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A ‘Yupwardly Mobile’ Book : ‘SuperKid Catalog’ a Satire on Child Raising by Yuppies

Times Staff Writer

Katherine Kertz Stanton is a funny woman. She also is a Yuppie, a label she deplores yet grudgingly accepts. And, like many Yuppies these days, she’s a parent--one looking around and cringing at what she sees.

“Lately, I’ve just realized how competitive parents have become,” she was saying over coffee one day last week. “It used to be, ‘My kid is walking, my kid is talking.’ Now it’s what parents are doing for kids. You remember the old joke about Jewish mothers. Now everyone’s a Jewish mother, willing kids to be doctors and lawyers even before the pacifier’s dry.”

What better way to handle her growing ire, Stanton thought, than to turn her pen to satire. She is, by profession, a video satirist, working for KFMB-TV, Channel 8, the CBS affiliate in San Diego. She’s a cohort of Larry Himmel, comic host of “San Diego At Large,” which is to “America’s Finest City” what “Hee Haw” was to rednecks and bumpkins.

The result is “The SuperKid Catalog,” Stanton’s book that gives mother and father Yups large doses of their own espresso. The say-it-all subtitle: “A whimsical collection of nursery necessities that will give you and your tot the competitive edge.”

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Stanton, a bright, inquisitive woman with large eyes and fiery red hair, hits Yuppies--young urban professionals for those who have quit reading “Doonesbury"--where they live. Which was, she admits, her full intent.

“At the SuperKid Catalog Co.,” the book begins, “we know that SuperParents are so busy teaching tots to recognize Picasso’s face on a flash card or hum Mozart on the potty that they don’t have time to shop in stores.”

So she comes up with products that might prompt a run on the store wherever bourgeois buyers have money to burn. (None of the products is for sale, but Stanton rules out nothing for the future.) One item is dress-for-success (pinstripe) diapers, another the quality-time stopwatch. The author--mother of 4-year-old Victoria--goes so far as to offer a letter from a (made-up) reader troubled by quality time:

“Dear Catalog, I have this friend . . . if she and her son have a swell time baking brioches, but she needed to make those brioches anyhow, can she honestly count those minutes in the kitchen as Quality Time?

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“Would she deserve full Quality Time credit or only half credit? What if she burns the brioches and then kicks the oven while uttering a string of strictly non-quality expletives? Does she forfeit all Quality Time earned until that moment or what? Help.”

Stanton, 36, often feels the same way. Help, she said, is a mother’s favorite four-letter word.

“Without a doubt, parenting is the most wonderful thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said with a smile. “Oh, there are times I’ve pounded my fist on the floor in frustration. I don’t want to say motherhood adds a richness to life--that sounds so corny, so cliched--but I like being with her, doing things with her, more than anything in life. And to think I have to budget that time as ‘quality time’ somehow cheapens the whole process. I like being with her, period.”

Stanton, born in North Dakota and educated in Minnesota, loves a San Diegan’s brag-right of calling 60-degree temperatures in January a “cold snap.” She and her husband, Christopher, a commodities analyst, live in fashionable Mission Hills, where Stanton spends much of her time thinking up lines and products for new generations of SuperKids.

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“She amazes me,” said Dan Arden, producer of “San Diego At Large.” “She can look at just about anything and develop humor from it. She can get an idea and in five to 10 minutes have a script that sings.”

Stanton, called “San Diego’s Erma Bombeck” by co-worker Cheryl Campbell, does a segment called “The Angry Woman” in which the objects of derision have included toilet-bowl cleaning, Tuppermania (a woman addicted to Tupperware) and a cooking aid, Sushi Helper. All are funny, very hip, very urban. Arden says Stanton has a rare ability to take modern trends and make them grist for one punch line after another.

“Ever wonder why ‘A’ is always for ‘apple’ when it could just as well be for ‘antipasto?,’ ” she asks in the book, just released by Penguin. “Or why ‘M’ can’t be for ‘mousse’ and ‘S’ for ‘sushi?’ Our contemporary alphabet cards will help your child learn the ABC’s while instilling gourmet values.”

“The Complete Book of Crawling” parodies a book about running, and what Yuppie satire would be complete without an appetizing glance at food? Stanton offers “Spinach-On-a-Stick, . . . while other tots are eating gooey, sugary iced bars, a SuperKid satisfies his appetite with sucks of nutritious frozen spinach.” There’s also “Pasta Pops: a SuperKid favorite! Little ones can’t seem to get enough of these yummies.”

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Stanton, disarmingly serious in person, admitted some SuperKid products might one day find their way into the hearts of Yuppies who don’t know they’re being buffaloed. At a recent promotional session, a set-up for a photograph required a small boy eating an honest-to-low-fat pasta pop. The boy liked it, begging to know where to get more.

Stanton only shakes her head and smiles at such episodes. She admits maybe her products could match the appeal of those on “Prairie Home Companion,” the public-radio satire of small-town Midwestern life. If so, she’d consider it happily ironic. One of her heroes, a man she represented for a Minneapolis PR firm, is Garrison Keillor, “Prairie Home’s” host and creator.

To be told her book resembles the style and wit of “Prairie Home,” which it does, is, she said, “an incredible compliment.”

Her most serious message to parents is, simply, to lighten up. She worries about “Yupwardly mobile” types applying too much pressure to otherwise fragile children, making them wicked rebels by the year 2000.

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Humorist Himmel, a friend as well as colleague’s of Stanton, said he expects the rebellion of Yuppie babies is, however, as likely as gelato melting out of fashion.

“What’s happening,” he said, “is that the baby boomers are having babies. My perception is that most kids will rebel against anything their parents lay on ‘em anyway. My guess? The children of Yuppie parents will end up driving Volkswagen buses with the tailpipes dragging and move to places like Ocean Beach or Santa Monica. That’s why Kathy has hit the nail on the head. Wouldn’t you say it’s high time us Yuppies started laughing at ourselves anyway?”


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