As promised, I’m updating you lovelies on my hilarity-filled trip back East courtesy of Johnson & Johnson. Approximately 56 bloggers converged on poor, unsuspecting New Brunswick, New Jersey for “Camp Baby.” (I can’t really comment on any of the pre-hoopla controversies since my arrangements went very smoothly, but head over to CityMama, Queen of Spain and Mothergoosemouse for those details.)
That morning at the Crack of Ass I was picked up by a car service. After checking in I found some coffee and made my way to the gate. I knew from chatting with her on Twitter that @Glennia, I mean Glennia was going to be on the same flight, but I was pretty early and no one was there yet. Soon thereafter, however, I noticed two loud and obnoxiously awake women, soon joined by a third. I walked over and said “Loud, rowdy women? You must be bloggers!”
Yawn, plane trip, I did the hair of the passenger in front of me when she reclined her seat, I ate scary “food,” and landed in NJ. Fun-filled trip to the hotel in an SUV driven by a terrified young man who apparently thought that driving around “a bunch of moms” was going to be much quieter. And involve less swearing.
We arrived at the hotel, were speedily checked in, and told to meet later for a food and wine pairing event with Ted Allen. Once I stopped thinking it was Tim-the-toolman-Taylor Allen and realized it was the guy from Queer Eye and a bunch of other shows I’m too uncool to watch, I was excited. I went to my room, shaved my legs, and got ready to rumble.
Ted Allen was funny, asked for blogging advice (You’ve never heard such a gasp as when he said “Twitter? What’s that?”), and served us some pretty good wine. (Except for that Chardonnay, #2, which tasted like chewing on an old oak barrel. Gak.)
But clearly getting us all liquored up was so that we wouldn’t notice one critical fact about the agenda for the next day: it began at 7:30am and ended at midnight!
The bulk of the day was divided up into sessions, and the first one was fantastic.
Jodi Mindell (author) spoke on Sleep. This session was great because she was clearly an expert on the topic, she was a compelling speaker, and she wasn’t interested in telling anyone “the one right way” to do anything. She’s written books, so if this topic interests you, go check them out. She’s also made an online sleep diagnosis tool at www.johnsonsbaby.com/sleep. I haven’t checked it out yet — it has a lot of Flash which I don’t like — but it is probably worth a look.
Anna Prilutsky, J&J Director of R&D. I wasn’t really sure what she was trying to tell us here. She said a lot of things like “babies have soft, sensitive skin” and told us that J&J works hard to ensure their products aren’t harmful. Pretty basic overview, and not terribly interesting. Explains why I signed into Twitter during this session.
Dr. Germ terrified us all with the disgusting description of germs in our everyday lives. You could see the Purell pitch coming a mile off, but he was engaging so it wasn’t so bad. (Also, did I expect not to have them try to sell me on their products?) Downside: how will I ever touch an elevator button again?
Nutrition I wasn’t clever enough to write down this speaker’s name, but here’s the summary: “Nutritition is important. Eat breakfast.” And so on. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she showed the food pyramid.
Susan Nettesheim, J&J Director of Product Stewardship. Listed J&J’s “green initiatives” like electric cars, reducing packaging, using solar power and environmentally sound ingredients. Talked about Hazard vs. Risk: with the implication that small amounts of hazardous chemicals are everywhere (examples: arsenic in apple seeds, aflatoxins in peanut butter). This setup lead perfectly into what she must have known was going to be one of the very first questions: What about parabens in J&J products?
Her answer: J&J doesn’t use the bad parabens, only the “good” ones. She suggested cosmeticsinfo.org to look up the safety of chemicals/ingredients. She was also asked about animal testing and carcinogens, and to her credit appeared to be answering truthfully. If I sound cynical, it is only because I can’t imagine any other answers she might give. And because I’m cynical. I think this topic could have been the subject for the entire day, but it was adequately handled in the time allotted (1 hour).
Scott Jens, Chair of the AOA InfantSEE Committee. He talked about eye health and vision for kids. Stressed the importance of getting your kids to an optometrist/ophthalmologist. He understands that most kids don’t have vision insurance, and he wants that to change. InfantSEE has started a free screening program for kids. Go to InfantSEE to find a participating clinic. This is an AMAZING resource, and I’ll be blogging about this in its own post soon.
This is where the wheels came off. They divided us into 3 groups for smaller sessions, which is fine, but the sessions were… odd. The first one I was in was Market Research. And it would actually have been fine except it turned “argue-y” real fast. Christina can explain it better than I, but the fact that I was alone in the front row sitting next to the person in question just made it even stranger. Reader’s Digest version: in the middle of a room full of moms, the author of “The Mommy Wars” vehemently proclaimed that she really doesn’t trust other moms opinions at all. WTF?
Then I went to what was both the best session (if you were on Twitter) and the worst session (if you own a vagina) in the history of time. In the agenda it was called “Girl Talk: What’s going on ‘down there’?” I prayed to Jeebus that it was a session about Australia. Or the sump-pump in my basement. Or Nicole Kidman. Or really anything but ‘down there.’ Because I’m not 12 and those parts have actual names.
However, as I wandered out of the session, stunned into silence (I know!), I missed the glory days of phrases like “hoo-ha” “va-jay-jay” and yes, even “cooter” because any talk which begins “Imagine this room is your vagina. Now imagine the ceiling caving in.” is just a little too much to take.
Not Your Mother’s Vagina
Ever have an embarrassing talk with your doctor? They usually turn out just fine, you get the information you need, and you know it was all confidential and just between the two of you. Now imagine that talk with 20 other women, many of whom you have never met before. Most of whom are sitting with their mouths agape. I truly appreciated that J&J wanted to make sure we were aware of these Uro-Gynecological disasters in the making, but it was out of place in this setting.
The final breakout session was a mindless and brain dead one which I wouldn’t have enjoyed had it been the first one, but by the time I finished with the horror of the uterine prolapse brigade I was praying for death. Or a good hair-braiding class. Fortunately for me, I was not lead into an abattoir but into a room full of chopped-off half-scale plastic heads with disturbingly life-like hair. It was all I could do not to collapse into a puddle of giggles on the floor, and I finally succumbed when Catherine began making out with the toughest looking hair-head-model I’d ever seen. That plastic bitch will cut you.
After the sessions and a long break it was time to go out to dinner at a fantastic restaurant. Some folks took advantage of the Wii games area, but I didn’t want to get my ass kicked by Sarah, so I had some wine and chatted instead. After a long and delicious meal, we went back to the hotel where there was a room set up with couches, a fireplace on TV, and candy. The next morning before leaving we were given the opportunity to choose from lots of J&J products (soap, lube, splenda…) which they mailed to us so we didn’t get stopped at an airport security checkpoint for trying to cross state lines with 12 gallons of Gal Grease.
So sweet deal, right? You know I know how lucky I was to get to go on this trip, right? You know I know that J&J didn’t send me just because I’m a mommy who needs a break, right?
The real question I’m left with is: why did they send us on this trip? Well, we know that Moms are purchasing decision makers, so it makes sense for us to be wooed (is that a word?) by a company which makes family products. So did it work? I can’t say I have a better or worse opinion of J&J products than I did before. I definitely am a little in love with the amazing women who planned this huge event, because not only did they rock their clipboards, drink wine with us, and get us unfailingly where we needed to be, but they were some of the nicest people I have ever met. (And y’all need raises ;)
But when I’m at Target and I see a J&J product next to the same thing made by another company, which will I choose? I can honestly say I don’t know, but they for sure captured my attention. Now I can’t help but notice when I see the J&J name on a product. Was that worth the thousands of dollars they spent on me?
Holy Crap, she has footnotes!
(1) “Gal Grease” is the name of the fictional womanly slickening product my step-mom and I came up with years ago after one too many douche commercials came on TV. Thank god for TiVo. (And wickedly-funny step-parents. Hey Nora ;)
(2) Johnson & Johnson paid for everything. I had a $16 bar tab when I checked out of the hotel plus I left about $20 in tips along the way. That’s it. J&J covered airfare, hotel, ground transportation, food, drinks, and entertainment. As for free shit, I got a bag full of Neutrogena products, a Nintendo DS system and Brain Age 2, and the opportunity to choose from lots of J&J products to take home. Yes, it was sweet, and I am very fortunate, and I hope you get to go next time.
(3) I am able to blog about this here because I’ve dropped out of the BlogHerAds network. I heart the lovely and talented ladies of BlogHer, and I don’t begrudge them their rules even one tiny little bit. It just stopped working for me when I couldn’t blog about this trip ($40 is their limit for getting freebies), and that’s the only reason I dropped their ads. I love what they’ve done and continue to do for our community, and it was a hard decision for me to make for just that reason.
I know there have been tons of questions about this event. Ask away in the comments and I’ll try to answer them all. And get ready to ask me more soon, because next week I’m off on a junket for Sony.