Friday, February 11, 2005

You Great Big Beautiful Doll.

You will never go wrong assuming that I am strange, and that I was always strange. Without trying, I am totally indifferent to the conventionally popular goods and services.For example, as a child I was completely tone-deaf when it came to America’s Teenage Fashion Model, Barbie. I probably would have been all agog over a Little House in the Prairie Barbie (Now, with stick-on locusts and malarial shakes), but I just didn’t see the point of the normal kind. Putting a tiny pair of hot pants on legs that refused to help just struck me as annoying.

My mother, undoubtedly grateful there was one thing that didn’t require steady money seepage, never tried to dissuade me from this little oddity. But one Christmas, a friend of my parents who had only sons bought me the equivalent of a Barbie Planned Community. I had dwellings, cars, and enough Barbie and Kens to make up my very own key party. This munificence was completely lost on me. I sent them up and down in the townhouse elevator, chewed on their feet, snuck a scissors from a drawer and then cut their hair. It was probably like watching a rhesus monkey let loose at Mattel. In a short time, having exhausted their potential, I undressed them and sent them to bed for eternity.

I open this particular mental junk drawer in order to explain how my daughter completely gamed me. When it comes to most things material, I am proud to say I am a total killjoy. I think we consume too much as a culture, our house isn’t big and I’m really cheap. In my brain, the only things in the Essential category are food, shelter, and education. Everything else is negotiable. I encourage creativity:

“Play with it at your friends’ house!”
“Use the incredibly weathered sample at Toys R Us!”
“Draw a version of it, and imagine playing with it!”

But, last year, Daughter got it into her head that she had to have a Groovy Girl. She could find the Groovy Girl corner in any toy store merely by echo-location. She’d find pictures of these dolls in a catalogue and give them the kind of longing looks that I didn’t expect to see until she learned about Orlando Bloom. Without prompting, she would recite a list of her top-twenty favorite Groovy Girls by name, hair color and outfit. It was love, it went on for six months, and even I finally understood that I was to be defeated by a ten-inch cloth doll. So, I caved, announcing to no one in particular “But she is not getting one of those Bratz dolls”. Have you seen them? Apparently, Dead-eyed Meth-smoking Teenage Prostitutes was too long a name for the box. But, I digress.

Christmas day came, and she got her doll and three little outfits. It was a huge hit. She said, rather winningly, “Oh, this was just what I’d been hoping and hoping for!” I had visions of her being one of those children I see sometimes, carrying their favorite doll with them wherever they go, mothering it tenderly. Perhaps this doll would one day be placed carefully on the bed in her dorm. And some sweet day, the worn and much-loved doll would be given to her own daughter, with admonitions to treat it well.

Does anyone see what road we’re on? Does anyone forecast that before Valentine’s Day, the only living thing in the house that wanted this doll was the dog? When I asked Daughter about this, her answer was “I don’t play with her because she needs a friend”. I could have pointed out that she played with the Lite Brite, and it had no friend (though it had been seen lying on top of the Etch-a-Sketch on occasion). She didn’t need a book in each hand in order to be able to read, so clearly books didn’t need friends. I could have said this, but I didn’t. I didn’t say this because I am Doll Deficient. And some voice in my head said “Maybe you do need more than one Groovy Girl in order to play…whatever the hell it is that you do with dolls”. So Sucker Mom bought another Groovy Girl. And, as dolls apparently just hate sharing their clothes, another couple of outfits needed to be purchased.

And today all of these items spend quiet, dark time together in the toy chest, along with the Groovy Girl unicorn that she simply had to have for Christmas. It took a year, but I am wiser now. The getting of dolls is infinitely more exciting than the owning of dolls. If someone else chooses to buy her a doll or doll accessories, I cannot stop them, but I will no longer be a participant in this sector of the economy.

Unless it’s on eBay.


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