Okay.  Stop the bus.

Before I carry on with all the other news and photos and posts and stuff…  I just have to tell you what I saw in Ohio last night.

Some of you might ask:  “What’s the big deal?” – but for me… the South-African-in-America… it was eerie!  And weird… like maybe one of those strange cultural experiences that one has while travelling… like watching people pierce their eyelids in religious rituals… or failing to comprehend why somebody would want to crunch down a pig’s tail… or cringing in awkwardness while women smooch and snot on the glass coffins of blackened, mummified priests…  you know?  That kind of thing…

An experience that has you both gasping in wonder… whilst simultaneously feeling eerily disturbed…

Can of you remember the scene from Little Miss Sunshine when Richard (played by Greg Kinnear) settled down to watch his daughter compete in a kiddies pageant – only for it to gradually dawn on him what a kiddies pageant actually was?  Do any of you remember the expression on his face?  Well… last night, that was me.

You may be saying:  so tell us, Heather!  What’s the big deal?  What are you gabbing on about?

The answer:  A doll store.

Yip.  A doll store.  More specifically “The American Girl Doll” Store.

A vast area of pink decor and glass cabinets with an endless range of American Girl Dolls displayed with a baffling array of matching accessories.  Never have I seen so many dolls… so many accessories for dolls… so many shoes for dolls, pets for dolls (and never-ending matching accessories for the pets too), cribs for dolls, outfits for dolls… rows upon rows upon rows…. of stuff-for-dolls, overseen by pink-bedecked smiling ladies who stuck star stickers on to the little girls in the store (mine included)… and made sure that excited children didn’t “handle” the merchandise too… “enthusiastically”.

Apart from the dolls, there was an entire section devoted to fashion for little girls AND their “babies”.  There were racks of matching accessorised outfits for little girls – and next to each outfit was a miniature, matching version… for the American Girl Doll to wear.

Here’s a photo:

Want a matching pink outfit for you and your doll? It's all the rage, apparently...

Want a matching pink outfit for you and your doll? It’s all the rage, apparently…

But my mouth-gaping bafflement didn’t stop there.  It got freakier.

There was a hair salon.  Not for little girls… but for DOLLS.

Here is a photo:

The Doll Hair Salon...

The Doll Hair Salon…

Little girls and their mothers were lining up for this special service.  In the photo above, you can see that there’s a display cabinet of different dolls wearing different hairstyles.  Once the style is chosen, Mother will fork out $20 (!!!)… and the “baby” is strapped into a pink doll chair, like so:

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The stylist will ask the little girl the name of their “baby” – and will actually, uh… talk… to the doll (and it’s “mother”) while styling the hair.  Oh – and don’t forget the purple hairdressers sheet-thingy that gets draped around the doll before the styling begins (you can see that two photos above too)…

Creeeeepy!

But, I’m not done yet…

You can also take your American Girl Doll for a bite to eat.  There is… a little restaurant in the store too!  (100% pink bedecked, of course)… where women, their girls… and the girls’ dolls stop for a bite to eat.  There’s even special pink chairs that get attached to the restaurant table (that you can buy for a small fortune).  They look like this:

Special chair for Baby to sit in at the dinner table...

Special chair for Baby to sit in at the dinner table…

I tried to take some sneaky photos of the patrons at the restaurant… all eating with their American Girl Dolls attached to the table on their pink chairs.  So – excuse the photos…  I couldn’t properly document the situation without being noticed…

A milkshake for this Girl Doll and her "mother". I wonder if the waitress asks Baby what she would like from the menu?

A milkshake for this Girl Doll and her “mother”. I wonder if the waitress asks Baby what she would like from the menu?

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Okay… so you may wonder – what do these very-average-looking, plastic dolls cost?  It’s not like they’re hand-painted, porcelain, collector’s item dolls.  They look – to my untrained eye – like your average, plastic, made-in-China doll.  I could probably pick up something very similar (although admittedly, without the endless accessory options) from Game in Joburg for… about R150 or – at a push – maybe even R200 (which is about $20).

But no.  If you want a “real” and “authentic” American Girl Doll (because – to many people – brands mean everything!)… you will need to fork out about $110 for the basic doll (with one, basic outfit)… and pay a shit-load more if you plan to accessorise… or get it’s hair done at the salon… or whatever.  (South African readers – that’s R1200 for an American Girl doll).

Now – this may seem an obscene amount of money (for me) to pay for a plastic doll… but, make no mistake, hoards of women were sweeping through that store with their credit cards and leaving with arms laden with pink bags… bursting with dolls and stuff… for… dolls….

Stuff.

for…

Dolls.

Is it just me?  Am I overly weirded out by all this?

Is this just “normal”?  Am I blowing it out of proportion?

I get that many little girls (mine included) like pink, glittery things… but stores like these seem to… almost… to pounce on that tendency, and capitalise on it… in order to market mountains of needless crap to little girls who… let’s be honest… will forget most of it in a month – and soon, those super-expensive accessories will be lying under the bed… or broken… or accumulated into yet another toy-box of you guessed it… STUFF!

Needless… meaningless… clutter-inducing… money-wasting… STUFF

But, maybe it’s different for other folk.  Maybe stuff-accumulation is just the order-of-the-day.  What do you think?

PS:  I had a long talk with Morgan afterwards.  She asked why I wasn’t prepared to buy her one of the dolls as a Christmas gift.  I told her that she had never wanted a doll… or even thought about a doll… until she entered that store and was bombarded with “want”.  Dolls had never mattered to her before… and now, just because she had visited a huge, pink store – she now “wanted” something that she previously hadn’t even thought about (television advertising has this affect on kids too… one of the reasons why we haven’t owned a TV in years).  I told her that I was prepared to spend money on something special for her… something meaningful… something that she had genuinely been thinking about for a while.  But I’m not buying shit just because we walk into a big store and my kids see things and then – out of the blue – decide that they want them.

PPS:  Apparently, you can get the American Girl Doll knock-off from Target… for $20 (and most girls can’t tell the difference).