Barbie Flashback and the American Girl Addiction.
FLASHBACK to August 1978. It is my sixth birthday party. Someone has given me a Barbie doll. I hate dolls, I say. They’re stupid, and they don’t do anything. I toss it in the back of my closet and forget about it.
FLASHBACK to 1988. Junior year of high school. My friend Andrew wears combat boots with the disembodied, disfigured head of a Barbie doll tied to one of his shoelaces. I think that this is the coolest thing ever, and dig up the old Barbie from the back of my closet. I give her an asymmetrical, Duran Duran haircut, rip her head off, and tie it to the rearview mirror of my car.
FLASHBACK to 1993. Senior year of college. I’m taking a seminar entitled, “American Culture in the 1960s.” I write my final paper on the ways in which Barbie has permanently damaged the American female psyche.
FLASHBACK to 2004. Michael and I are in Chicago for a wedding. Harper, two years old, has been left home, and I’m feeling guilty about it. Suddenly, a red storefront looms in front of me. American Girl, it says in bold, white letters. What’s that? I ask Michael. He shrugs. Excited at the prospect of having found something new, we enter. Almost immediately, I am regretting it. There are little girls everywhere, clutching dolls that look exactly like them, that are dressed exactly like them. I stare at them as I ride the escalator to the third floor, wondering what kind of freakish cult we’ve stumbled upon. After seeing the doll hair salon, I run for my life. Barbie suddenly seems quaint. I will never let Harper have one of those things, I tell Michael. NEVER.
FLASHBACK to one year ago. An invitation arrives in the mail. It is for a birthday party at the new American Girl store that has opened in Los Angeles. It is addressed to Harper Green and her American Girl doll. I immediately throw it in the trashcan and e-mail my regrets to the mother. I am extremely pleased with myself for having dodged that bullet.
FLASHBACK to two months ago. Harper comes home from kindergarten and informs me that all of her new friends have something called American Girl dolls that look like them. She wants one. I tell her maybe for Hanukkah and pray that she will forget about it.
FLASHBACK to two weeks ago. I ask Harper what she wants for Hanukkah. She hasn’t forgotten about it.