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Featured ArticleOh You Beautiful Doll !

Dolls that hit the bottle and the kids who love them
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Children who play with dolls develop ways to expand their interests, imaginations, and personalities. I always enjoyed Tiny Tears -- an aberration that might explain a lifelong interest in therapy. I hated Barbie even as a child, but not for the proper feminist rationale. Barbie was sharp and pointy. I always poked myself on her spiky fingernails and abnormally arched feet. I don't know when my life began being ruled by a closet, but I always liked the doll clothes better than the dolls. Mine never played house. They played Loehmann's.

I watched my sons attack, deform and decapitate friends and foes of GI Joe, and occasionally caught them cuddling a refugee from the Cabbage Patch. My daughter, a bag lady by nature, spent most of her imaginary years talking to hapless dolls of all sizes as she stuffed them into bags filled with tiny clothes, blankets, pillows, and toys. When our babysitter's grandmother crocheted an entire wardrobe for Barbie, the incredible mini-masterpieces went directly to satchel city.

In the early fifties, my sister was thrilled to receive Patty Playpal for her third birthday. Patty was reportedly the height of an average three year old girl. Her knees didn't bend, but hip joints allowed her to ambulate like a feminine version of Frankenstein's monster. I could never understand why anyone would want such an unwieldy, listless surrogate sibling. Frankly, I had one that walked and talked and still couldn't see the advantage. I saw Patty recently in an antique shop, looking none the worse for wear. After all, she has done absolutely nothing for forty-five years. I was shocked, however, to see how small she is. Wouldn't it be nice to confront all of our childhood bugaboos from the advantage of adulthood?

Today, there are dolls that burp, talk, giggle, fly, dance, and "soil" their diapers. Happily, some even resemble diverse doll owners who aren't blonde and blue-eyed. Dolls with disabilities sensitize us to all kinds of people. But I am most astonished at Popsi, a doll made from recycled plastic soda bottles. The ultimate ecologist, Popsi comes with an illustrated storybook entitled "Secrets of the Dump". At last, children can play with garbage and still receive mother's blessing. I shudder to think what's next in the world of noisome to toysome. I poured myself a glass of diet soda this morning and I could swear I heard the bottle say "Mama".

Written by Marcia Brown Rubinstien
August 28, 1997

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