HOLLY MIRANDA SMALE

Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.







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Friday, 7 May 2010

Dolls

I have decided that I want a Blythe doll.

I want a Blythe doll like I wanted a bike when I was seven, and like I wanted a pair of Magic Key shoes when I was five: singlemindedly, dogmatically, illogically. I`m coveting her in a way I haven`t coveted anything for twenty years, and I`m trying to work out why. Some part of me – the part of me that used to walk past Clarks shoe shop every single day for four months, just so that I could check in the window that they were still there and some other princess with long curly hair and a white frock hadn`t nabbed the last pair – has decided that it wants an extremely expensive, extremely creepy, Japanese doll with eyes that change colour when you pull a switch. And if that`s not the symptom of some kind of crisis, I don`t know what is.

I don`t even like dolls. In twenty eight years, I have had a total of three dolls. Each met with a brutal fate and probably still haunts me in the limbo that unloved toys go to when their owners destroy or lose them or forget that they exist.

Doll number one – Belinda – was a plastic headed, cloth bodied lovely, with long glossy brown hair that I both envied and resented for being nothing like mine, and an olive face that looked like it might grow a moustache once it hit puberty. She was a gift from my parents – an attempt to get me to play with something, anything – and she failed: I patted her on the head, sat her on the top of a shelf and went back to reading my book. (My sister, on the other hand, took her doll – Sophie, a newborn sweety – and dragged it around and kissed it and fed it until a leg fell off and it stopped looking like a newborn sweety and started looking like a very small, bald Grant Mitchell with extremely violent tendencies and a heroin problem).

Doll number two – I forget her name – was a Cabbage Patch Kid, and I wanted her specifically because (and I remember this) they were all different and I could choose exactly what I wanted, down to the specifications, and none of my friends would have the same. So I went to bed, dreaming of how extremely individual my doll would be, and I woke up, contemplating just how special my doll would be, and then I finally decided on the specifics, got her and got bored of her within 15 hours and put her in a car boot sale, because her individualism no longer meant anything to me at all once I was used to it; the fun had been in defining myself in the choice I made.

Doll number three – who was never named because Matel did it for me – was a Sindy (prettier and less slutty than Barbie), who I stripped down and wrapped in bandages, and then I shaved her head, painted one half black and the other blue and then – when I had shocked my parents quite enough and been told they would not be buying me any more toys for Christmas – ripped her head off and went back to knawing at the felt covering on my Sylvanian families.

And that was pretty much the end of dolls in my life, because the maimed, ignored and tortured ghosts of all three of them were sufficient to stop any others getting anywhere near me.

Now I want a new one. It makes no sense and every kind of sense at the same time, because Blythe dolls are very individual – limited edition, nearly 200 quid each, every single type completely different, with different clothes and hair and makeup and names and characters – which appeals to the Cabbage Patch Kid part of me, and they`re seriously creepy, which appeals to the shave headed Sindy part of me, and they look lovely sitting on shelves while I ignore them completely and read my book, which appeals to the Belinda part of me. None of that, though, really explains why – twenty years after I destroyed my last toy – I feel the need to get another one.

So I`ve thought about it – I like deciphering my own inane urges – and I`ve realised that the Blythe doll isn`t really a doll for me. She`s Japanese, which helps me love her - I am falling more in love with Japan every day - but more importantly: she`s something for me. A few months ago, I wrote about how I had no possessions I cared about; nothing I would save in a fire; nothing that meant anything to me, because I was too scared of tying myself to a place or an object or of risking the loss of something I needed or loved. In the last few months, however, that has changed. I lost the thing I loved – the person I loved and thought I would keep – and so nothing else seems as scary to let go of; more importantly, I`ve finally realised the importance of having things for me, and building things for me, and wanting things for me, and not for somebody else or because of somebody else.

So I`m collecting – slowly – beautiful things, paintings and jewellery and stones from the beach I love – and I`m building a life around me in a way that I`ve never built before: for me, and not for anybody else at all. My house is gradually filling with things I love, and objects that mean something, and I`m finally getting to a place where I`m starting to tie myself to things around me and inside me instead of just the person I am in love with. I`m starting to connect the dots and make sense of the picture they have made.

Blythe, I think, represents all of that. There is no other reason for having one; no pragmatic reason, no useful reason, no financial reason. Spending 200 quid on a doll is ludicrous; buying any kind of doll, actually, when a) I`m twenty eight years old b) I don`t like dolls c) I never have liked dolls makes utterly no sense. But Blythe is something for me: to covet, to want, to buy, to keep, to treasure. To pass on when I have children, and remind me of a time in Japan that changed my life. And, on a very simple level, I get to define myself all over again: I get to make the choices and then keep them as a memory of who I was at this point, and keep them forever.

So I no longer care how stupid it is, or how expensive it is, or how geeky it is, or how scary it`s going to look on my bookshelf. I no longer care if I am having a crisis or not. I want a Blythe doll - the perfect Blythe doll, the right one for me - and so, although I wouldn`t spend my wages on her, I am going to ask for one for my next birthday.

And if she ends up with a shaved head and broken eye switch, stuck at the back of a cupboard somewhere, haunting me forever, then so be it. Because she will be mine to do exactly what I want with.