Growing up, I had all kinds of dolls: a plastic baby crocheted into her own afghan, a hot water bottle wrapped in a washcloth; a drinking and peeing baby; a “lifelike,” ceramic-headed infant with a rounded fabric body and bum weighted with five pounds of little beads; a black-yarn-haired cotton doll the size of a 5 year old that my mom made for me (including her lavender pioneer dress and handbag and white bloomers).
I did not have Barbies. My mother was opposed to the impossible figure they would inspire me to attain, which is fair, because I am a long-waisted 5’3″, which means I have Very short legs. I can wear capris as long pants.
My mom was also opposed to bikinis, because young girls shouldn’t be sexualized or show too much skin. I also didn’t get to wear much black, because kids should wear lots of happy colors.
Once, when I was nine, my mother’s sister (Aunt Delores) came to town from 2500 miles away. She took me to a bunch of yard sales on Saturday morning and bought me several Barbies with frazzled hair and arthritic knees. She laughed and laughed when she found and bought for me a tall, busty German doll with erect nipples. That one was a non-standard-size doll of impossible figure, so she never got any clothes.
I felt terribly scandalous, then, when I used my sister’s eyeliner to paint one of those Barbies with a black bikini. Twenty-six years later I still remember my mortification when my mom found it under my bed. I thought she’d be furious, so I swore up and down that I hadn’t painted it, that it had come that way.
I wonder if I was a better liar then than I am now? Perhaps when you’re a parent, you just get used to finding strange things in your kids’ rooms. Zach told me he once spent weeks collecting his urine in empty soda pop bottles in his dresser drawer, to “see what would happen.” I’m sure his mom had an absolute fit about it.