Monday, October 1, 2007

American Girls/China Girls

This past week heralded the 12th birthday of my sweet girl. I was driving up 75 a couple of weeks back, wondering what to get her or do for her, since she had been fairly noncommital about what she wanted, when I saw a billboard on the horizon:

Voila. Problem solved. We would go to the new American Girl doll shop and have lunch and pick out a doll and life would be good.

I wasn't all that familiar with American Girls, so I read up a little. Seems that the woman that started the line of dolls did so with the best of intentions - to offer a little history and morality with each doll by casting the dolls as girls that lived during certain times in American history. Each of the American Girl dolls are well-developed characters, with books, outfits, and accessories available to bring the dolls and their lives into your home.

I can totally dig that. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder when I was a little girl, and I devoured each of the "Little House on the Prairie" books, and would have killed to have had a "Laura" doll (there was no such thing back then.)

So . . . having visions of a quaint little shop with pretty little dolls in my head, we ventured out last Sunday afternoon to experience the American Girls boutique.

When we arrived at the mall, I got my first clue that this was no ordinary doll shop. Entering the mall property, I saw the sign that pointed you to the anchor stores like Sears, JCPenney, Macy's, etc. There, in proud bold letters was "American Girl" with a bright arrow pointing left. Oh my, this store had enough cache' to be considered an anchor store and have some real estate on the directional signs. I started seeing dollar signs at that point.

Nothing could have really prepared me for the greatness that was the American Girl Boutique and Bistro. Nothing could have prepared me for the prices, either.

Sure, the dolls are cute, and you can pick one that has the same eye color, skin tone and hair color that you do, but damn . . . . $102.00 for an 18" doll and her little fuzzy dog? I tried not to register any alarm - this was my little girl's birthday surprise, but I was stunned at the pricetags through the store.

I steadied myself as we took in the intoxicating displays of dolls, clothing and furniture, and we both nearly squealed with delight when we discovered an onsite "doll salon" where anxious little girls stood in line, holding well-loved AG dolls with disheveled hair, waiting to hand them over to the well-trained stylists who meticulously cleaned and restyled the dolls while you waited.
Marvelous. Simply marvelous.

2 hours and $300+ later, we left with a HUGE red shopping bag that contained a new doll with a puppy, and a couple of shirts.

No shit.

I calculated that a decent American Girl collection would be a several thousand dollar investment. As I always do, I started thinking about alternatives.

Ebay? Yard sales?

Ebay turned out to be a fairly decent source for AG and AG knockoff stuff. I found a very nice lady that hand sewed AG pajamas for $6 a set (beats the hell out of $30 a set for the real deal). Searching around a bit more, I saw a few posts that said that Target had an AG scale doll with nice furniture and accessories, etc.

My girl, ever the careful shopper, was delighted to find dolls that looked EXACTLY like her American Girl doll at Target for $29 bucks. "Mom! We could have just gotten these!" she exclaimed as she looked at each pretty doll. "They're made in China, just like the American Girls!" True enough, sweetie. They also had outfits for $9 that were as cute as the $50 ones at the mall.

We did get a few Target things (table, chairs and little ceramic tea set for $29, and a few outfits), then we went on to the Goodwill. Amazingly, they had 2 of the AG knockoff Target dolls there for $1.91 each (what a random price, but whatever . . .) The dolls' hair was a bit messy, but my girl and I went home and constructed our OWN hair salon (I treated the dolls' hair with watered down fabric softener) and I cut and restyled the dolls and my amazement, my girl actually liked them both BETTER than she liked her American Girl doll.

I also found a handmade doll bed at the Goodwill ($12 bucks versus $145) and dropped it off at a local artist's studio where it is being handpainted, covered in flowers in my girl's favorite color (purple) for an additional $20 bucks.

Yeah, American Girl is cute, but the most American part of them is the flagrant consumerism that makes girls and moms alike nearly rabid for the "real" thing versus the "fakes". Turns out, there is a whole class war among the "haves" and the "have nots" as exemplified in this story about a little girl that took her "knockoff" doll to the AG beauty salon and was humiliated by the stylist.

I guess that's about as American as you can get.

P.S. OK, so THIS guy got a little more upset than I would have thought he would, but what a fucking funny read. Favorite excerpt: "Drop to your knees right fucking now and-- NO! Let go of my dick, you fuckin' tramp! Get on your knees and PRAY to Jesus fucking Christ Almighty and thank him. Oh yes, thank him that I was not at American Girl Place that day. You would've been OWNED, bitch. Thank him even harder for the fact that Etta is not my daughter. Had you done that shit to my child, I swear to fucking Christ, I would have reached out and slapped every one of you bitches to the fucking ground! And if you got back up, I'd strangle your snobby ass and beat you until I fucked up your nose job!"

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