For my granddaughter’s ninth birthday, my daughter and I took her to the American Girl Doll store in Chicago. I had been unaware of the evolution of this iconic doll since my daughter had Molly in the 80s. The Atlantic lamented in 2013, after Mattel purchased the company, that the dolls and their stories have been more or less sanitized, and a “lost sensibility about teaching girls to understand thorny historical controversies and build political consciousness” followed.
There’s enough time in life for children to become politically inclined. Can’t we have a good old-fashioned doll just to have fun with? In my opinion, American Girl has nailed it.
For on thing, the dolls look like real girls (unlike Bratz dolls or Barbie). No glitter (except on a t-shirt) no make up, no giant breasts, no outlandish clothes. The “just like me” dolls are the most popular. And that makes sense, as most girls are keen to accessorize their doll to their interests. They become best friends. It’s no surprise that my granddaughter’s doll is really into horses and a menagerie of furry pets.
At the doll store, she got her doll’s ears “pierced” and they then wore matching earrings. (They also wore matching shirts and bows that I ordered from Etsy.) They were in heaven.
A special dinner
At the American Girl restaurant, happily chatting girls with their dolls sitting next to them in special little chairs that clamped to the tables were everywhere. On each table, a box of innocuous conversation starters written on little slips of paper, such as “What’s your favorite family vacation memory?” “What person, living or deceased, would you most like to meet?” and “What’s your most favorite book?” had us laughing. I’d give the food a five star rating (seriously… I even had a glass of Pinot Grigio) but the best part was the flower pot dessert. We got to take the flowers home, as well as the hair tie napkin rings. It was all so stinking cute it made my heart want to burst.
My granddaughter was smiling ear to ear the entire time. She’ll have lots of adventures and memories with her favorite doll, and to me, that’s an important part of growing up. Developing social consciousness will happen when she’s ready for it. For now, let her be a girl.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell the truth without shame.
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
2015 Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters