Saturday, November 03, 2007

I'm really not THAT old

The new American Girl catalog came to our mailbox not too many days ago.

Those of you with daughters are nodding in sympathy. Those of you either with no children or boys only, lemme 'splain.

The American Girl Company is a mega corporation that tries to pass itself off as a small loving purveyor of dolls while still raking in squillions of dollars in sales every single second. I know this because I personally have forked over scads of Pete's hard-earned salary on behalf of our resident girls.

The American Girl Megacorp specializes in 18" tall dolls. What would cost $25 at Tar-zhay or Walmart is closer to $100 at American Girl, due solely to very slick marketing. The historical dolls are really what pay for the top executives' yachts and trophy wives. Here's an example:

Meet Felicity. No really, meet her. Because that's what happens if two parents such Pete and myself are foolish enough to hand over our bucks and allow this creature into our house. Felicity is the Colonial era doll and she comes with the book Meet Felicity. Very creative, I know. Meet Felicity leads to other books and that's where the trouble starts.

There are a number of historical dolls -- Samantha from circa 1904, Kit from the Depression era (1930s), Addie from the Reconstruction (post Civil War) era, Kirsten from the ... well, it was 18-something and I really don't feel like doing the research now.

What matters is that each doll comes with her own back story and a series of six books in which your darling daughter can get to know her doll. After that, your daughter will want to buy things for her doll. Actually, she won't do the buying because what child has that kind of money? YOU will do the buying, along with your child's equally gullible grandparents. Such as, the outfits that go with each and every book. And accessories. And furniture -- again, illustrated in each book. Because the books are a bit formulaic, each doll has variations on the same themes. Basic attire and accessories for the first book. School stuff for book #2 -- eg. Felicity Learns a Lesson or Kirsten Learns a Lesson. Christmas stuff for book #6 -- Changes for Felicity/Kirsten/Maia/etc. I think you get the idea.

Why yes I do know a real whole lot about all this. In fact, far too much of my gray matter has been given over to all things American Girl.

We originally bought the books for Graceful because they're actually pretty decent representations of the various historical eras and not too badly written. We knew she'd eventually hanker for a doll and were prepared for that. Two years ago, Santa brought Felicity to Graceful and Nellie to Elegant (who chose her favorite doll for the name alone). The girls were thrilled and that was what really mattered. After all, every girl needs a special doll that she has forever and then passes on to her own daughter.

Of course, as happens in these matters, the doll situation exploded out of control. We bought a couple of outfits for the dolls. Then one of the grandmothers bought the dolls their very own four poster beds that cost more than a real bed at IKEA (not that that's saying much, but you get the idea). And then more outfits and more accessories. And so on. The same grandmother bought the girls each a second doll.

Now it's as though the American Girl company owns stock in Jenworld and has furnished the girls' bedrooms. I keep telling myself that it's a hell of a lot better than Barbies or Bratz.

If you really want to deeply immerse yourself into all this -- and lose a tiny bit of your sanity in the process -- you should visit one of the American Girl stores (Chicago, New York, and L.A.) with a girl who's related to you and who has designs on the money in your bank account. I took the girls to the Chicago store last year. FIVE HOURS LATER, we walked out with bulging shopping bags. We shopped until my credit card whimpered every time I reached for it. In addition, we saw a show and had tea with our dolls. We did not, however, visit the doll hair salon or the doll photography studio. I did show some restraint. We got back to the hotel and I immediately started searching for the mini bar that did not exist in our room. Pete had wisely spent his day at a conference, whistling merrily as he left because he would not be personally visiting the American Girl store that day.

Anyhoodle, I bring all this up because the American Girl folks have recently introduced a new doll from a new historical era.

Anyone want to guess what HISTORICAL era the new doll is from? Anyone? Anyone?

The 1970s.

Yes, 19-fucking-74. As in, when I was in kindergarten. I don't know about y'all, but I think that's a little bit too recent to be considered historical. As far as I'm concerned, any history involved with these dolls should not only pre-date me, but also my parents.

I'm not sure what the American Girl people are trying to prove, but I'm going to be mighty pissed if the next doll that comes out is the 1980s doll, who comes complete with her own little Walkman and Madonna cassette, as well as legwarmers and other 1980s fashions that are best left in the past. Or, the 1990s doll who comes with her own grunge-wear and Kurt Cobain CDs.

So the 1970s doll is bringing me down a bit. And it's not like I can just ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist. Because the same grandmother who bought the girls their second dolls has already bought the girls the 1970s doll and her best friend as Christmas presents, so I'll soon have Julie and Ivy here in my house, taunting me. Pretending to be old and historical when the 1970s were really not THAT long ago.

Of course, when the dolls were first introduced, my children were utterly captivated by her. She was so wonderful. So historical. So old fashioned. One of the girls actually looked up from her worshipful study of the catalog and asked me if that was what things were really like "way back then."


I think it's time for me to go slather on some wrinkle cream.


Lela said...

Omg you're killing me! Lol! I am personally thankful that the closest AG store is over 1000 glorious miles away from us. But yeah, the ooh ooh ooh I hear every time one come out of the mail box is irritating. We have only invested in the "Just Like Me" doll, or whatever it's called. I toy with the idea of getting more stuff for it, but I really don't care that much, lol.

Sue said...

We got that catalog in the mail the other day and my daughters have been STUDYING it ever since. We don't have any American Girl dolls yet, I have not given in, but they are campaigning actively. They really want the Just Like Me dolls, or whatever they are called. They don't know about the books yet. Shhhhh.

Yeah, also not thrilled by the 1970s doll.

Family Adventure said...

Jen, I was in kindergarten, too at that point. *sniff*. And now I feel OLD.

This was a fascinating post. I had never heard of American Girl (having only boys), so I am really intrigued by the whole thing. I can't believe the prices (!), but I can totally see how it would grap a girl's fancy. All that background on each doll. It's nothing short of brilliant.

Except for that 1974 doll, of course! Although I'd love to see how they made her look.


Linda and her Surroundings said...

Girls certainly are different to boys when it comes to toys!!!

Still, I just know I would be the same as you had I had a girl...dolls, doll houses, clothes, costumes, thingies and more bits - all that girly stuff is great. And, I hate to admit this, I love Barbie dolls.

Then again, I do enjoy playing with the 5 tonnes of lego I bought Stuart since he never does.

1970's doll - oh, it is hard isn't it when your childhood becomes retro...and collectable.

MizMell said...

YOU feel old? I was 16 in 1974.

And what I can remember of the 70s was marvelous...

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

Lela: Hold firm if you can or else your house will be OVERRUN with doll stuff.

Sue: Here's the general equation: One doll is okay. Two or more is less than okay. A doll + a bed + other furniture + a vehicle/horse and buggy is NOT okay.

Family Adventure: Count yourself lucky that you'll never venture into the scary world of American Girl dolls. ;-)

Lind: S doesn't play with his Legos?!? What's the deal?

Flutterby said...

OMG you're making me feel old. I ended 7th grade and started 8th that year. That is just TO.Freaking.RIDICULOUS!! That is just so wrong. What did they do.. skip the Roaring 20's? A flapper doll would have been nice ir would that be considered too sleazey for American Doll. What about the 40's Rosie the Riveter doll?? Or a 50's doll in her poodle skirt?? The 60's? Or would that be too much free sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll...

TX Poppet said...

I detest American Girl Megacorp more than you will ever know. The catalogs hit my wastebin faster than a streak of perfectly sized just like in the book lightning.

Mrs. G. said...

I lived during through the entire 1970's and, trust me, that decade warrants no childhood tribute. Now if there is ever a line based on the Valley of the Dolls, I'm there.

countrymouse said...

Back in the day when my little girl was, well . . . little, we were introduced to the evil that is American Girl. I remember clearly proclaiming, "Don't get any ideas honey, we will *never* spend that kind of money on a doll." Famous last words . . .

Marketing geniuses, those folks! When my daughter was little, some of the more wealthy parents could just buy the whole set of all 4 dolls and all their accoutrements and be done with it. AG caught on to this closed cycle and started coming up with *new dolls!* Bastards.

Linda and her Surroundings said...

Lego gets played with if I join in - and I did it was raining.

Badness Jones said...

Well, I'd heard of American Girl before, but it's not a big thing in Canada so thank god the Princess hasn't heard of it (yet!). I still can't handle 80's music being referred to as 'retro' or 'old school', so hearing the 70's referred to as historical will see me heading back to bed and pulling the covers over my head while I whimper for it to end! This is the first time I've visited your blog - great post.

smalltownmom said...

This is when I'm glad I only have boys.

One son and I were in New York this summer. There was a huge dance convention at the hotel where we stayed. Hundreds of little girls swarming in and out of the hotel, and I swear, every one had visited the American Girl megastore on 5th Avenue.

jenny said...

I'm torn do I want to spend a hundred dollars on a doll I'm not sure she'll play with or what if she plays with her, to death, and like mangles her hair and a leg falls off? Sounds like a catch 22.

Safer to not find out. :)

WendyB said...

I went into an AG store once, with a friend who had to get some gifts, right before Christmas. I am still emotionally scarred by this experience.

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

Jenny: I have to say, my girls do play with their dolls all the time, but also manage to take pretty good care of them. When their friends come over, they bring their own dolls and then it's a Dollapalooza here.

Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

WendyB: I can only suggest adult retail therapy to get over the trauma. Possibly expensive adult retail therapy.

Jill said...

My girls asked for the American Girl Dolls. I asked them what they planned on actually doing with them. They were stumped. I'm not paying over $100 for another toy to sit in the toy box.

Plus, our Webkinz collection is putting us in the poor house!

Happy Working Mom said...

Holy cow...the 70's???

Fortunately for my parents, the books came out way before the dolls, and I had read all the books and loved them. By the time the dolls came out I was too old for them.

I know I will not be that lucky :)

Janet said...

Am I the lone parent of a girl who doesn't like dolls? She was into Barbies for about 5 minutes when she was 4 and that's it. She also skipped the whole Disney Princess scene. We get the AG catalog and she's not interested. Instead, we're tripping over beads here. I have NEVER seen so many beads (and therefore, necklaces and bracelets) in my life.

However, having a boy didn't get us off the hook money-wise. Can you say Star Wars Legos? Ka-ching!

This is all rather strange to me. I loved dolls as a child. My mother sewed clothes for all my dolls. I even kept the clothes until I realized that my daughter wasn't going to get into dolls. The weirdest thing is that NONE of her friends are into dolls either. She's 8.5 by the way.