Next time you overhear co-workers talking in hushed tones about their "love puppy," "sherbet bunny" or "cheeky monkey," don't assume that it's some kind of flirtatious code.
And if you hear your boss mention that his computer username is "Fluffydad," don't assume he's a perv. He has an addiction, all right, but it's to Webkinz, stuffed animals that have an online identity that requires you to feed, entertain and generally take care of them. Or else.
It's hardly news that children love Webkinz. Ever since they were introduced to American kids a couple of years ago, more than a million have been sold. What is news is that parents are hooked, too. Look around; your co-workers might be angling for "magic forest charm bracelets" or some such for their Webkinz. Kinda makes you miss the days when the office funster just Xeroxed pictures of his butt.
"You gotta keep them happy and healthy," said a mom-friend with utter seriousness.
When her kids went to sleep-away camp this summer, she spent hours making sure that the many demands of their 10 Webkinz were taken care of.
It's like real life, only it's not. Last week, while my kid checked on the food dish for her virtual pet and contemplated how much "KinzCash" she'd need to buy a virtual swimming pool, her 7-month-old kitten was rolling on the floor below her, slowly and dramatically choking on a 3-inch blade of grass that had gotten lodged in her nostril.
"Hell-o," I said, "Real life happening over here!"
(Since you ask, it cost a hundred bucks to sedate kitty and remove it and now I have the World's Most Expensive Blade of Grass in a little shadow box like it was one of those face-of-Jesus grilled cheese sandwiches or something.)
While neglected Webkinz don't exactly die some horrible "Meerkat Manor" kind of death (Oh, and by the way, thanks, ever so, Animal Planet for last week's episode; now my kid and I can have matching nightmares), they do get the dreaded "green snout" or clutch tiny ice bags to their virtual heads when they're not well-tended.
The only way to get a sick Webkinz well again is to take quizzes or perform jobs that earn KinzCash so you can buy medicine for this virtual pet that, remember now, is actually based on a smallish stuffed animal that is sitting on your kid's dresser.
That's kill-your-preacher-husband-in-his-bed -then-demand-custody-of-your-kids-crazy, isn't it?
Across this great nation, men of the male persuasion are shirking office work to play Webkinz games online instead of shirking office work to study their fantasy football team's stats like God and Nature intended.
It's the beginning of the end, y'all.