One (grown) man’s mauvelous crayon lament
The thing I liked most about crayons were their names: Outrageous Orange, Atomic Tangerine, Spring Green. Crayons gave me words for all the colours I saw in the world. They taught me how to pun (Mauvelous), how to pronounce fiendishly difficult words (Cerulean), and that Americans have particularly strange ideas about dairy products (Macaroni and Cheese).
Some parts of my childhood just don’t exist anymore. I know I’ll never be able to turn on Play School and fully appreciate just how much sexual tension there was between Benita and John in their heyday. And, since they disappeared from freezers across the nation, the taste of the Bubblegum Paddle Pop lives only in my memory. There are some things, though, that I assumed would always be there. Like jumbo packs of Crayola crayons.
As it turns out, I was wrong. I’ve been everywhere — art supply stores, toy stores, even a particularly unsettling and poorly-lit newsagent in Yass. I’ve spoken to disaffected shop assistants from Bendigo to Bondi Junction. Sure, you can buy crayons, but you have to be willing compromise not just on quality, but on quantity. I asked for the 120-pack. I asked for the 64. I asked — very politely — for the 24. Variety in the crayon world has gone the way of full-fat yoghurt, a nuanced and multi-voiced national media, and Patti Newton’s dignity. The largest pack of crayons I could find contained a paltry 12 colours.
I understand that iPads have probably supplanted the traditional paper, coloured pencils and crayons cache in McMansion-laden housing estates across the country, and I understand there’s an entire generation of children called Maddisen, Jaxon and Bilynda who will never have the fine motor skills to handle normal-sized crayons. But I don’t have a McMansion with a picturesque view of a (sadly now drained) man-made lake. I don’t have an iPad. If I’m honest, I don’t even have a proper vegetable peeler, but that’s another story entirely. What I do have is very good fine motor skills. In fact, I’ve even got a merit certificate lovingly signed by my grade one teacher to prove it. I’m so good with a pair of safety scissors, you could be forgiven for mistaking me for a ninja from the middle-distance.
I don’t care if children today have no need for crayons because they’re too busy tending to pretend cows on Facebook, playing imaginary tennis on their televisions and trying to figure out whether Kurt from Glee is a man or a lady. I want proper crayons. I do not want twisting, retractable, plastic-encased crayons, nor do I want cheap and nasty discount store crayons made from something akin to candle wax that don’t actually leave a mark on anything. I would like an enormous box of Crayola crayons that I do not have to wait six weeks for while it ships from Canada. A box of crayons that will not cost me $21.95 (+$62.50 shipping and handling).
Like any reasonable person on a limited budget, faced with a not-quite-Sophie’s-choice between paying almost $100 online or settling for the inferior alternative, I relented and bought the 12-pack on offer. But these are not ordinary crayons; these are My First Crayons, their mutant elephantine cousins. I asked the girl behind the counter where I might progress once I’d mastered My First Crayons. Were there My Second Crayons somewhere under the counter, waiting only for those who could demonstrate their command of the coloured wax medium? She blinked, and looked at me as though I’d just asked if I could lick her face.
I am deeply dissatisfied by My First Crayons. In fact, let me tell you something, My First Crayons. I have had crayons. I have had hundreds of crayons, maybe even thousands. I’m no crayon virgin. I don’t want you. You with your thicker-than-average bodies, strangely coloured paper labels and clumsy fat heads. You with your stupid range of only 12 colours. Twelve unnamed colours. What am I going to do with 12 colours? Take out my Bible stories colouring book and turn the apostles into a tame-but-fabulous Mardi Gras after-party? There’s no white crayon. There’s no black crayon. No Hot Magenta or Purple Pizzazz. You don’t even come in Burnt Sienna, the most important crayon shade of all. What am I supposed to do when I need to colour something in Burnt Sienna? Dousing Sienna Miller in petrol and setting her alight may prove to be a deeply satisfying experience, but something tells me the colour that produces would be more akin to Torch Red or Red Orange, with an end result somewhere between Beaver, Black and Outer Space.
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