Friday, August 13, 2010

Valley of the Dolls

My parents divorced when I was six, but I was much younger than that when my father for all intents and
purposes stopped having any influnce over me. So much blame was put on my dad for my eccentricities.
“Well Jake only plays with Barbies because he has no father figure.” Or “Jake would like sports if there were someone around to teach him.” This all sounded perfectly logical to me. However I never really bought the theory. My dad did try; later on my stepfather tried, not to mentions uncles, cousins, and friends of the family. Any male who wondered into the vicinity of our house was assigned to “teach Jake boy things” at least once. Naturally being so young I felt it was my duty to play along. Actually thinking back on it I felt pressured to do so. I tried playing sports; what an especially heinous brand of torture that was. I tried in chronological order Tee-ball, Little League Baseball, Basketball, and Soccer. I hated them all. I would sort of float around in my only little world thinking about what song I would sing when I hosted The Muppet Show, or pretending I was starring in Grease 2. I wanted to be just like Michelle Pfeiffer in that movie. The fact that I was in the second grade and was in fact a boy did not seem to be a deterrent. Needless to say my teammates always looked at me as if I had horns growing out of my head. When I played soccer in the fifth grade there was one girl on the team and I kid you not when I say that during one game she and I literally stood off to the side of the field and played “Mad-Lib’s!” My dad and I have never been close and I know that has affected every part of my life but I am telling you here and now that in this aspect of my life, it would not have made the slightest bit of difference. I gravitated towards “girl things” like a moth to a flame, or flaming queen if you will. Every Christmas morning I’d bypass my own gifts and go right for my sister’s. “What do you mean Barbie’s Dream Bathroom isn’t for me? I don’t want that stupid truck!”

 I recall vividly the day my mom agreed to by me my own Barbie. As a very young child I played with my
sisters Barbies all the time. However they were my sisters’ not mine, and by the time I was nine or ten and
my sisters outgrew them they had all received bad lesbian haircuts or were amputees of some kind, so my
mom decided to toss them. My mother and I were having lunch at our special place, a coffee shop in the mall
 that I thought was the coolest place on earth because I could get a club sandwich and they served chips
instead of fries and you got a pickle spear. It was that pickle spear that made it classy. But I digress, mom
and I were eating lunch there one day, I believe in October. I was nine or ten.
“Mom, can I go to Thornberry’s and get a toy?” I asked.
“Well what do you want?” my mother responded.
At this time I was very in to He-Man figures. No big surprise that my favorite toys were He-Man figures,
heavily muscled men wearing fur panties. Even Skelator had rock hard pecs and thighs that could
crack walnuts. But on that day I didn’t want a He-Man figure. What I wanted was Day-to-Night Barbie; jet-
setting stewardess by day, night-clubbing fashion plate by night. I had become mildly fixated on Day-to-
Night Barbie ever since I had seen her reversible ensemble in the TV commercial that aired regularly during
Saturday morning cartoons.
“I want… well I want… umm….” I said.
“What is it Boy” asked my mom. Something in her green eyes gave me the slightest feeling she was bracing
herself for something. “You can tell me anything.”
“Well… I want a Barbie.” I said it, “I just want to fix its hair and stuff, but never mind can I get a new He-
Man?”
She did not miss a beat. “You can get a Barbie if you want one. There is nothing wrong with being creative,
you always have been.” Always have been, mind you I was nine! “You used to pretend the silver-wear were
people. There is nothing wrong with it. But if you want it to be our secret that’s ok.” Secret, oh the power
that word would have, although the secret that their little brother played with Barbies didn’t stay secret from
my sisters' for very long. I was always bad at picking up my toys.

 Never once growing up did I utter the phrase “I’m bored." Escapism has always been my
weapon of choice. I could entertain myself for hours on end. Some of my earliest memories are of
sitting by the heating vent on our kitchen floor while my sisters got ready for school. I would sit there with my
blanket and play with the utensils. The big utensils my mom used to cook with. I would pretend they were a
family. Not just any family but a family that was on TV. The spatula was the dad because it was the biggest.
Salad tongs were the mom, and assorted measuring spoons and carrot graters were the kids. My favorite
was the tea ball because it had a chain on the end, which in my mind’s eye looked like a girl’s head with a
ponytail. I would get into the cabinets and do the same thing with canned goods and food. So before I
played with Barbie I played with Mrs. Butterworth, it was essentially the same game. I gave them all names,
which I made up. I created for them back-stories and personal relationships, and even a caste system. All of
this was in my head only; I’ve never shared my made-up world with anyone. Many years ago I saw the
movie “Heavenly Creatures”, and aside from the pleated skirts and matricide I was a lot like those girls. My
fantasy world was enormous. Like I said, I was never bored. I could get totally, completely lost in my own
imagination, and be quite content there. I still do that, why do you think I am writing all this instead of
working.

1 comment:

  1. In winter, I used to lay on the floor in our "front room" with my feet on the heat register with a blanket over me and the register watching Hee-Haw and Love Boat. Whenever the heat came on, it would inflate the blanket and I would be in an iglou of hot air. I totally get what you were doing ;). That's hilarious.

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