06/04/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

To My Future Son

Hey future son,

I know it's a few years before your future mother and I have planned on bringing you into this world, but I figured it's never too early to open up the lines of communication. There's a lot going on in this world; it's never too early to begin to prepare.

I thought about you the other day, in fact, after I read an article in the NY Times, "Disney Expert Uses Science to Draw Boy Viewers." The Walt Disney Company -- you'll learn about them, quickly -- recently went on an initiative to "figure out" how they could appeal to boys ages six to fourteen, relying on the services of their "expert," a woman named Kelly Peña. In a nutshell, she spent eighteen months inside the homes and lives of young boys, like you will be one day, finding out what appeals most to them.

It's quite an amazing idea, although nothing new. Companies like Disney realize that young boys have this odd need to rebel against societal norms, especially those put forth by their parents and teachers. Instead of using outdated means, like employing the agencies of divine wrath to guilt them into doing good with ethical and moral laws, there's now a much more effective method: figure out your rebellion, and sell it back to you! This way you become part of the norm without ever realizing it.

Again: hardly groundbreaking. Remember, I'm from the age of Star Wars, which produced the action figure: mythologizing screen heroes in order to sell cheaply manufactured plastic representations. My father, your future grandfather, was working with computer systems since the 1970s; I had one of the earliest laptops imaginable, which weighed more than most desktops today. I fought spaceships on a Commodore Vic 20. I bought Underoos in the supermarket, where keen marketers could sell Scooby Doo and Spider Man prints easier than in malls. I know all about living the lives of others due to clever product placement.

Don't worry, I'm not going on a "When I was your age" tangent. I'm just letting you know that life is about cycles, and you'll have to go through ones similar as myself, although in different dress. For the first eighteen years of your life, somebody is going to try to define nearly every facet of your existence without you even realizing it. (If all goes well, that trend will continue for another eighty years.) Of course, they're going to sell it to you, making you feel like what they have is so necessary to the construction of your identity that life would not be possible without it. The less you understand this, the better. That's why woman like Ms. Peña get paid top dollar. Like she says in the article, "Children seemed to open up to me."

The best part is that you begin to get paid for your part in the process right away! And not petty cash either; $75 for letting her turn your room into an archaeological dig, sifting through your thoughts with as much attention to detail as your drawers. That way, you can use your hard-earned money to buy Disney products. That's how the cycle feeds upon itself, and hopefully you never realize the head is biting its own tail.

I hope you understand why I'm writing specifically to you today, future son. Because, apparently, they've already "figured out" my future daughter. Sales to her are going strong. It's you that they're worried about. It was no bias on my part. I'm just trying to salvage what I can.

If all plans go well, there's even a chance you'll be born in 2012, future son. That's right. Not only will you get to enter the world during this latest phase of undercover marketing, you'll also be born in accordance to the astrological cycle of an ancient Mayan cosmological system, where you'll be prepped and primed for an upcoming spiritual revolution that can be sold to you in innumerable fine bookstores and New Age websites across the planet. I'm proud of you already, and slightly jealous.

(Never mind that that very cycle brought Cortés to Mexico. The New Age has no need for actual history, especially when they can just imagine whatever they want into the future. And sell it to you.)

I'm sure there will be more later, future son. I just needed to prepare you for what you're stepping into. Don't worry, there's plenty of beauty and goodness here. As you'll find out, I'm not a pessimist. I enjoy life for numerous reasons: my friends, my family, my career, your future mother. It's a great place. You just have to fight for it, sometimes.

What to watch out for? Oh, that's easy. Just keep a heads up on the Ms. Peña's of the world. The people who will make you feel like their best friend while they pillage your mind.

What was that? Should you watch out for her children? No, no, of course not. She doesn't have any.