Sunday, 25 March 2007

Baby Dolls

Never really been a doll person. I had dolls when I was little, but I didn't really connect with them.

All but one of my dolls were made of hard plastic; providing me little comfort, with their cold rigid little bodies and lifeless eyes. No, it were teddy bears and other stuffed animals that I delighted in most.

I took one particular bear everywhere with me. It had no name, but I would hold the ear of that fuzzy brown bear to my nose, and for whatever reason; its familiar smell soothed me, but not the dolls.

I tried to love my dolls; brush their odd stiff hair, and dress their inflexible bodies. I would wheel them around in the dolls pram, but ultimately, their lack of response and vacant expressions became a source of resentment to me, and I vented my frustration in various ways: ousting them from the dolls pram in preference for the stuffed animals, cutting their cascading fake locks, dressing them in the ugly dolls clothes, thus favouring my favourite doll outfits for the animals, scribbling on them with pen.....

I was never a pretty child. My parents dressed me as a boy, preferring to purchase plain, non-gendered clothing, so my brother could benefit from them once I had outgrown them. My hair, a mess of curls, was cut boyishly short, so my mother didn't have to struggle with the tangled birds nest atop my head. Those who didn't mistake me for a boy, assumed I were a tom-boy, but I was actually a little girl, screaming on the inside, to express her femininity.

I wanted the long hair in braids. I wanted my ears pierced. I wanted to wear pretty dresses that twirled when I spun and flounced when I ran. I wanted to own pink things, play dress-ups and beauty shop; learn ballet and go to girl scouts with my friends, but none of this was to be.

One Christmas, I asked for a doll with long hair - the emphasis was the long hair, a feature that would enable me to experiment with; style and make pretty, so when the time came, that I could grow my own hair long and pretty, like the other girls, I would know how to style it.

I did receive a doll with long hair that Christmas. She was a doll with eyes that closed when I laid her down. Like the others, she consisted of a hard plastic body, and legs that moved only at the hip, so when she was sat down her legs spread wide - most unlady-like; and arms that twisted only from the shoulder.

She had a lovely face, quite pretty in fact. She was dressed in a long old fashioned dress, with a cameo broach clasped at the throat. Her hair was a beautiful rich, red; the colour of paprika, and so shiny. The light caught her red tresses in such a way, that it seemed to be dotted with the tiniest fairy lights. I would have willingly traded my unruly blond boy-cut, for hair of that colour. Her long hair was styled into a sweet, feminine bun, with pieces falling about her ears, twisted into spiralling soft wisps.

I couldn't wait to let down her hair and take to it with a soft brush; plait it, braid it, tie it back and up, a million different ways. She was just what I wanted....until I was told that I could never let down her hair. It was to stay up. Her hair was to stay in that same perfectly coiffed style forever more. "Her hair is not for playing with", I was told. How disappointed I was, and while I played with that doll a lot longer than the others I owned, once again, I grew frustrated by my inability to interact with my pretty friend, until one day, I couldn't stand it anymore, and I pulled at the stitching that secured her bun, sending a mass of scarlet curls tumbling past her shoulders. To my utter horror, her hair was a terrible spiky crop all over her crown; the length sprouted only from the nape of her neck, and had merely been bundled on top hiding the nasty truth beneath. My mother had been correct; the only way her hair looked pretty was in that untouchable up-do, and now I had ruined it.

My daughter really enjoys dolls. I had never been inclined to buy her one, since I lacked the connection with my own, but her Godmother gave her one for her first birthday, and she really liked it. Two Christmases ago,she was given another, and last summer I let her pick one toy from the toy shop in town. She chose a little purple clothed doll.

She runs straight to the dolls at playgroup and enjoys putting them in the high chair, the crib, the dolls pram and wheeling them around. Her only frustration with her own purple doll, was that it came with a bottle and a pacifier, but neither fit in her mouth, they are just for pretend. So when I asked her what she wanted for her up coming birthday, she answered that she wanted a doll that she could give a bottle and pacifier to.

Yesterday I went to the store, aware that there would be a variety of dolls available, and also thinking that I would easily make my choice and be out of there. WRONG. Yes there were a number of dolls, and there were a number that enabled one to secure a pacifier in its mouth, but they were also kind of ...well....creepy.

One doll - Baby Alive, had these huge eyes. They blinked but otherwise stared in a possessed startled fashion. The doll spoke and giggled in a high pitched sugary sweet tone. It ate food and pooped, but get this, and this is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Baby Alive, the doll sniffs the air, lip curling to the imaginary (I hope) scent, and says "I made a stinky"! I don't know about you, but there is something a bit unsavoury about that. I decided that Baby Alive could "make stinky's" for some one else.

There was another doll - the Interactive Chou Chou. It cried real tears, it drank real water from a cup, it didn't wet or poop though (which I actually appreciate), so the drink must get recycled into tears. It cries and talks, laughs and interacts with an array of "accessories" many of which you have to buy separately - I could see big dollars being invested in the future of this doll, so no thanks.

There was another doll that literally shut its eyes. A fold of "skin "enveloped them when one pressed the dolls hand. It was an interesting feature, rather life-like, but naaaaah. It was a bit freaky for my liking; besides, the doll wore a bit of a doped out expression.

There were an array of other dolls, that came with a pile of bits of pieces, most dolls these days seem to be soft bodied, with only the knees down and forearms to hands made of a soft plastic or rubber -like substance. But after a good 45 minutes of pondering, and almost walking away, feeling rather unnerved by the sea of baby doll eyes bearing down on me from all angles, I gathered my nerve and settled on Lullaby Chou Chou. It sucks on a bottle and the pacifier can be placed in its mouth. It doesn't poop. It giggles and cries. It can be dressed and undressed, and has a soft, movable cuddly body. It didn't have as many of the features as some of the other dolls, but then I figured, let Missy Mopps stage some of the imaginary play herself.

I hope Missy Mopps likes her.


shishyboo said...

do you think we might have been separated at birth? I was the same with dolls as a kid.
my mum let me have long hair but always kept it tied up and never let any other kids play with it.
I guess I was a tomboy but only because my mum wasn't a very girly role model.
My little miss loves dolls as well as her stuffed animals, the way she interacts with them is gorgeous and I must admit i sometimes feel a tad envious of that kind of fun seemed to have bypassed me as a child.
great entry!

Susan Abraham said...

What a delightful & yet sensitively-written post, Strauss.
I loved all my dolls and still remember each one fondly; possibly as signposts for a sugared past to which I can no longer return. Here's a picture of a doll, I thought you might like. :-)

Susan Abraham said...

Sorry, I mean a doll scene and not a doll.

Kimberly said...

You are an amazing story-teller. I was simply enchanted.

Baby dolls creep me out something fierce as well. And it saddens me to see so many toys being created which seem to rob children's imaginations.

jeanie said...

I had several special dolls when I was a girl - and inherited most of my sister's, too, as she was not very interested. I still remember how much it broke my heart when Helan, my bride doll, lost her feet to the "left out in the sun in the sandpit for days" ailment!

And oh, I remember the don't touch the hair (or the clothes) rules - put there for a good reason, but so against the whole playing with dolls ethos!

My grandmother had a porcelain doll who lived in her cellophane for over 80 years - that would have driven me insane.

My daughter has one of those creepy Baby Alive dolls - thanks grandpa (not) - although you cannot find the diapers or food for her, hence her pooing days are limited - and crap batteries make her very uninteresting indeed - although I don't think we are ever going to see the $100 that went on buying her again.

Good luck on your daughter loving her though - my girl had many hours of fun making schools and such for her dolls and stuffed toys.

Heather said...

I loved my dolls. Just baby dolls, I wasn't into the Barbie craze.

I loved dressing them, and had loads of baby doll clothes to choose from.

My mom made these little carrier packs once for our dolls. We could strap them on, and tote them all around town.

Once I dressed my sleeping kitten in baby doll clothes too. That didn't go over well. You should have seen her somersault around the room when she woke up!

At least baby dolls don't squirm as much as the real thing, or make as much noise... ;)

Kathleen said...

I enjoyed my dolls as a child, and have a Betsy Wetsy put away somewhere. I've collected a few as an adult...a gorgeous hand-made clay doll we got on our honeymoon..she's got gorgeous spaghetti-like curls, beautiful dress, high-top boots,and an arm full of roses. Michael bought me two as birthday gifts from the "Yesterday's Child" collection by Boyds. One has the most beautiful long, curled, auburn hair. She came with a violin, a music stand and music for "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" favorite record as a child. She also comes with a little bear dressed in a tux..I think he's the conductor for her recital. The other has long black hair, and straw bonnet. She's dressed for an afternoon of croquet, with mallet and ball, and her little bear partner has a mallet too. They are gorgeous...porcelain face and hands..12-14" tall. I'm always on the lookout for another!
I remember Heather's Cabbage Patch doll....and I *think* I remember her dressing the cat!
Hope your little Miss enjoys her baby...

strauss said...

Thanks for teh feedback everyone. I loved reading the doll stories, both the loves and the not-so-loves. Thanks for sharing.

giant stuffed toy said...

I also fell the same as you fell. Me too a big doll bug...