Tag Archives: taco bell

American Girl: Give Those Dolls Some Balls!

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Let me start by inserting a spoiler alert. I’m no big fan of the multi-zillion dollar American Girl (AG) franchise.

“Why?” you ask, as you throw down exactly $173.00 plus shipping for a doll that looks like the tattletale who rats everyone out at school, forgettable plaid dress, pair of patent pleather saddle shoes, and an overpriced miniature Goldendoodle you can pick up at Target for $4.99?

Molly McIntire is sad yet cute.

Molly McIntire needs to tell her mom to stop shopping in the school uniform department. Image via Wikipedia.

That’s why. Well, that and a lack of compelling role models for my daughters.

My seven and nine year-old girls feel differently, however, thanks in no small part to the monthly catalogues that arrive in the mail with more regularity than my period. So in an effort to better understand their fascination, I conducted a non-scientific study of the American Girl world. Curious to see if I could find a doll to fit either of their dispositions, I trolled the website for hours in an attempt to identify a match (not the Bitty Babies though…those things freak me out).

This bitty baby is creepy. Image via strollerfreak.itgo.com

To be fair, I can see why my daughters, along with millions of other girls across the country, are attracted to American Girl dolls. They perfectly fit the profile of what our conventional “girl next door” culture defines as attractive, and are pretty and bright-eyed, with flawless skin and thick, glossy hair. The original dolls each tell a personal story, and their narrative is filled with positive traits including honesty, kindness, creativity, and optimism.

These are great qualities, but in the modern-day world my daughters are learning to maneuver, they aren’t enough.

AG’s first line of dolls is based on historical periods, and each comes with a background story attached. Take Addy Walker, a doll who’s “escaping slavery to find her father and brother.” I’m all for acknowledging the past, but slavery?  Couldn’t the executives at Mattel have come up with something a little more inspirational for a ten year-old African American, or any young girl for that matter, to embrace other than one of the most oppressive facets of American History? What about a doll made in the spirit of Rosa Parks or a mini-Coretta Scott King?

In the same vein, historical character Josefina is “from her family’s New Mexican rancho.” With a serape over her shoulders and a cross hanging from her neck, is she getting ready to make tortillas to stuff into a piñata for a neighborhood fiesta? Josefina looks like she just stepped off an Old El Paso taco dinner kit, and with similar profiles built on stereotypes, these dolls simply don’t inspire in a world where I expect my daughters to push beyond the boundaries that two-dimensional labels create.

Yo quiero Taco Bell. Image via inmamariquita.galeon.com.

In addition to these offerings, American Girl pitches a more modern doll, cleverly allowing ‘tweens to choose their likeness in skin tone, eye color, and hair (well, sort of…the more “ethnic” options don’t exactly slice in tandem with our nation’s current demographic pie). Because each mini-me comes clothed in a forgettable pair of lavender pants and shirt, your style-savvy daughter is sure to sprint directly to the overpriced unsale rack as soon as she’s created her doll.

And here’s where I have another problem.

While there’s nothing implicitly wrong with cheerleaders and ski bunnies, that’s not how my girls roll. Where’s the snow boarder shredding it down the mountain? The hockey center who just scored a goal? How about a surfer struggling to catch a massive wave?

A lacrosse player and skate boarder move the gender-biased dolls in the right direction, but why not push a decades-old envelope a little and add hip-hop to compliment ballet, and a girl who races a motorcycle instead of a horse?

In other words, give those dolls some balls!

Original drawing by Danny Manion

Avery Williams is a ten year-old AP student who lives in the city and loves photography, snowboarding, and hanging out with friends. She’s an amazing woman-in-the-making, and deserves a doll with balls.

Moms like me (and there are a lot of us) are raising daughters who focus not on what it means to be an “American Girl,” but something with much more depth. We’re working from a global platform as we teach them to be open-minded, multi-cultural, fearless, unbiased, and strong. It’s our hope that they’ll push beyond the superficial borders of pretty and perfect on a fast track toward fierce and outspoken. They may be biracial, adopted, or from fractured families, and they’re all learning to handle life’s ups and downs.

Our daughters are the world’s future leaders, innovators, and pioneers because we’re helping them challenge stereotypes and redefine the meaning of status quo. They are thoughtful, intelligent, risk-takers who aren’t afraid to ask questions, speak their minds, and take a stand.

As mothers, we long to lock eyes with that confident little girl in your line-up of dolls who will grow up to be a scientist, Pulitzer Prize winning author, or President of the United States…a role model whose inspiration reaches well beyond clichés, matching outfits and perfect hair.

But for me, she doesn’t exist.

So, until American Girl offers a reasonably priced, balls-up doll for my girls to cherish, I’ll take my $173.00 plus tax somewhere else. Now if I could just get the grandparents to back their quest to buy plane tickets for a holiday brunch and trunk show at the flagship store in Chicago, everything will be O.K.

Danny Manion is my friend Carrie’s super-talented eighteen year-old son. He’s on his way to Academy of Art in San Francisco next fall. If you’d like to see more of his work, go to http://zerewin.tumblr.com.

 


My New Dog Hates Me

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Anyone who’s read my blog for the past couple of months knows how I feel about dogs.  It’s not that I don’t like them.  As a species I think they’re generally fine and great to have around as long as they’re across the street, next door, or tearing their way through someone else’s underground sprinkler system (in case you didn’t know, dogs love to dig up anything that’s supposed to be firmly embedded beneath the earth…especially if it costs about $1,000 to repair).

Image from squidoo.com.

We all have our personal boundaries, and I like to maintain a huge wake when a Canis lupis familiaris comes sniffing around my brand new knee-high, chocolate brown, super-soft suede boots that I siphoned unmarked bills from our vacation fund to buy.  I just love expensive footwear, so in other words?  Back the hell off.

Français : escarpins ouverts en Élaphe de marq...

All things considered, when it comes to canines, I’m a “smile and wave” kind of girl.  The smile serves as a decoy.  It says “Hey!  You’re cool.  I’m cool.  Now please don’t attack me and dig your cuspate, frothing, serrated mandibles into my left calf as I sprint past your driveway on my morning run because your awesome owner never turns on the electric fence anymore due to your deceivingly docile nature when you’re laying at his feet eating nasty dog biscuits.”  The wave is meant to establish authority, so you know that when I’m bounding by your house, I’m the one in charge.  Alternately, if you happen to be a two hundred pound Bullmastiff and I’m on the ground pinned underneath you?  It becomes a fairly effective cry for help.

I don't like this dog. Image via topnews.in.

I don’t know about you, but I process pretty much everything through my pseudo-bionic senses, and I don’t particularly care for dog smell.  Or dog breath.  Or copious amounts of dog saliva.  Or wearing a dog hair fleece when I run to the grocery store to pick up a $6.99 rotisserie chicken to feed my family for dinner (everyone is so over the new Taco Bell located inside the gas station where you can get a twelve-pack of chalupas, Captain and Tennille CD, ginormous can of WD-40, and a bag of pork rinds all at once).

Super-masculine man stare. Image from 991.com.

All the people sleeping under our roof understand that Man’s Best Friend is not mine, and as the primary dog chaser, puke cleaner, hair remover, and everything disgusting scooper in the house, my vote far outweighs yours.  If you know me, you’ll begrudgingly acknowledges that the most direct route to my heart is straight through the front door, on two feet and upright, shoes off at the entry, and please pick your coat up off the floor while you hang your backpack on that cute little hook I installed in the laundry room.  My fuse is pretty freaking short at the moment and I’m not your maid.

My fuse. Image via thepave.net

But as I’ve learned, a carefully plotted life often has plans of its own.

As I mentioned on Monday, my husband’s grandfather/best friend/coolest person on the planet passed away last weekend at the age of eighty-nine.  In addition to amazing memories and enough love from all of us who knew him to fill an ocean, Gumps left another very important thing behind.  Brandy.

Brandy is a rescue dog, physically abused by her original owner and adopted by Gumps when she was just a pup.  Understandably skittish and now thirteen years old, she’s bonded with nobody.  No one, that is, except the person she searches for every day and can no longer find.

Against her every wish, she’s been with our family since Sunday, pacing back and forth while she explores each room with her cataract-clouded eyes.  Restless, she spins in circles trying to find a place in our house that feels like home.  First one spot.  Then another.  Switching rooms.  In the middle of the floor.  Back in a corner.  Out of sight.  On her blanket.  In everyone’s way.  She tests countless options, but nothing feels right.

As of the past couple of days, she’s shifted from a state of mild annoyance to outright resignation.  When I walk into the room she lifts her head, cocks it to the left, looks me in the eye, and immediately turns away.  I’m not anywhere close to someone she wants to see.  Grief-stricken, she lays listlessly on the floor, refusing to eat unless I bribe her with bacon, bologna, or sausage; a desperate attempt on my part to communicate in a language that every dog speaks.

Brandy perks up a little when it’s time to go outside, but her arthritic hind legs make it hard for her to go up and down stairs.  Our youngest, Essa, wants nothing more than to wrap her up in a huge cloak of love, but the kids have to keep their distance.  She’s already snipped at me, our neighbor, and even my husband, Scot, who’s a natural magnet to any mammal with four legs and my absolute opposite when it comes to short words containing the letters d-o-g.

She’s a mess, so much so, that some well-intentioned people have recommended giving her to a no kill shelter or putting her down.

But I can’t bring myself to seriously consider those options.  Unless the vet tells me she’s in unbearable physical pain, I’m not letting her go.  I can’t.  If I do, I’ll be giving up on myself.  And that’s not how I roll.

Before the unspeakable spoke last weekend, we hadn’t planned to adopt a dog, much less one that on a surface level appears broken past the point of repair.

But maybe, if I can find a way to open my heart to her, she’ll return the favor.  Just a little.  I don’t expect a miracle, but if we can walk together, if she’ll let someone stroke her back, whisper in her ear or at least lie next to her and be still, our family will be able to give her something worth holding onto until the end.

Our love can’t fill her void, but it can serve as a buffer.  Her presence can’t bring Gumps back, but she can remind us, every day, of someone we never want to forget.

Perhaps, in some inexplicable twist of fate, we were all meant for each other in ways I don’t yet understand.  I have got to get her teeth cleaned before Brandy and I release a flock of doves in the back yard, sing Kumbaya, and intertwine our souls, though.  I can smell her breath from across the room and her halitosis majoritis seriously bums me out.

At the end of the day, maybe life’s not about getting what you want after all, but getting what you need instead.

Me and Gumps