our entertainment - and the fact that elephants live much shorter lives in captivity is a clear sign of a problem.

  7. I've never been much of a circus person, but thanks for the food for thought. Zoos, too, are a little squicky.

  8. I love Mary, but clowns freak me out a little.

  9. I got invited to that too, which is funny because I am so bad at keeping my blog up to date. I am also not a circus person, the clowns really do freak me out. I went once as a kid and was not impressed. At least Ada got a free snack out of it.