My fling with Fling

flingMy son started giggling when he saw the pink candy bar in the checkout line at Vons. “Mom, that looks like something you would like,” he chuckled, as he pointed to the new “Fling” chocolate bar, a hot pink-drenched confection that looks so girly it could have stepped right off the shelf of Barbie’s Dream House.

When I told him we needed to try it, he giggled even harder, and turned a little red in the face. This candy bar screams “girl cooties” even louder than the tampons my husband thinks he deserves a medal for buying.

I don’t know when Mars began using five-year-old girls as graphic designers-I’m surprised its shiny pink and silver packaging isn’t wrapped with a feather boa. And I don’t know when Mars started using frat boys in its marketing department- they must have been working round the clock to come up with the tag line “Naughty, but not that naughty” as the motto for this 85-calorie trifle. It’s positioned as a simple pleasure you can guiltlessly enjoy in the middle of a workday, with ads that winkingly allude to a different kind of simple pleasure you can guiltlessly enjoy in the middle of the workday.

The television commercials seem to depict strangers having sex in a dressing room (they’re actually in adjacent dressing rooms and the woman is only eating chocolate), while the print ads urge you to “Pleasure yourself” with “Fling’s slender fingers.”

So much for slyly winking innuendo-they want you to pleasure yourself with slender chocolate fingers! You don’t have to have a dirty mind to go THERE with that one.

Other “Fling” ads urge you to: “Have a ‘Fling’ in private, or wave it all around town; in the office, the bedroom, or the great outdoors.” Nothing ambiguous there.

Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. Sexual euphemisms are now available at the grocery store-at least in California where the product is being test marketed-in convenient chocolate form.

Not only is this candy sexy, it shimmers. According to the website (, not, which is a risque dating site which I accidentally went to in the course of writing this column, and which forced me to figure out how to erase my browser history so my son and husband wouldn’t freak out when they next went on-line): “You are not seeing things. The Milk Chocolate flavor has a pink shimmer, the Dark Chocolate has a gold shimmer, and the Hazelnut has an orange shimmer. We like variety.”

Clearly this candy bar from Mars is aiming for women from Venus. What I don’t really understand is why. Maybe the fact that “Fling” is the first new chocolate bar Mars has introduced in 20 years is the real explanation for the stereotypical “Marketing to Women 101” campaign. They’ve covered all of the cliched bases: skinny, sparkly, naughty but nice and most of all, pink.

Surely M & M’s and Snickers’ new little sister is looking for trouble with her flirty little wrapper, not-so-subtle wordplay, and marketing of herself to just half of the population. I personally shoulder (or should I say “thigh”) more than my fair share of the chocolate bar economy. As such, I’ve always thought the woman in the Dove commercial who’s satisfied with just one piece of chocolate was faking it. But even I can’t eat enough “Flings” to keep this new product on the shelves.

When she’s not nibbling on chocolate, Leslie can be reached at For more columns visit  Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 29, 2009.

The Attention Recession

Photo Stuart Miles/

Photo Stuart Miles/

Lately I’ve had the uncomfortable sensation that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, moving things around, connecting circuits and memories and synapses in ways they weren’t connected before. It’s not that I’m losing my mind exactly—though we do obsess about green tea, crossword puzzles, and red wine in our house, since Alzheimer’s runs in the family-but my mind is changing and I’m not thinking the way I used to think.

Getting completely immersed in a book or even a long magazine article used to be the most natural thing in the world for me. I’d spend hours happily adrift in a sea of prose. Now my concentration goes overboard after just a few pages. I get anxious and start looking for something else to do. And let’s face it, there’s always something else to do.

I blame it in part on the Web. I don’t want to diss it too much, since it supplies a large part of my income, and has made finding sources for stories a breeze, but it’s a huge time and attention vacuum. Even when I’m not working, I’m scanning Facebook and Twitter, reading and writing e-mails, fixing pictures in Photoshop, perusing headlines, watching videos or downloading podcasts.

Then there’s parenthood, an enemy of concentration if ever there was one. Since I became a mom I haven’t stopped multitasking. Even when I’m sleeping I’ve got one ear cocked to make sure my child is still breathing. And when my son is away from me, the other ear is always perched at attention in case the phone rings. It could be the emergency room, or the school principal, or another parent calling to warn me about some horrible disease going through the school.

Yes, parenthood is awful for concentration, but great for the imagination, and that constant fear that something awful will happen now that you’ve got a great big piece of your heart walking around in the world without you.

“I call this concentration thing ‘Adult onset ADD,’ said my friend Angie. “It probably started with child number one, but has progressed rapidly since. Task completion is often difficult. Getting ready for the day involves not just the bathroom and closet, like in the old days. It generally includes the kitchen for breakfast and lunch making, homework signing, etc.; laundry room (gotta get a load going); home office to get the computer booted up for the day; and a ride to school for the ‘drop and run away quickly so I volunteer for anything’ of child number three. Most days I remember to take off my bunny slippers, but it’s a little embarrassing to get to the bagel shop and realize they’re still on. Hopefully I’ve remembered my bra.”

“We all forgot what it was like to finish a sentence, let alone a conversation, once we started bringing kids to social gatherings,” said my friend Tanya, handing me a glass of wine, which probably doesn’t help with my concentration, but does help with my mood.

My friend Janet sent me a text. “It starts with pregnancy and ‘Baby Brain.’ I believed everyone who said it was hormones and that it would get better when the baby was born. Wrong! Then we blamed it on ‘sleep deprivation.’ Then, when my child was a toddler, I figured it was because I was overwhelmed with watching her, Secret Service-style, every minute. But watch out, menopause is the worst,” she warned.

I’d lost my focus by that time.

Rather than blame the kid, I could blame it on technology. What it seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for focused concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the technology distributes it-as a swiftly moving stream of particles.

Or maybe my survival instinct kicked in when I read her menopause comment and it won’t allow my brain to go there yet.

I’ll have to think about that later when I have more time and I can concentrate.

When Leslie’s not struggling with adult onset whatchamacalit, she can be reached at For more columns visit

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 15, 2009.

A Tale of Mice and Moms

DisneylandI have to admit I was a little skeptical when I received the invitation to attend a “Mom Bloggers Day to Learn, Eat and Play at Disneyland.” I love Disneyland, and I like eating, playing and learning, and I am a mom and I do have a blog. But was I really a “mom blogger?” I wasn’t so sure. First of all, I have no idea what they call themselves. Moggers? Bloms?

At the same time, there aren’t too many perks for members of the press these days-unless you count all of those forwarded articles about the demise of the newspaper business from my college friends who I accused of “selling out” when they went to law school-so when I read the words “free admission for your whole family” I was sold, despite my apprehension about the words “mom bloggers.” Not that I have anything against these little moggers. But unlike them, I’m a working stiff, who doesn’t have the luxury of spending hours writing blogs only to be paid with cases of Rice-A-Roni, or even trips to Disneyland.

Okay, maybe I have a little bit of resentment toward the blommies because I actually make my living writing stories, meager though it may be. This isn’t just a hobby for me like it is for most mommygrrs, and I can’t help but remember what my mom used to say about not buying cows when you can get the milk for free.

But the waters are getting murky out there for journalists and bloggers alike. Back in the old days, reputable publications and journalists didn’t take any freebies. But the times are changing, and with barely enough money coming in to pay their writers, publishers are getting much more relaxed about letting their employees enjoy whatever perks they can get.

Just last week, The Wall Street Journal had a story about bloggers getting paid in hard, cold cash to pitch products, which used to be called public relations. According to the article, “Companies see the freebies and payments to bloggers as a cheap way to boost brand buzz during the recession.” It goes on to say that, “The Internet is becoming so rife with paid blogging that the Federal Trade Commission, which guards against false advertisements, is examining whether it should police bloggers.”

I decided to do some detective work of my own. I wasn’t just taking a free trip to Disneyland-albeit with absolutely no promise to them that I would write about them- I was doing some investigative reporting.

I was infiltrating the exciting world of mom bloggers.

Judging from my extremely unscientific sample survey of momoggers who came to Disneyland last week, the vast majority of them took their responsibility to report the objective facts about Disney’s “summer nightastic” plans very seriously. This is despite the fact that some of the mom bloggers had been buffed and bouffanted at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique; many had limbo-ed and conga-ed with Mickey’s crew in his Celebrate! Street Party parade; and all of us had indulged in the tasty “Cowboy Conecakes” served in Frontierland’s new Celebration Roundup & Barbecue restaurant. Seriously, no one turned them down. The presentation was very Martha Stewart, and the frosting to cake ratio was just right, which any self-respecting mom can certainly appreciate.

I struggled to keep my conecake enthusiasm in check, hardened professional that I am. But I couldn’t help but get a little giddy at the reserved front row seating we had for the parade (I could see the flop sweat on Pluto’s face, as he danced his goofy little heart out), and did a little happy dance when they gave us front of the line fast passes for “It’s a Small World,” “Toy Story Midway Mania” and “Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage,” none of which have regular fast passes available to the hoi polloi.

I tried to keep my excitement on the down low as I listened to the mom bloggers talk about some of the biggest issues on their websites.

“Our most lively discussions are always about breastfeeding,” said one of the mooggers, who happened to be 15 months pregnant.

“Not our site,” said a perky blonde. “It’s all about whether or not to go back to work. The great stay at home debate.”

“Not that anyone can afford to stay at home with their kids these days,” offered a tall brunette blogger, in purple sequined Minnie Mouse ears.

Seeing my opening, I pounced. “So do you any of you get paid for writing your blogs?” I asked. They all looked at me like I was crazy. “Does 500 cases of laundry detergent count?” asked a sweet-faced woman with exceptionally clean clothes.

They continued their conversation without missing a beat. It was fascinating, it was fun, and best of all-it was free.

I still don’t know if I’m really a mom blogger. But if you want to know the specifics about all of the new attractions at Disneyland, you can read about them on my, ahem, blog.

When Leslie’s on deadline, or blogging, mogging or tweeting, or on Facebook, she can be reached at For more columns visit www.LeslieDinaberg. Originally published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on May 1, 2009.