Ghosts of Obsessions Past

Yes, she's a doll. And yes, I'm still obsessed.

Yes, she’s a doll. And yes, I’m still obsessed.

Do unfulfilled childhood obsessions ever really leave us? Perhaps their presence isn’t felt with the same intensity. But they linger somewhere in the background: Ghosts of obsessions past.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend’s daughter greeted me with her newly-gifted American Girl Doll. This wasn’t one of the original dolls–the historical ones that masqueraded as “educational toys.” This was a straight-up expensive-as-heck little girl doll–with the same hair color as my friend’s daughter, and even, for the giant of wallet, the same clothes.

Back before dolls were the literal extensions of our childhood selves, I dreamed of an American Girl Doll of my own. I oscillated between Kirsten (of Swedish ancestry and pioneer spirit), and Felicity (a feisty redhead from the Revolutionary War), ultimately deciding that Felicity was a better fit for my personality type.

Unfortunately for me, Felicity was not a fit for my parents’ bank account.

So I did what every American Girl-deprived female of my generation did: I checked all the AG books out of the library. I pored over every AG catalog that came in the mail. And then I made do with my family of dolls from Toys ‘R Us, knowing that my parents were not to be budged.

Several years later, when I was nearing the end of my doll-playing days, my sister was the lucky recipient of Molly, the spirited (were any of the AG dolls not some iteration of “spirited”?), bespectacled doll from World War II. I had a raging case of jealousy, and an older sister’s wisdom: My parents could hold out with one daughter, but not, in the end, with two.

Because I know my mother will read this and leave me a message on Facebook about it, I’ll add here that it was at this point, at the age of 14, that I was finally offered a doll of my own. And though I wrestled with the temptation that accompanies every girl’s unfulfilled AG obsession, teenage self-knowledge eventually won out. I still wanted Felicity, and I wanted her bad. But I knew I was too old to give her the attention she deserved. (OK, yes, I also couldn’t imagine the post-Christmas conversation with my friends. “So what did you get for Christmas?” “Oh, you know. Just an American Girl doll.”)

And yet, as my friend’s five-year-old regaled me with tales of choosing her doll, as she showed me each piece of miniature clothing, each darling little accessory, I felt that old childhood longing rise within me once again.

“I wish I had an American Girl doll,” I told her, as we fixed her look-alike’s hair.

She looked up at me and, with the wisdom of a child suggested, “You’re a grown-up with money. You could just buy one for yourself.”

5 Things I’m Obsessing About This Week (AG dolls included): MAY 29, 2013

1. Based on this post, it won’t be hard to figure out who I am on this list. Will I ever NOT be obsessed? (Don’t answer that.)

2. Trippy. (But good for summer reading.)

3. I’m just a little excited about this recycling project. How cool is that?!

4. And speaking of recycling, all hail the giant stomach!

5. It’s almost time to turn off my oven during a long, hot summer. But before I do, must have THESE.

Happy Wednesday!


  1. They don’t leave us — they reawaken with greater intensity. What remains to be seen is, will you buy Felicity? It’s a slippery slope from there to daily conversations with her and a house full of dolls :). I admit, I’ve indulged in a few nice die-cast cars based on the perfectly sound reasoning of your friend’s five-year-old, but I don’t roll them around on the floor and make engine sounds — not that there would be anything wrong with that. Well, maybe I roll them around a bit — but only on tables! And then there’s my Lego collection. Oh yeah, forgot about that.

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