Sunday, December 11, 2005

Paper Dolls

In 6th grade, I accidentally let it slip that I still played with paper-dolls. I told the person who scoffed at my “babyish” behavior that I was just kidding, but what I didn’t tell her was that an 8th grade friend of mine played paper-dolls with me. We had important stories to tell. The paper-dolls dressed in Victorian and Edwardian outfits, but their adventures were more along the lines of Sweet Valley High meets Star Wars* than Upstairs, Downstairs.

In subsequent years, I made my own paper-dolls in accordance with the stories I wrote. Paper-dolls were more like two-dimensional puppets than stand-ins for three-dimensional dress-up dolls. One of my favorite paper-doll stories was “Women Go on Strike.” In the story, the women and girls decide that they will live in the mountains (i.e. the couches) until the men and boys acknowledge that everyone is equal and should be treated with respect. The men and boys were always so sorry that they had thought otherwise. I don’t remember what they had actually done in the story to drive the women away, but I can gather that I was working out my frustration over the injustice going on in people’s daily lives. In the latter-half of the twentieth century, people paid lip-service to equality, but when it came down to reality, we were expected either to conform to traditional stereotypes or reject them completely.

I loved to play with dolls, and I loved to play with trucks. My dolls battled monsters. My Star Wars figures engaged in activities that would have made Darth Vader blush (no Barbie dolls in the house). I thought playing “house” was the most boring concept possible. However, I worked out quite a bit of passive-aggressive anger while playing “school,” especially when I got to mark other people’s answers wrong with big red X’s.

As much as I enjoyed playing with dolls on my own, I preferred to play with other children. Other children brought different perspectives to the stories and made them new again. As an adult, I enjoy eavesdropping upon gamers’ RPGs when there’s plot and character development involved beyond excessive dice-rolling. Currently, there are more men than women playing RPGs, but perhaps that will change when we incorporate paper-dolls in our grown-up storytelling play. If you like, you can start with these internet paper dolls.

*Lots of fighting and kissing, etc.


Lesa said...

That is one of the coolest uses of the Internet ever. Thanks so much for posting that.

Back to paper doll therapy.

Fridaysweb said...

Oh, Alkelda, this nearly brought tears to my eyes. When I was small, my grandmother would buy every book of paper dolls she could find and then use light cardboard and construction paper to make more outfits for the current dolls. She kept them all in a file folder (which I thought was the coolest thing since sliced bread) and left them in a special place for me to get to every time I was over. When my own children got older, she pulled out the old file folder, set it in the exact same place as it had been for me and made them new clothes for those dolls, to keep up with the times. My girls finally brought that folder home, to our house, last week. I hope my girls will take care of it, as it's already made it through 2 generations (they still play with them and they're 12 & 14!). I'd love to see those old dolls passed down over and over again. I'm considering having the dolls, themselves, laminated, to assure a lifetime of durability.

Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in my love for simple things.

Nonny said...

When I was twelve I asked for, and received a set of Legos for my birthday. My girlfriends never let me live it down. I still enjoy playing legos with my son and now that they have Star Wars legos, all the better. The paper dolls remind me of my Grandmother, she loved paper dolls and anything Victorian. I've developed quite the love of things Victorian as well. She never let us play with them though, so I often sat and admired them for hours. Now I can have my own set!

Lone Star Ma said...

Cool! The Lone Star Girl has never been too much of a doll person, but I was. While I insist upon alternatives like Feral Cheryl for the LSG, I admit to having played with Barbies all the time with my neighbor as a child. By the time we were eleven, the plot lines were downright obscene. The LSG would look at me funny if I even suggested playing dolls at her age, though, and she's only 10. Different kids are so different. I got some cool paper dolls when she was little to save for her until she was seven or eight and would appreciate them, but, by seven I had realized she never would...sigh. Maybe the Lone Star Baby will like them.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I'm so glad the internet paperdolls were a hit! Friday, is there any possibility of you being able to scan a paperdoll outfit or two that your grandmother made? Nonny, Legos are for every age, and I'm surprised your girlfriends didn't have the sense to know that.:) Philip the Pun wants to get Legos for Lucia, and I've asked him to keep at his house for Lucia to play with when she goes to visit. Then, he can play with them when she's not there, too.

galetea said...

I made some paper dolls of the Rock Star last year for Christmas to illustrate some clothing that not yet arrived. :) It worked marvelously, although I don't think he retained them for entertainment purposes.

Phil said...

Then, he can play with them when she's not there, too.

Not really. I'd spend too much time shooing my cat away from them.