It’s that time of year again at the office… Time to play “Secret Santa.” Those of us out here on the Left Coast are no exceptions to the rule. My wife is buying something for a co-worker at the office; additionally, in the spirit of the season, we decided to adopt a child at a local school, thanks to a notice my wife received at work. We’ll be providing a gift for a child from, as they say, “a disadvantaged background.”
This is nothing new for me. While I always had an embarrassment of riches come Christmas morning, my family has always helped with local food drives, adopted families through local social service agencies, and the like. Christmas to me has always been about the spirit of sharing, of caring, of spreading joy, regardless of your beliefs, politics, or values (my new buzzword of the week seems to be “always”…). So to me, that’s Christmas: the warmth of the human spirit, and the ability to demonstrate love and compassion, qualities that seem to often be in short shrift.
This “Secret Santa” gig for our adopted child is a little bit different from what I’m used to: usually when I’ve been asked to help out with things like this, there’s a list of things that the child likes, or enjoys doing, and that acts as a guide for gifts. The same is true with playing Santa at work; usually there’s no specific desire, just a few general likes and dislikes. It allows for a certain amount of flexibility.
Not this time around. This time, we had a very specific request: our child asked Santa (after reassuring that she’s been behaving, at least since, oh, Thanksgiving) for a “My Scene Fab Faces Doll.” Ok, ask and ye shall receive. No problem. But I’m definitely behind the times. I left childhood behind more years ago than I care to remember, and I am, for the time being, childless. I don’t see my niece often enough to be brought up to date on the latest, and I haven’t watched Saturday morning cartoons in eons, so I have been fortunate enough not to be bombarded with advertising for the toy based on the cartoon I’m now watching (or rather, the cartoon I’m watching based on the toy I’m supposed to have already bought the minute it was available for pre-orders on Amazon). What this means, of course, is that I need to find out what a “My Scene Fab Faces Doll” is, and buy one.
Well, I know we’ve had quite a few toys over the years that are gender specific, hew to stereotypes or trends, or definitely fall into the realm of fantasy. Barbie, of course, is a perennial winner in these categories: if she was real, she’d be about a 39-19-33 (I’ve also seen proportionate real-world measurements for everybody’s favorite doll at 32-20-42; in any event, both stats are grossly out of whack with real-life women), and over 7 feet tall. Not exactly representative… This doll, however, or four dolls, actually, both amused and shocked me. Take a look (here, here, here, and here): don’t you think these four look like teen hookers? Fake furs, quite short, glittery, sequined, one-piece dresses, high heels, a matching outfit of hot pants and a flimsy tank top, and too much makeup (or suggested makeup, if you will)?
Don’t get me wrong– I have nothing against dolls in general, and although I can be old-fashioned about some things, I usually don’t bat an eye at anything I see or hear. On the contrary, I’m rather jaded, I think, and open-minded (at least I hope so!) about a lot of things– and that includes what women wear (or don’t wear). I think both women and men should have the right to dress and accessorize as they wish, to express their personality however they want. But with these dolls, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m starting to become slightly reactionary, or if they are, in fact, are a wee bit over the top. Still, dolls have over the centuries catered to stereotypes, from the dolls made for children as a method of socializing the child towards motherhood, to the glamour and glitziness of Barbie, a doll consumed by shopping and fashion. We boys had dolls too, except they are called *ahem* action figures. From G.I. Joe to superheroes, our he-men modeled machismo and male stereotypes all across the board. Daddy goes out into the world, shoots to kill, beats up the bad guys, and brings home the bacon; Mommy takes care of children, cooks and cleans, goes on shopping sprees, makes sure she looks fab at the pool, and now, apparently, wears fake furs and hot pants. Madonna to whore– dolls run the whole gamut of stereotypes from A to B (apologies to Dorothy Parker!). I’m hoping the intended recipient we are buying these for grows up to have a broader, more enlightened view of feminity than just clothes and makeup.
If I was solely in charge of picking the gift, I’d have picked something else. Art materials, maybe. A good book, definitely. Maybe a different kind of doll– even a Barbie, perhaps. But this was a request to Santa, and as one of his (self-appointed!) elves, we had an obligation to fill the order. Knowing that this gift may be one of the few (or perhaps only!) gifts this child will receive this year, we decided to splurge. Come December 25, “Chelsea” and “Kennedy” will have a new home, and a new owner, somewhere in Los Angeles. Although we will never know, we hope we have succeeded as Secret Santas, and spread that seasonal cheer a bit further.