A close girl friend of mine, Emiko, has this rather difficult situation and desperately enlists my assistance to help her through it. Her mother-in-law is visiting for nine days, yes that's NINE DAYS, and she's, well, umm, how do I say it, uh, a challenge. Can you say full blown dementia with a side of heavy criticism? In order to endure the entire NINE DAYS my sweet and caring friend needs to take a break (escape) in order to be the best daughter-in-law she can be (avoid being a total raving heartless person and who loses all known sanity and patience). Her plan is to drag me kicking and screaming to lunch and shopping. Yes, I know, I'm such a giving selfless friend willing to give up a day away from laundry, dishes, my first graders, and the normal ho-hum responsibilities. But, she's fabulous and more than worth the sacrifice, so off we go.
I've always wanted to go the LA Farmers Market and the Grove. It's almost embarrassing to admit I haven't visited that historic landmark before now after living in Los Angeles my whole life. I always pictured this huge open classic building with the most amazing produce, with all kinds of new discoveries with sights and sounds I've never experienced. And, while it's certainly a neat part of Los Angeles history, it's not exactly what I pictured. Regardless, our simple Mediterranean lunch is delish, the company of my friend even better, but honestly, and I'm not complaining one bit. It is what it is, I'm away, and it's all good.
After lunch we walk through the fancy shopping area just outside the Market, and decide to once and for all see with our own eyes the American Girl store I've heard so much about (and warned to stay away from). Inside the massive two-story store it is beautiful, filled with adorable dolls, endless accessories and furniture, corresponding books, etc., and plenty of girls proudly holding their own cherished dolls that they brought from home. You wouldn't know there was a recession, that's for sure - that place is bustling.
Being the total cynics that we are, we start to look a little deeper and oh my gosh, the prices! Not only are the dolls over $100, but the cleverly packaged outfits are pricey, the furniture costs more than the furniture my kids have in their rooms, and the spending options seem endless (I'm not even talking about the party packages). There is a salon where the doll's hair can be styled ($20 for a braid), a reservation only cafe with $22 macaroni and cheese, a theater, a photo studio - this place is huge! It is like Willy Wonka for dolls. Whoever does the product plan and marketing is sheer genius, with limited edition dolls, hard to find prices, matching girl/doll outfits, and accessories and treatments that cater to the suggestion that the doll is a real person. That all makes for seemingly happy girls who love! love! love! their dolls who share the experience with their family and friends, so who am I to judge, right? Would I have loved that as a girl? Absolutely. Do these girls get excited reading about the different adventures and histories of the dolls? Sure. Is this something that I want for my own daughter? I don't think so.
So, why does that store and the whole concept bother me so much, besides wishing I was the smart entrepreneur, now a very wealthy woman, that created the company? Simply, I think it's because it's the antithesis of the total opposite of me and my beliefs. When I leave the store shaking my head, I can't help but feel like I need to go scrape my tongue, volunteer at a homeless shelter or dig in the dirt or something else grounded in reality. I'm not judging those that love! love! love! the dolls, but it's just hard for me to embrace, especially when so many people are struggling financially right now. Maybe I'm bias because I was one of those girls that wrote down all of the "cool" stuff on my Santa wishlist that I saw on tv (think Easybake oven) but got more thoughtful simple gifts instead (think sleeping bag that I had for years or an art set). I don't remember feeling particularly deprived and what I did have I treated well because I had to be happy with what I had.
What if a girl is lucky enough to own a very special doll? Will she be satisfied with just the doll and the outfit it came in? After all, the doll needs a bed, winter/spring/summer/fall clothes, $350 armoire to store the clothes, magazines, friends, new professional hairdos, etc.? What happens if a classmate throws an American Girl party at the store, and the ones that don't have a doll aren't included or feel bad that they don't? Why does everything have to be so outrageously expensive? It's that whole mentality you need more more more more latest and greatest all at a high cost that just drives me nuts. Or, maybe I'm just over thinking it and just need to stay away from that store for my own sanity. Here I was helping my friend get away from the crazy in her house only to get my own crazy-on over a doll store. I definitely need to let that one go.