When the Water Wiggly Lost its Innocence

The fun-to-squish, potentially poison-filled, almost-entirely-corrupt emblem of my youth

When I was a kid, I didn't ask a lot of questions, especially when it came to toys. I pretty much accepted what I was given. Among the most cherished of my childhood inanimate friends was a stuffed chameleon, a clock topped with a broken carrousel pony, and this thing.

Office Playground

They went by a variety of names. On the street, they were known as "Squishies." Some circles called them, "Water Snakes." But whatever you called them, you were judged by how many you had and how big they were. I had a lot of strange obsessions as a child, but nothing was more inexplicable then the Water Wiggly phenomenon.

While my Water Wigglies have long since kicked the proverbial bucket (or are probably dried up in the attic of my childhood home somewhere), I often reflect on why they were so meaningful to me. Filled with liquid, some kind of pearly plasma, glitter, or plastic sea creatures, the Water Wiggly was a tactile miracle. I could spend hours squishing it, tossing it, and getting my fingers trapped in its, um, openings. It was an egg roll-sized, stress-relieving companion for when breathing people were just too exasperating.

Behind the obsession

Following in the footsteps of my childhood TV idols, Bill Nye, Ms. Frizzle, and the late Steve Irwin (rest his croc-wrestling soul), I was always fascinated by getting my hands onto some bona fide science. I especially loved the model blood platelets that Nye used in his episode about the bloodstream, and thought these Water Wigglies could be versatile as relics of science. If my logic seems flawed, it probably was. But in truth, I was just fidgety and liked to squish these things as hard as I could. I loved seeing how far I could stretch them without breaking. To me, it was all innocent fun.

But alas, many years have passed since those uncorrupted days, and the Water Wiggly is now infected by a post-puberty, post-truth innuendo that's all too clear. This thing is not very appropriate for children.

Though even more alarming, I came across this cheery-yet-disturbing video, which begs the question we've all been bound to ponder: What the hell is inside these things? Watch this.

If you were a child of the late 20th century, a mantra that you probably memorized was the Play-doh tagline, "Fun to play with, not to eat." If you were wondering, that definitely applies here. Here's my advice: if you're not quite sure what's inside, just assume it's poison.

Though when used how their instructions dictate, Water Wigglies don't have to be evil. In fact, some therapists approve of them to help keep those with high energy occupied. Whether you have to get through an excruciating conference, trip to the dentist, or school play, sometimes that little something squishy goes a long way. And Water Wiggly is a lot more fun to say than Stress Ball.

Whatever your stance on Water Wigglies, know this: harness their calming forces for good. Don't corrupt a simple, lovely thing with crude and tasteless jokes. Just enjoy it for what it is.