Watch out, Moms and Dads everywhere. The struggle is real. It does exist. It can happen to you. Maybe you did not know about it, like me. Or, perhaps someone never properly taught you. But beware because you might be next: doll neglect and you.
You think I would know a thing or two about dolls. I am a girl, after all. However, my mom never told me about American Girl Dolls, you know, those 18 inch tall, small plastic models who resemble girls aged 8 to 11 years old and that come in a variety of ethnicity. Yes, those super expensive, female figurines with wardrobes and accessories more expensive than mine. In fact, no girls I knew growing up in Arizona owned one, not one single girl. I am old – but not that old. These dolls came out in 1986, still in my childhood decade.
There I stood for the first time inside the American Girl Doll Store in Scottsdale with all four of my kids (2 boys aged 10 and 8 and 2 girls aged 6 and 4). The place opened over a year ago but we never went in the doors or even by it. I avoided it like the plague. I try hard not to over stretch our budget. This time entering the store was unavoidable as the girl scout’s end of the year party was in the cafe. I heard the stories about the shop from other moms in the past months: “Molly ate lunch with her doll. I bought Kelly and her doll matching outfits there. Katie got her doll’s hair done at the salon inside.” Wait what?!? You paid for your daughter’s DOLL to get her hair done? I don’t even want to pay to get mine done!
Don’t get me wrong or anything, I owned Barbie and Ken dolls. I changed their outfits, brushed tangled hair, and drove them in their little plastic cars. Every now and then Barbie and Ken got cleaned. Well, they went swimming through the bubbles with me in the bathtub before bedtime. They swirled around as the water emptied and ended up crunchy, plastered to the drain after they dried out. They were the toys I never worried about. My round-tipped, metal, elementary school shears even provided them with special haircuts for FREE. But the American Girl Dolls… they are in a whole different social class.
It must of been the magic of the store. Or maybe it was the precious, big, brown-eyes of our 6 year old daughter standing there, holding her Just-Like-Me “Sophia Doll” my late mother picked out specifically for her as a gift before her 5th birthday, that changed my heart. She simply asked, “Mommy, can I get my doll’s hair done?”
“Yes.” I could not resist.
We waited 20 minutes. We watched two other dolls ahead of Sophia get styled. The two store workers did a wonderful job brushing, curling, tying, and putting bows in. The dolls looked better and cute. My girls ran off to the bathroom while waiting but the boys and I stayed there mesmerized by the make-overs occurring in front of our eyes. I thought to myself, “this might actually be money well spent.”
Sophia’s turn arrived. The lady gently set her down in the cutest little salon chair attached to the counter top. She sweetly buckled her up and then softly draped a miniature cover over her shoulder, just like the one at real salons. She lightly spritzed water on the doll’s locks and started combing in silence. A few minutes later, maybe out of frustration or out of disgust, the lady working on our doll behind the counter at the American Girl Doll Store Salon spoke…“This doll is being neglected.”
Completely shocked, confused, and not knowing what to do, I looked around for the nearest exit, for hidden cameras, or armed men in uniform racing towards us.
“She said that out loud,” I thought to myself. “Am I in trouble? Should I be concerned? Is there an American Girl Doll CPS….I mean DPS (Doll Protective Service) out there that I am not aware of coming to get us right now?”
I did not know what to say. In a low toned and slow voice, as if not to frighten the doll but scolding me at the same time, she continued, “May I cut off the stragglers?”
Finally, the hair-do ended. Sophia looked amazing. As the woman behind the counter released her back to us, she handed me this pamphlet on doll care. I am sure she gives one to all her client’s parents. However, there was something extra in her eyes that spoke directly to me, almost warning me, “This is for you. Please read and heed. Or, next time…”
Our daughters adore the doll. They put her in the crib, dress her for bed, take her places, try to do her hair, and lose her shoes. They love her. Sophia’s been with us for almost 3 years now. Our youngest wants her own American Girl Doll for her birthday in July. To the lady behind the counter, I am sorry. We will study, read up, and do our best so the next doll that becomes part of this family will not fall victim to Doll Neglect. Parents out there, please learn from me and read along the care advice pictured above, too. You’ve been warned. Don’t let this happen to you.