Years ago, I was at the Goodwill Store shopping for a Halloween costume. After finding the perfect $25 polyester sateen wedding dress (which 18 months and two babies ago probably cost some poor 17-yr old all of $200) I came across The Princess. Propped up on a shelf, she wore her most winning, most appealing possible Princess look. But the rumpled socks, tattered dress and tangled hair were not enough to invite the love of a little girt with higher ideals.
She broke my heart, this little doll who was trying so hard. Suddenly I was filled with sadness tor the Princess I never was. I could never quite pull it off either; I'm sure I wore the same shell-shocked look when forced into pink satin and slumped in the same unladylike way when propped anywhere.
I took her home and over the next several weeks began to think about the relationship between girls and dolls. When I was growing up, dolls were models of the girls we wished we were, and plastic representations of the incipient women and mothers we prayed we would become. As a result, they sometimes bore the brunt of our crushing realization that we would always disappoint. My two dolls were cast aside at an early age, one because her long straight legs would not wrap around my plastic horse and the other because I angrily crammed so many bathroom products into the hole that served as her mouth that she simply fell apart.
Does this reveal anything about the woman I've become? Not really. But like every woman, each doll has a history that connected to the girl/woman that owned her. Dolls carry enormous weight in sociological and psychological terms. I don't purport to interpret the meaning or significance of dolls in childhood development or as cultural icons. What I can contribute to this discussion are my paintings and through them, my memories - some fond, some tortured - of the difficulties of establishing an identity as a girl and as a woman.