What Your American Girl Doll Says About the Rest of Your Life
by Chiara Atik
Did you know, when you picked her out, that Samantha was the cool one? Or were you simply drawn to her glossy brown hair, sophisticated accessories (she had a fur muff!) and rich demographic? Either way, every girl wanted a Samantha. If you owned her, you quickly learned the value of cachet.
By virtue of acquiring a status symbol early on (a Samantha doll was the designer jeans of third grade), you never quite had to worry about things the way other girls did. You therefore grew up to be confidant, capable, and nonplussed. You’ve always been well liked. You aren’t the funniest in your group, but you’ve never really noticed or cared. If you thought about it, you could probably recognize other women who had Samanthas. But that’s not that impressive: everybody can.
If you had Molly, you probably wanted Samantha instead, but contented yourself with Molly because you too wore glasses, liked books, were bad at math, and would concoct various schemes to get attention. (Oh, Molly.) If you were a Molly, and had a Molly (as opposed to being a Molly and aspirationally owning a Felicity), you were imbued, then and now, with an immutable sense of self. At least Molly could tap dance, which is frankly more talent than any of the other girls exhibited.
As an adult, you’ve developed a carefully honed aptitude for sarcasm. You’ve gotten contacts, and a slightly edgy haircut. You still sort of want attention, but you deny it. You’ve thought back on your American Girl Doll, and tried not to be too resentful towards the person who gave her to you, who so obviously associated you with the descriptor “mousy.”
You probably got Kirsten because she was blond, or because you read a lot of Little House on the Prairie books. (It definitely wasn’t because of her “St. Lucia Christmas Outfit” … yikes!)
Whatever superficial motivation led you to choose Kirsten, you quickly learned that life as a Swedish immigrant in Minnesota is not all lingonberry pie and ice fishing. Not halfway through the first book does Kirsten’s best friend Marta die suddenly and tragically of cholera. This was shocking and horrifying. Obviously, you were used to cholera deaths (this being the age of Oregon Trail), but this time it was different.
You therefore grew up to be a bit more thoughtful, a bit more reserved than your peers. You also find yourself inexplicably drawn towards crafts like knitting, jam-making, and quilting. You secretly suspect that you’d manage just fine in a post-Apocalyptic setting, should things come to that. You were surprised and delighted to see some of Kirsten’s outfits come back into style in certain enclaves of Brooklyn.
You had Felicity because of one or more of the following reasons:
A) you had red hair
B) You thought she had the prettiest clothes and accessories.
C) Fewer people had Felicity, and you wanted to be unique.
D) You actually wanted Samantha but your mom thought Samantha’s dress looked like the top of a peanut butter jar so you got Felicity instead. (Just me? OK.)
You grew up to have an affinity for lovely things, a possibly inflated sense of your own uniqueness, a teensy hint of self-righteousness (remember how she refused tea when they raised the tea tax? “Thank you, I shall take no tea!”), and a latent familiarity with Colonial Williamsburg.
If you were black, you had Addy because your parents were trying to encourage positive self-esteem in a market saturated with white dolls. If you were any other minority, you had Addy because your parents were trying to encourage positive self-esteem in a market saturated with white dolls. If you were white, and had Addy, it was because your progressive parents were trying to encourage broad world-views in a market saturated with white dolls.
Though arguably the most likeable of all the characters, Addy is more of a racial totem than personality- or era-driven doll: Her story doesn’t exactly provoke a nostalgia for slavery, and her accessory was, no kidding, a gourd. (The significance is obvious — how little girls would make their dolls play with the gourd is not.)
Girls who had Addy grew up with an acute sense of the lack of diversity in early-’90s consumer culture.
No American Girl Doll
Your parents wouldn’t buy you an American Girl doll because $80 is a ridiculous price to pay for a toy, which would then inevitably lead to the purchase of multiple accessories ranging from the overpriced ($18 for “Winter Accessories,” consisting of tiny doll mittens and a hat), to the exorbitant ($56 for an “Ice Cream Set,” consisting of tiny plastic scoops of ice cream), to the highway robbery ($349 for a “doll’s chest,” a.k.a. tiny wooden box).
You grew up to be financially independent, level-headed, unspoiled, and still just a little bit resentful whenever you walk by American Girl Place.
Previously: Netflix Instant for Every Situation.