It has just been brought to my attention that 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the Easy Bake Oven. Like Barbie, the Easy Bake Oven was one of those mid-20th century toys that EVERY little girl had to get. At about age eight, I decided I wanted one, too, but being that my parents were progressives (especially my “Helen-Reddy-I-am-woman-hear-me-roar” mom), they said no to the Easy Bake Oven and pointed me in the direction of a chemistry set instead.
“Hey, you can still mix stuff together and cook up something with a chemistry set, HOWEVER you just might accidentally cure cancer in the process. I don’t see that in the wheelhouse of the Easy Bake Oven,” said Mom while wearing her “Ms.” T-shirt as she mopped the kitchen floor.
Quick sidebar on that…it was the 1970s and when Mom wore her “Ms.” T-shirt in public, at least two people over 40 (almost always ladies) would come up to her every time and gush, “Kudos to you for supporting Multiple Sclerosis research.” Yep. It was tough to be a female political trailblazer in those days. Actually. It still is.
Easy Come (With the Easy Bake Oven), Easy Go
Just because I didn’t get an Easy Bake Oven back then didn’t mean I couldn’t get my hot little hands on one. Even though I was a tomboy, all my girly girlfriends also wanted the Easy Bake Oven. And since their moms weren’t marching in Women’s Rights demonstrations and mouthing off to the neighborhood husbands for not letting their wives attend rallies, Santa catered to more traditional female roles in their houses.
Which meant all I had to do was go over to a friend’s house to indulge in some Carol-Brady-esque girl time with the Easy Bake Oven.
So one day I go over to Donna’s house. Donna was the friend I could never relate to, but I loved hanging out with her because her room was a cross between Jeannie’s bottle from I Dream of Jeannie and an FAO Schwartz warehouse.
She was a year younger than me, all frilly and spoiled rotten. She was the girl that got every hot new toy before it even came out. I’m not sure what Donna’s dad did for a living, but whatever it was he made a boatload of money while Donna’s mom stayed home all day and guzzled hooch. Actually, she sipped sherry, which I guess was more ladylike. Although, even at age eight it’s hard to consider anyone a lady when they lounge around all day in a bathrobe. But hey, who was I to judge? Donna’s mom gave us Spaghetti-O’s and Twinkies for lunch and let the Easy Bake Oven babysit us. Whereas back at my ranch I had the white version of Rosa Parks demanding front row seats to everything in life, while cooking up heart-healthy, cholesterol-free meals, with a side salad and skim milk. NO ONE wanted to come over to my house. Not even me.
Once I realized that the Easy Bake Oven was a nonstarter in my world, I dashed over to Donna’s and requested we play “Restaurant” with not one, BUT TWO, Easy Bake Ovens her dad gave her just for being pretty. (Which was questionable in my book, given her overbite. Dad might’ve served her better with the gift of orthodontia work rather than yet another Sting Ray bike. But whatever.)
I Hate It When Mom is Right
However, within minutes I grew bored of playing “Restaurant.” I didn’t like the idea of having to serve anyone, even if they were just a bunch of life-size Teddy bears. In my mind they were demanding lazy-ass slugs who were too indolent to stay home and cook. (And yes, I knew what “indolent” meant at age eight. Thanks, Mom.)
So I suggested we play chemical warfare…with the Easy Bake Oven. The idea being we go around the house and mix as many liquids together as we can find, then pop the results into the Easy Bake Oven and see what happens. Stinkiest smell wins.
Surprisingly, Donna was all over this idea.
I don’t remember everything I put in my concoction, but I do recall using a lot of liquids from under the sink, and that adding Windex gave my brew a nice ammonia-y smell and turned the whole mess blue. A total win, if you ask the eight-year-old me.
Since we had two Easy Bake Ovens, we “cooked” both our creations at the same time. They immediately started to stink up Donna’s room so badly our eyes began to water. Just as she opened a window the light bulb in the Easy Bake Oven that contained her “stew” burst with a loud POP. But before the filament broke it caught the oven on fire, causing flames to shoot out of the Easy Bake Oven like an angry, pink dragon.
I thought this was the coolest thing since the time I tried to light a cactus on fire. Knowing they retain water, I wanted to see if they burn. They don’t. But they do sizzle and smoke, which is just as thrilling to a third grader with an inquiring mind.
I looked at Donna for what I thought would be an exciting, lifelong bonding moment, but she was crying. This was confusing to me, especially when she ran from the room and instantly returned with her inebriated mother, who hysterically started screaming. She grabbed Donna’s pink bedspread to smother the flames, but since it was polyester, it maniacally torched up like a pagan offering at a Wiccan happy hour.
Time to go.
At home that night I kept waiting for THE PHONECALL from Donna’s mom, requesting some sort of restitution (or my head on a platter), since I was the instigator of the chemical fire that took down Donna’s room. But the call never came. Odd. Could it be that Donna took the fall for me? Doubtful. A spoiled second grade girl is not that open-minded.
More likely it was because Donna’s mom was soused, and she didn’t want her self-medicating little secret to get out. Ah yes, the Ice Storm of the 1970s. That enlightening transitional period between post war idealism and the realization that nothing stifles the human spirit more than idealism.
A couple of days later I called Donna to see if she could hang out. “I’m not allowed to play with you anymore,” she said stoically, and then hung up.
Dang. Now what am I going to do for my Easy Bake Oven fix? Then I had a bright idea. I picked up the rotary wall phone and dialed. When a squeaky little voice answered I said, “Hello, Robin? Didn’t you just get an Easy Bake Oven for your birthday? Great! I’ll be right over. I have a fun new game we can play…”
(Easy Bake Oven/Michelle Obama infographic provided by Part Select.)
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Stacy Dymalski is an award winning keynote speaker and stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage. For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in bookstores and on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.