My American Doll Life
I used to play house with my Barbies, but it wasn’t the kind of house where I wanted to cook or clean and stuff like that, it was house where I made my brother and sister act out the roll of my son and daughter (or pets) and then I would be the mom (or owner). My brother and I would go back and forth on the issue of a doll versus an action figure. To him male figurines were action figures, not dolls and I thought GI Joe and Ken were dolls. I still do. Ken is such a doll! The doll was used as only when I wanted to dress up and put makeup on this perfectly skinny doll. I was never envious of my Barbies long beautiful blond hair, I just wanted her light skin. I used to lie on the ground closing my eyes and daydream on what it would be like to be White and what it would be like if my White friend’s parents were actually my parents and what it would be like if we were in the same family. I wanted to be White so badly and have a name like Samantha (like my American Girl doll) or Rebecca (because that seemed like a nice normal name to me). After the animated movie, Anastasia came out, I got my first non-blond hair, non-American doll. My mom bought me the beautiful Anastasia doll...
and I loved her until I threw her out with the rest of my Barbies. When Barbie didn’t grow up with me, and I got bored with her I begged my parents to spend lots of money on the next best thing, the expensive American Girl dolls.
Addy, the Black American doll that is now offered through American Girls was not an option when I chose my doll for my 12th birthday, and even now thinking back, I do not think I would have chosen Addy in place of Samantha. I wanted to be in contact with the most important characteristic of beauty to me - Whiteness. Everywhere in the media and in my culture, lighter skinned people or White people were held in such high regard. Not to say that I wasn’t pretty, I just wasn’t the prettiest. I am one of the darkest people in my immediate and extended family and I have had to fend off countless well-meaning aunts and cousins who offered skin-bleaching cream time and time again, so that I could be fair skinned and more beautiful. Even my own mother struggled with my darkness when I was much younger, she would yell at me for being in the sun all day because I would get really dark during the summer or she would say that if I ever married a White guy and had kids with him, they would turn out so beautiful because they would have such a nice olive skin tone between my White husband and I.
After I discovered computers from my tech-savvy brothers, I immediately dropped my dolls and practically gathered them all up and threw them away…all except for my American Girl doll, which is still under my bed at home. I didn’t play with dolls anymore; I discovered the joy of competing with my brothers, reading books and Mavis Beacon’s typing program, that’s when my parents started to worry. Why was I always inside reading late at night or on the computer all the time? If I was too old to play with dolls then I should be old enough, my dad thought to start learning how to cook. Ha. I still hear to this day from him that I should learn how to cook or else I won’t find a husband….oh, well…looks like I am doomed.