My daughter is turning thirteen in a couple days and a part of this transition into teenagerdom is the setting aside of her American Girl dolls, which brings a tear to my eye at the very idea that I will never have to set foot into that God-forsaken over-priced scam of a store again.
Tanya has two American Girl dolls. We went together to pick out the first one after receiving a very generous gift certificate to American Girl Place from a group of my wonderful mom friends shortly after Tanya joined our family. Naïve about all things American Girl, I didn’t realize at the time that their immense generosity wouldn’t even cover our entire bill!
In the States less than one year, she picked this doll, from the line of dolls that are supposed to look like you. (In case you’re unfamiliar, they come in every combination of hair color, skin tone and eye color.)
And still, Tanya wanted this one. I gently asked her if she wanted a doll that looked more like her, but she was not swayed. This doll. And it was a favorite toy. She spent hours and hours combing and styling her hair, dressing her up and playing with her.
The following birthday and Christmas, she asked for another American Girl doll and more outfits. This time, she wanted the doll pictured at the top of the page. In spite of the price tag, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. This doll looks like my daughter. I’m not a psychiatrist and I didn’t even sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night but I do know one thing: when you're eleven, wanting a doll that looks like you is healthy and right.
As we started to clear her room of childish things, the parting of the American Girl dolls was a challenge, perhaps more for me than for her. I told her if she wanted she could keep one on her dresser, just for decoration. A lot of teenagers do that. Everyone would know she didn’t actually play with it anymore. Tanya nodded her head. This was a good idea.
As I said, I don’t pretend to understand the psychology behind why she chose that blond doll first, whether it was that All-American look she was after or if, and I may be flattering myself here, it was in some way an homage to her new mother. But I do know when she chose the one doll she wanted to keep on her dresser, and she picked the one that looked like her, it seemed some sort of milestone had been crossed.
Maybe American Girl is all hype and marketing, but in my mind the brand will always be symbolic of a little girl who came to accept herself. And that's, to paraphrase another famously flawed mother, a good thing.