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Sense and Nonsense: It's hard to top a doll that's just a doll and nothing more

December 10, 2012

By Lynda Hollenbeck

I'm old enough to remember when a doll was a doll.
That's it. It was a doll and nothing else. Period.
I had lots of dolls that didn't do anything but exist. They had no switches or strings or other devices to make them do things.
To make them wonderful, it took only one thing: Imagination.
And I had plenty of that.
My dolls became stowaways on ships, stars in movies, heiresses to great fortunes, investigators who were at the center of international plots. You name it; I could work them into a plot.
I never put any of the scenes down on paper, but there was an abundance of dialogue.
At least part of the drama surrounding my "babies" came form the fact that I was literally immersed with theater from birth. My two older cousins — who were essentially sisters to me — were into music and theater always.
I never knew life without these artistic influences.
Now if you wanted to talk about science or math or technical stuff, you had to go to some other family. We handled the courses we had to take in school, but only because we were convinced we'd die on the spot if we didn't make good grades.
Our interest level didn't lie in that vein. But anything that could foster the story line was intriguing.
Later on, after the baby-doll fascination had taken a back seat in my interests, I got into collecting "storybook" dolls.
These were collectible dolls you could find all sorts of places and were my favorite Christmas and birthday gifts. Wherever some member of the family went out of town, the present that was brought home to me was one of these dolls.
Any time my father ("Honey") went on a business trip, he would bring me a doll. I finally had so many of them that Honey hired one of his workers at the veneer mill to build a wall of shelves for me to display them.
Even though the storybook dolls were costumed, already giving them a theme, I still allowed my imagination to conjecture places they had been — France, Italy, the Orient, on and on and so forth.
And like their predecessors, the plain dolls, they, too, were engaged in exciting lives.
I never had a Barbie of my own.
My daughter and her children were of the Barbie generation, which produced lots of interesting creations, both in the dolls themselves and in their amazing fashions.
Still, imagination got into the game, though acquiring the outfits sometimes made me think we needed to take out a bank loan.
All of this is leading up to my reaction to a recently released doll: The one that breast-feeds.
A pseudo nursing baby. Just think about that one.
When I heard about it, I have to say I was stunned.
I guess I should have been prepared for some of the remarks that came from people evaluating this latest addition to the toy world.
First off, there are a lot of people out there who take life way too seriously. Right off the bat I heard how it could become "a teaching device" to help little girls.
Oh, puhleeze spare me the drivel. The doll wasn't manufactured as an instructional tool.
It's nothing but a product of commerce. Just a wy for the toymakers to roll in a little more dough at Christmas time.
I doubt if this will become part of any instructional material used in classes that are offered to real about-to-be mothers, but I could be wrong.
If I were to get a vote — which, of course, I don't — the nursing doll will go the way of other toys that were a flash in the pan and now we can't even remember what they were called.
I propose keeping the nurser up on the shelf, in an unopened box. Betsy Wetsy was too much for me.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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