“Mummy, I want this one!”
The girl was pointing towards the doll eagerly. Sarah cringed. It was simply awful. XC Suzy (supposedly named after the maker, Xena Collins, though Sarah highly doubted that story) was a busty doll that looked like it had been cheaply manufactured with little to no love or care. Her eyes were surrounded by gold glitter and her red lips were bright and plump but the colours were garish and ultimately the look was entirely distasteful.
But Izzy was excited. She pulled down the still-boxed XC Suzy from the shelf and hugged it to her chest.
Is this what little girls are playing with nowadays? Sarah thought to herself. For a moment, she reflected on her own childhood, the warm memory of her soft, frocked doll drifting through her mind. Then she returned to the present and grabbed the doll off her daughter to peer more closely at it.
God, it’s even worse close up. Her eyes roamed from to low cut shirt to the tight miniskirt to the fishnet stockings and finally down to the tiny feet encased in what looked like very painful high heels. She almost felt sorry for the little plastic thing. Its entire existence looked so painful, and she was stuck with that ridiculous sultry pout forever.
“Mummy, you will buy it for me, won’t you? You promised you would let me choose my own toy if I did well with my speech! And I did do well, didn’t I, mum? Mr Roderick thought so!”
“You did well, my Izzy, but are you sure you want this doll?”
Izzy did not miss a beat. “I am, I am, I am!”
Desperate, Sarah’s eyes roamed along the rest of the doll section. They landed on an Amelia Earhart doll, with goggles on her head and steely determination in her eyes, seated as the driver of a small model plane. Yes, the doll was pricier, but Sarah was willing to pay to not suffer the sight of seeing her daughter play with XC Suzy.
“What about this one, Izzy? Why don’t we get this lovely doll? Have you heard of Amelia Earhart? She was an incredible lady, she flew all the way acro-”
“Mum, you promised! Everyone at school is playing with XC Suzy! Everyone has one! You said I could have one so I could play with everyone else!”
“Everyone?” Sarah quirked an eyebrow playfully. “Even the boys?”
Izzy frowned. “Well, of course not the boys!” She said, as if it were the most stupid question in the world. “Boys don’t play with dolls!”
“Boys can play with dolls too,” Sarah gently admonished. Silence and a glare followed this remark. Izzy was becoming impatient.
Sarah sighed. She was trapped. Which was the more important lesson, she wondered? Was it more important that Izzy learnt the value of being individual? Of not falling prey to the tastes of others and tv advertising? Or was it more important that her daughter knew she could trust her mother to keep her promises, even when Sarah herself regretted making them? Sarah sighed again, and put the doll in the basket.
Izzy was ecstatic. “Thank you, mummy! Thank you so much! Now I can play with all the other girls at school.”
At the counter, the old man who owned the store had been listening intently to the conversation. As he listened, he grew bitter. He gazed upon the shelves of cheap, tacky plastic and wondered how he had let his shop become infiltrated with such rubbish. The Amelia Earhart was now a rarity, a gem surrounded by horrible toys like the XC Suzy.
Sarah and Izzy approached the counter. With embarrassment, Sarah placed the doll on the counter. She met the old man’s gaze and shrugged as if to say, what can you do? He gave a sympathetic look in response. Suddenly, he was struck with an idea.
“You know, little girl, you’re going to be the last one to buy the XC Suzy at this store.”
He almost surprised himself when he said the words, but he knew that they were true. He also knew that his wife was going to be furious when she heard that he getting rid of his best-selling toy. But he could not stand it any more. He wanted to work amongst quality again.
Izzy was puzzled. “Why aren’t you selling XC Suzy anymore?” she asked.
“Well, to be honest, little miss, I don’t really like XC Suzy.”
The old man shrugged. “I don’t know. Why do you like her so much?”
“Everyone likes her!” Izzy exclaimed.
There was a silence. “Is that all?” The old man asked.
Izzy thought for a while but could think of nothing to say. She was puzzled.
The old man continued. “Don’t you want to choose what you like for yourself? Why do you want to be like everyone else? What if everyone else likes something silly? Would you like it too?”
“Ah, ok then. So why do you like XC Suzy?”
Izzy looked down at the doll. She saw the red lips and the sparkly eyes. She saw the tight mini-skirt and the high heeled shoes. And reluctantly, she had to admit that she did not really think that the doll was so wonderful after all.
Sarah had been watching the entire exchange curiously. She had been fascinated to see Izzy processing these ideas and was somewhat annoyed that she had not come up with the old man’s arguments herself. But now, she saw that the moment was ripe for her to step in.
“Ok, Izzy, let’s buy this doll for you now. This is the one you want, isn’t it? We’re not going to get a new toy for a while after this, so make sure you choose carefully.”
Even at the young age of six, Izzy knew the discomfort of ‘giving in’. She no longer wanted this doll. But at the same time, she did not want to give in to her mother. But the fact remained that she no longer wanted the XC Suzy doll.
“Mum, I don’t want XC Suzy anymore. Can we go back to the doll section and look for a new doll?”
Sarah gave a sigh of relief and took the XC Suzy doll off the counter. Izzy walked ahead, becoming excited once again. They roamed through the aisles and Sarah hung back a moment before the Amelia Earhart doll. But Izzy did not even look at it.
Instead, she stopped before the Bratz Dolls.
Sarah’s face fell.