For the most part, I’ve gotten off pretty easy on the girlie-girl scale.
A Blue’s Clues obsession trumped any interest in the Disney princesses, followed by Scooby Doo in lieu of Bratz Dolls. Of course, at her first-grade party, she invited the whole class and ended up with enough Barbies to field a Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleading Squad.
They mostly stayed stuffed in a drawer until a few years later, when a friend was spending the night. During an unsupervised time when I thought the girls were sleeping, the two of them gave all the Barbies insane asylum buzz cuts and colored their faces zombie green.
I tried to be dismayed about the useless destruction. But you know, Barbie had it coming.
My girl never hated dolls, but she’s never been one for stereotypes. A middle-schooler now, she came home telling me she was trying out for a Midsummer Night’s Dream at school. For the role of Peter Quince. Because “well, Shakespeare didn’t write a lot of good parts for girls.”
She got the role.
So, it caught me by surprise when the subject of American Girl dolls came up. I love the idea of the dolls, all accompanied by their own historical fiction book, filled with smart and strong role models. But their target market isn’t exactly Twilight-reading ‘tweens. And she didn’t just want the doll. She wanted to go to Dallas and get her doll from the American Girl store.
So, I set goals for her grades. She started saving her allowance and set her sights on Julie: the doll from the 1970s who challenges her school for the right to play basketball with the boys because they don’t have a team for girls. Perfect.
And this weekend, it was time.
Downstairs, nothing but dolls and their accessories, and girls. Lots and lots of squealing little girls. In the midst of them, my almost-teenager, making a beeline for Julie.
We bought her, and at the counter, the sales clerk said “would you like me to take Julie out of the box?”
“Of course,” she said.
And as they handed her the doll, I watched the hands of time spin backwards.
“Mom,” she said. “I can’t stop petting her hair.”
And then, it was time to take Julie to the second floor where they have a hair salon and ear-piercing station. FOR THE DOLLS.
The women working on the dolls are very serious. VERY serious. However, since Julie was fresh from the box, we opted not to spend another $20 getting her hair done. But we did eat lunch in the American Girl Bistro.
Julie did not eat, but she did get her own chair. I wanted to roll my eyes at this, but every table had dolls in their own chairs. And when one little girl next to us got up and left hers behind, M quickly rushed to tell a waitress, who explained that doll was a lunchtime loaner for girls who left their dolls at home.
A little girl at the table beside us, probably about 5, also had Julie. She talked dolls with M, wide-eyed that this big girl with braces had the same doll she had. She asked her dad to take their picture. On the other side of our table, another little girl told my daughter how she almost got Julie, but chose Lanie, the doll of the year. M told her she looked like her doll, and she beamed.
Then, as we were leaving, the girl rushed over and pressed a bracelet into my daughter’s hand. “I made it with my grandma,” she said. “I make lots of things with her, and I want you to have this one.”
I looked at her mom, wanting to make sure it was ok, and realized we were both barely holding in tears. M took the bracelet, wrapped it twice around Julie’s doll arm. “Look, it’s perfect,” she said.
The little girl beamed. “Keep it forever, ok?” Then, she threw her arms around M. And right there in the American Girl Doll store, I watched my daughter, in the midst of dealing with cliques and boys and all the drama of middle school, hug her too, transported back to an age when making friends was just that easy.
And that, I think, was worth the trip.