When the Girl Child was 5, I allegedly “promised” her that when she turned 8, we’d go on a mother/daughter weekend together. Just us. (I say “allegedly” because I may or may not remember saying it). Nonetheless, she convinced me I had said it by reminding me of that “promise” every day for the next 3 years (Sidenote to parents: Never “promise” small children things you are not prepared to offer up in the next 30 seconds. You will live to regret it otherwise).
Finally, the time came for our long-awaited Summer excursion. She came up with a name for it–”The First Annual Mother/Daughter No Boys Allowed Because They’re Dumb Weekend.” At first, our destination was supposed to be NYC, then she decided it was a toss up between Hollywood, California and Akron, Ohio. Tough choice. Then, at one point, she said she just wanted to be with me and that it didn’t matter where. Say it with me…Awww….How could I deny this precious little manipulative angel our Boys Are Dumb weekend?
So we went to Chicago! The windy city offered something for both of us. For me: theatre, restaurants, book stores and Gucci. For her: Satan’s Den…or what is more commonly referred to as The American Girl Doll Store. For those who don’t know what an American Girl doll is, it might be time to climb out from under that rock. It’s a doll who we are told is American (although she is made in China). She is a doll who costs more than my last evening gown. And the store–well, that is a place to go if the money in your wallet is starting to get too heavy for you to carry around. Indeed, I’ve heard surgeons tell me they spent entire paychecks at that store in one outing. But, the Girl Child wanted it, so we went.
I fully expected to drop a wad, but was completely unprepared for what I encountered when I entered. It was a virtual doll amusement park! A library to the left, a doll “hospital” to the right, a doll “salon”, a doll “restaurant,” well you get the picture.
First thing you do is you have to choose from one of 10,000 dolls. We didn’t know where to begin, so we were paired with a “personal shopper.” This is a very fancy title for what is essentially a 30 year old woman who walks around talking to dolls all day. In some venues, she’d be considered clinically insane. But here, she is a hero–the keeper of the dolls! Crazy Doll Lady (the name I gave her) began by describing to the Girl Child all the personality traits of the McKenna doll. This is a direct quote: “She loves gymnastics and reading and she’s crazy about horses!” Girl Child stared at her in awe, believing that this piece of plastic was a future Olympic gymnast. I, on the other hand, wondered when the men in white coats were coming to get poor Crazy Doll Lady.
It was suggested that the Girl Child choose a doll that she believed most resembled herself. She ended up choosing the one with the mid-length brown hair and brown eyes. This could have been her long lost midget twin sister. I was partial to the one on rollerskates wearing a neckgear and rainbow suspenders. (But this trip wasn’t about me).
I then proceeded to buy both the doll and the Girl Child the following: matching outfits (several of them), hair accessories, a dog named Honey (with a leash), bath accessories, shoes and a purse. The whole trip cost more than my last car insurance payment. But I figured, “Hey, once in a lifetime.” Boy, was I stupid.
One would think that we were done right then and there. But in reality, that was just Phase 1. You see, after having a taste of the forbidden fruit, Girl Child couldn’t get enough. She dragged me back to that place twice over the next 24 hours. All right, I’m lying. She dragged me there 3 times.
The purpose of the next trip was to lunch in the exclusive AMG Cafe, where the dolls have their own chairs and “food.” When I saw the price of the scones and tea they serve, I told Girl Child it wasn’t going to happen. She then cried for an hour and a half. Finally, I calmed her down by telling her yes, we could take a trip to the doll “hospital” even though her doll was not only not sick, but was actually quite healthy and better dressed than I was. The doll hospital rejected Girl Child’s doll for not presenting valid proof of insurance.
Girl Child was still mopey, so I told her fine, we can visit the salon. There in the salon were some stylists (including some men who my grandpa would have referred to as “fruits”) spritzing, spraying, braiding, updoing, pig tailing and blushing dolls just purchased 5 minutes ago. All for the low, low price of too damn much!
I’d had enough by this point. I was tapped out. I told her we were leaving! Now! With doll in one arm and doll’s pet dog in the other, we slowly descended the escalator out of that money pit. When we reached the bottom, Girl Child stopped short and stared straight ahead. I turned around to see what she was staring at. It was another little girl holding a nearly identical doll under her arm. The two girls glared at each other for a few moments–Clint Eastwood style. When we started walking away, she whispered: “Mommy, that girl thinks her doll is prettier than mine! I can tell!” It was at that moment that I realized how truly sickening this whole thing was. As it happens, the American Girl Doll world is just a microcosm of the society we live in. It’s frightening. It’s sad. It’s unfortunate. With that being said, Girl Child’s doll was way hotter than that other dumb girl’s doll.