Friday, January 10, 2014

Oh, You Beautiful Doll!

When I was a little girl, I loved playing with dolls.  All types.  They spoke to me like no other toy could.  I just adored baby dolls and everything about them.  The powdery smell of their plastic skin, their overstuffed bodies and double stitched limbs.  Such hypnotic, pleasant features.  I can remember their names:  Caroline, Elizabeth and Priscilla, those were my three favorites.

I fed and diapered my babies, and I changed their outfits several times a day.  I sat on the rug in my bedroom, swaddling them in old bath towels and rocking them to sleep.  I spent hours, just staring at their faces and thinking about things.  Tilting their bodies forward and back, watching their eyes blink and reopen, familiarizing myself with the noises they made.  Just like some moms.

I was a good mother to my own children, but I drew in crayon across the cheeks of my sister's dolls.  I pulled their eyelashes out.  Experiments were conducted.  I treated my synthetic nieces like unwanted foster kids.  I'm not sure why I behaved this way.  These dollies didn't belong to me, and Judy had every right to raise her daughters as she pleased.  I will admit, not my proudest moment.

Perhaps it was the pressure of having kids at such a young age.  I was eight years old, unskilled, with no job and so many mouths to feed.  All girls, mind you.  Jesus Christ, one was dumber than the next.

I also dug the dress-up dolls, just as much.  They introduced me to the possibility of a glamorous life beyond Zerega Avenue, perhaps in other exciting neighborhoods in the Bronx and possibly Queens.  I was mad crazy for Dawn, Barbie's pint-sized competitor.   Dawn was a scrappy little overachiever, the proprietor and top model of her very own modeling agency.  Most of her best friends were models, as well - Angie, Glori and Dale.  Jessica was an international stewardess who dated black guys.  Sure, everyone said their crazy, multi-racial friendships would never catch on.  But I knew we'd prove the world wrong!

Dawn and her pals enjoyed a wide range of cool accessories and thrilling adventures.  They changed their clothes constantly and went out dancing every night.  They danced so much that some of their knee joints turned green and no longer clicked when you tried to bend them.  Nothing dampened their spirits. These girls really knew how to have fun!

Gary, Ron and Van were the handsome guy friends who supported the girls' thriving careers by going to all the shows and driving them around when they got too drunk.  As they had no steady jobs of their own, Dawn threw her male chums some modeling gigs here and there.  They made just enough cash to keep the party going.  These boys were devilishly good-looking and that's all that really mattered.

Kevin was Dawn's dreamboat fiance.  They were crazy about each other and eventually married at the disco.  I had no idea at the time, but they were all high as kites.  Every last one of them.  I read somewhere that Kevin died of an overdose, the agency folded and eventually, Dawn went off the deep end.  Such are the perils of the fashion industry.


I never owned any Barbie dolls.  They were very expensive.  I did, however, secure a Growing-Up Skipper for Easter one year from my Dad's brother, George.  Albeit a strange gift to receive from an adult male with no children of his own, I was still very pleased when she arrived on the scene.  I embraced Barbie's little sister, despite her pubescent challenges and erratic mood swings.

Growing-up Skipper faced accelerated physical and emotional challenges.  Every time you cranked her arm, she grew taller and her boobies got bigger.  I found her growth spurts to be both upsetting and exciting, all at the same time.  I spent hours briefly allowing her to mature and then immediately regret the decision, reverting in shame to the flat chest she had known as a child.

I was late giving up the dolls of my childhood.  I begged for Baby That-A-Way when I turned eleven.  I was already too old for this kind of play, and I was kind of embarrassed about it.  I nurtured her in private, then promptly set her down in front of the stairs to demonstrate my detachment.  Her leg broke, and she never crawled properly again.

Soon after Baby That-A-Way's final bathtub accident, I moved on to my lifelong hobby.  Boys.

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