When presented with a baby that emerged from people I know and love, I am always happy to help. I will babysit while my friends go stand in a shopping mall alone for a spell or want to drink a beer at a bar with both hands free of child. Children are, for the most part, very cute, and also fun to be around; I am not a monster, I recognize this. But my biological clock is broken. It is not ticking. I feel no great pull or desire to have a child. Perhaps Su Lin, a possibly haunted and sort of realistic looking doll baby, would change things.
My initial reasoning behind agreeing to pseudo-parent a lifelike doll for a week was to see if I could mimic the experiments popularized by various junior high sex ed classes, in which a hapless 14 year-old is tasked with caring for a sack of flour, an egg, or an actual baby doll programmed to cry as a means of teaching responsibility. As someone who has routinely volunteered to make a fool of myself in public, in perpetuity, on the internet, carrying around a doll that sort of looks like me, surprisingly, did not fill me with a sense of adventure, but with a deep and existential depression. When I got Su Lin in the mail and unboxed her, I put her on the sofa and wrapped her in a blanket— a small gesture towards a doll that, despite being lifelike, clearly had no feelings and no sentience. I attempted to locate a shred of maternal instinct within and found absolutely nothing. Perhaps this speaks to my heartless nature, but I’d like to give me the benefit of the doubt. The doll was not real, and carrying her around as if she were real skewed less quirky and more worrisome as a 37-year-old woman who decidedly does not want children.
Su Lin’s presence, for a brief moment, made me question this decision, which I made for myself some time ago and my body will make for me soon enough. It’s not that the doll felt like a real child or that I felt any sort of real affection for it. The act of caring for a fake baby as if it were a real baby dinged my pride and also my last shred of dignity. I couldn’t do it. But I tried.