Coming Out Of The (Dollhouse) Closet

Illustration for article titled Coming Out Of The (Dollhouse) Closet

So, earlier today when I added the item about Viktor & Rolf making two-foot dolls to wear miniature replicas of their best designs, I played it down. I tried to pretend it was just another fashion item. I even called the dolls "sinister" because I know many people find doll-life as creepy as clown-life. But in my heart, I was singing. And I think it's time to admit something I've kept a closely-guarded secret for the past twenty years: I am obsessed with dolls.


I mean, lots of little girls play with dolls. In my case, the doll family was a motley crew acquired at various tag sales and thrift stores. The main players were Lime, Rainbow and Orange - triplets in striped jump suits from the stationery store - and a six-inch femme fatale named Vagina. There was also a grubby used Barbie of uncertain vintage (usually cast as the burlesque dancer) and a lone boy baby doll, Big Leon, who, when submerged in water, could pee out of a tiny penis, and was the de facto groom in all weddings.

I wasn't very maternal, but I loved playing God with my dolls' lives, which were heavily influenced by Greek mythology and Singin' in the Rain. I had several friends whom I stayed in abusive relationships with because they had such good dolls: the neighbor with the extensive Barbie wardrobe, or the classmate with three American Girl dolls that I was not allowed to touch. (The one time I persuaded her to let us take the Kirsten doll outside -I mean, she was a pioneer- we lost the wooden spoon on the doll's belt and I had to take the rap.)

As other girls outgrew dolls, though, my obsession only evolved. I took it underground. I concealed my subscription to the Doll Reader and made excuses in other cities when I slipped off to doll museums. I started experimenting with making my own, with frightening results. I was ashamed: not only was this possibly the uncoolest thing in the world - think QVC - but what was wrong with me that tiny fake people and their paraphernalia hadn't ceased to enthrall? I've tried to analyze what it is about miniature things that fascinates me and I can't tell whether it's the manageable nature of their scale (so much less overwhelming than real life) or the fact that, with old ones, they're like living witnesses to history. (Okay, that does sound kind of creepy.) Or, you know, just how cool it is that people can make things so tiny. A long time ago I started taking note of other adult women who retained a doll fetish - Tasha Tudor, Queen Mary, a weirdo named Joe Carstairs who carried this doll familiar named Lord Tod Wadley with her everywhere - and they're uniformly bizarre.

Nevertheless, I think it's time I threw off the shackles of my secret life and admit the truth: I am a doll-loving American. I read about them in lame hobby magazines, I buy them on eBay, I look at them in museums, I hang with Irving Chase at the New York Doll Hospital. Even the cheapest, crummiest doll holds a certain fascination for me. And I am no longer ashamed. I recently ran into a hipster acquaintance while I was holding a vintage doll I'd just gotten at a stoop sale - and you know what? I held my head high. Thank you for your support.

Viktor & Rolf: So Good They Did It Twice [Telegraph]



My favorite doll (until my "Samantha" doll) was Barbara. Barbara had very little hair, which clumped together and stuck up, one eye, no clothing, and a broken "voicebox" that used to allow her to say "Mama." When my mother suggested we fix her at the "doll hospital" by getting her new hair and an eye, I wept and said I didn't want Barbara to think I didn't love her as she was.

I also had a fake, bald Cabbage Patch doll named Pete, whom I named after my grandfather's friend, Pete, who was also bald and fake.