I am currently on a 10 week online writing course with 9 other members of my writing group, the Write On, Mamas, with Kate Hopper of Use Your Words. I wrote the following as an exercise in Humor (that's Humour for you Brits). It was inspired from reading Catherine Newman's "Pretty Baby" piece". Here it is:
“Why on earth haven’t you bought Emma a doll?” My friend asked indignantly. “Honestly, Claire, she ought to have at least one doll.”
She then proceeded to give my 5 year old daughter, dressed in a bright red t-shirt, blue trousers and a baseball hat, the most hideous-looking doll I had ever seen. Was she serious? It was the stuff of nightmares. Horror film’s Chucky in a pastel dress. It was bald and chubby, with horrible staring eyes and a mouth that was molded open, like a fish frozen in its last agonizing death cry.
In disgust, I watched my daughter latch onto the doll with glee and cuddle it up to her. Did I imagine the glassy eyes glint at me in triumph? If I lifted its frilly undergarment would I see 666 scratched on its butt cheek? Emma innocently placed it into her mini stroller, after unceremoniously dumping the previous occupant (her beloved fluorescent pink elephant) on the ground, and walked off importantly round and round the garden, bending over and muttering Mumsy-type nothings to the devil toy every so often.
“There, you see, Claire!” my friend announced triumphantly, with a smug look on her face. “She loves it. You mustn’t stop her being a girl just because you aren’t girlie.”
Despite wanting to poke my friend’s eyes out with a sharp stick after this slur on my parenting ability, I could see her point - Emma did seem to be enjoying herself.
I felt betrayed somehow. I have always hated dolls and never played with them myself when I was a child. My favorite outfit was a cowboy and Indian set that my sister and I would share, complete with toy gun and holster, and a bow and arrow. I loved nothing better than running around the garden whooping and hollering and shooting my sister dead. (Perhaps anger management would have been a good after-school activity choice if it had been around back then.)
Now, I wanted to jump up, rip the Antichrist out of the stroller, stomp on it like an Indian doing a war dance, set it on fire and send it back to the hell and damnation from which it undoubtedly came, along with all the other glass-eyed scary demon-dolls. Particularly the frighteningly tasteless ones in ugly Victorian clothing that my Grandmother used to insist I play with as a 'special treat' when we went to visit, when all I wanted to do was ride the old-fashioned rocking horse and pretend I was Jesse James.
I restrained myself.
Despite my penchant for dressing my daughter as a tom-boy and giving her cars and action toys to play with, she has grown up to be the most girlie of all girls. She adores dresses and skirts in pretty feminine colours, could apply make-up better than me at the age of 11, spends hours teasing her hair into gorgeous little ringlets or works it cleverly into a French plait or straightens it better than any hairdresser. Thankfully, otherwise I would probably have had to disown her, she is also very adventurous, likes massive four-wheel drive trucks and off-road dirt biking.
When I had got over what I considered to be an implied insult and, instead, recognized it for what it was, a dear friend giving a sweet little girl something that was missing from her life, I was able to thank her and allow Emma to have other more feminine and girlie possessions. I really don't want to pass on any more of my hang-ups - after all, she already has my exagerated hand movements when speaking and horrible feet.