“Look at the Candy! Look at the Candy!”

When my older daughter was not yet two, she got the boxed set of all the original Thomas the Tank Engine books. It was her favorite. We read and reread all 26 of them, including the one with wrinkled pages from falling into the toilet. She even made me make up more Thomas stories before every nap and bed time. I legitimately feared the Rev. W. Awdry estate coming after me for royalties.

A few months later, I also learned that there was a school bus manufacturer named Thomas. “That bus says ‘Thomas!’” my excited barely two-year-old shouted one day as we sat at a stop light.

This fall, she started first grade, where she is actually expected to read. Full sentences, not just the names of beloved characters. One is tempted to say, “Ohh, how grown up she’s become.” Except she’s not grown up. She is seven years old. The books she loves are about fairies. Or dolphins. Or magical talking dolphins that can fly. If there were such a book. Indeed, if there were, we’d own three copies.

What seems so grown up, compared to her toddler self, is that she reads (and, yes, she is taller). But that’s as grown up as I want her to be right now (although cleaning her room on her own would be nice too). I want her to remain the sweet little innocent that she is.

Which is why I hate taking her grocery shopping.

If you’ve taken young readers shopping, you know where I’m headed with this. The checkout line. Specifically the magazines at the checkout line. It may seem hard to single any of them out, what with the pictures of celebrity bikini bodies gone bad, the horrific bad-lighting paparazzi photos, and headlines about spurious addictions and infidelities. But if I had to single one out, it wouldn’t be one of those pulp rags. It would be one with a slick glossy cover featuring celebrities who were actually paid to be on it.


Seriously, can there be that many sex tips? I mean, golfers can only focus on maybe one or two tips at a time without messing up their swing — and that’s golf, a complicated sport that takes years to master. Not an activity that comes instinctively for humans as well as weevils. So why does this magazine even need to exist for more than one issue? Ever.

Look, I’m not a total prude here; I have two children as living proof, after all. But do I really have to subject them to Cosmo covers? Do they need to be über-sexualized at so tender an age?

I honestly have to start yelling, “No, you can’t have any candy. Don’t look at the candy! Don’t look at the candy!” just to make sure that they do look at the candy — instead of the Cosmo cover three inches away. The candy at least has a brown wrapper, like the Cosmo should.

Or am I making too big a stink out of this? Am I just a prude, despite my protestations to the contrary? Perhaps? Perhaps.

Perhaps it is just me. Perhaps I’m over exaggerating the pervasive perils threatening my child’s innocence.

So I’ll let you decide. Here, for example, are just some — some — of the actual, totally-not-made-up headlines on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine that I have had to avert my daughter’s eyes from in these last few months since she started first grade.

His Best Sex Ever — Guys Describe the Mind-Blowing Moves They Can’t Stop Thinking About

Too Naughty To Say Here! But you have to try this sex trick

“Um, Vagina, Are You Okay Down There?” Easy Fixes for Freaky Issues

50 KINKY SEX MOVES — Men Vote on Their Favorites

100 Best Sex Tips of the Year

“Sh*t My Guy Says” Where’s a Muzzle When You Need One?


When He Shouldn’t See You Naked

GUYS’ TOP SEX SECRETS — We Reveal the Midbooty Thoughts He’d Never Admit to… but You Need to Know

KINKY SEX — Tell Your Inner Good Girl to Get Lost for the Night!

Bigger, Better Pleasure — 5 Ways to Get Him, Um, Pumped

21 NAUGHTY SEX TIPS — Bold, Breathless Moves That Bring On That Crazy-in-Lust Feeling

4 Words That Seduce Any Man. Anytime.

Guys Answer YOUR SEXIEST Qs — WARNING: Some Are Sweet, Others Are Brutally Honest


Naughty Thoughts He Has at Work


The grocery store has a line for “20 Items or Less,” “10 Items or Less” (some literate groceries even have them for “20 Items or Fewer”) and Self Checkout. Please, could they maybe have a line for children and their parents who don’t want to explain what a “va-jay-jay” is?

12 thoughts on ““Look at the Candy! Look at the Candy!”

  1. You are not a prude, I completely agree with you. My daughter is only two but I’ve already started worrying about stuff like this. Maybe having groceries delivered at home isn’t so ridiculous?

  2. Thank you for defending modesty! I have two young daughters and have frequently thought the same thing about protecting their innocence. Our exhibitionist culture makes me concerned for my girls’ futures. My husband (who is a stay-at-home dad) feels just as strongly about the Disney Princesses and wishes that all of their merchandise were covered in a brown bag!

    • I tried to fight the Disney incursion too, but I reckoned without grandmas.

      Just tell your husband to remind your girls that what truly makes them princesses is the fact that he is their king.

  3. I agree with you completely. My son started reading well at age 4. He liked reading the signs on businesses as we drove around town. He could read the words, but didn’t understand them. What’s a smog check? What’s Hooters? Fortunately he hasn’t ever been interested in reading the grocery store magazines. He is now 7 and occasionally he’ll pick up an Archie comic book. He is more interested in the candy on the other side. I hang back a bit then shoo them through this part of the line as quickly as I can to avoid the magazines and the candy.

    Sometimes there is a line where they sell batteries and things instead of magazines. I’ve also seen parents turning the most offensive magazines around, although the ads on the back covers aren’t always better.

  4. My kindergartener has begun to read and I’ve started grocery shopping without her for EXACTLY THIS REASON. I’ve always been bothered by the pictures, but I draw the line at explaining the text. I didn’t realize how much she actually could read until one morning several months ago when I was trying to keep her and my 3 year old entertained in an extraordinarily slow checkout line by finding numbers on the magazine covers. The older one looked at Cosmo and said, “Look Mommy, there’s the number ‘six’ written out in words!” Needless to say, it wasn’t the number six. (I have noticed that Whole Foods has much tamer magazine covers, so I still feel safe bringing her there.)

    • Wow, you score major bragging rights. Not only can she read, she can translate Latin! (As in the root word for “sextet.”)

      At least, that’s the way I would spin it if I were you.

  5. Strangely enough, Cosmo started off as a family-orientated literature magazine, then known as The Cosmopolitan. It eventually became a woman’s magazine in the 1960s, which was of course, the height of the feminist movement and the “sexual liberation revolution” (it’s strange that people call it that even though that movement had actually been around during WWII, but that’s another story). Now, I’ve got a couple years ahead of me until I’m ready to start a family, but even I have to agree that there are better places for that magazine to stand and I don’t mean by the M&Ms.

    • I should probably mention that even though I am Cosmo’s target demographic (college-aged female), I find their articles ridiculously repetitive, and not worth the money I’d rather spend on overpriced free-trade coffee. “Seriously, can there be that many sex tips?” – I’m glad that I’m not the only one thinking along the same lines (I guess last issue’s topics weren’t nearly orgasmic enough…I can’t believe that’s even a word. Oh, spell-check.).

  6. I agree with you whole heartedly. Now, I don’t have girls, so I can’t quite understand your dilemma. I was blessed with all boys. 3 of them. I am fighting the daily battle of keeping them from turning into a pack of video game only playing kids. It’s a constant battle as everything today, as far as entertainment goes, is technology based. I cant imagine how much I would be losing it If I had daughters. I am overprotective of the ladies in my life. So I feel for you. Society puts too much emphasis on the sex subject. Its kinda of pathetic. Good luck on the life long battle.

  7. Completely agree. Don’t know if you have any Stop and Shop’s by you but they have a Family Friendly line. If this is a supermarket you go to regularly it’s something you should seriously propose to them!

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