Monday, August 21, 2006

Another girl, another planet

I think I’m going to have to leave my series about liberty and stuff for a while as we’re heading down south on Wednesday and I have a lot to do before then. I’m going to take my laptop with me as we may be a good couple of weeks, depending on when Tinker is born (click here to see a picture of my enormous sister). But if I do any blogging while away (oh come on, if?) it will only be general nonsense - as opposed to vaguely-thought-out nonsense.

Last week, I was looking for cards to give to R & A for when Tinker arrives. I have to buy cards on-line and in advance because I can’t pop out to the post office to choose an appropriate card and [...]’s selection is usually, well, anyway, I have to buy cards on-line and in advance. I buy some from my friend Vic, who takes pretty photos and I buy others from Charity Cards, who are a very good shop about which I have no complaints whatsoever (in fact I recommend them).

However, naturally they have a range of New Baby cards which are fairly typical. Most of them are either baby pink or baby blue, celebrating the joys of unambiguous gender and thus initiating the process of gender conditioning. By far the worst example was this one, which reads on the front;

A baby girl
Absolutely wonderful!
And you know exactly what lies ahead…

- her first Barbie at three
- clothes conscious at four
- borrowing make-up at five
- obsessed with her hair at eight
- practicing [sic] high-heels at ten
- eyeing up the boys at twelve
- first Cosmo at thirteen

and then the moods, the spots, the piercings...

The first time I read Casino instead of Cosmo, which was confusing. This sort of thing is so depressing. At least in the eighteenth century certain accomplishments were expected of a little girl. Imagine a child has just come into the world and on account of the contents of its nappy, it is condemned to be completely preoccupied with its appearance - it is defined by the preoccupation with its appearance, the attribute over which it has the least control and which is least likely to bring it any happiness. Okay, so everyone likes to look good, but it does not maketh the man by any means, or indeed, the woman.

I thought I would write a rant about this, but on reflection, it needs very little analysis. Instead; a little nostalgia...

I had a Barbie doll. I also had two Ken dolls and an Action Man. My main childhood solo occupation was playing with Lego, but when I played with my dolls, most of my games involved the Action Man (a sinister looking thing with eyes that moved from side to side via a lever in the back of its head) kidnapping Barbie. The Ken dolls – one blond, one brunet and both mutually enamoured with Barbie – would then set about her rescue. Their characters were based somewhat upon Ilya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo and most of my play consisted of their adventures and conversations. Dad helped me make them a speedboat (I wanted to make a car, but Dad steered me towards this less complex project). It was painted in blue Hammerite and had seats made out of vinyl flooring that somehow managed to look really cool. The dolls started off with really camp clothes – a pink tuxedo, a garland and pair of loud Bermuda shorts and of course Action Man’s khakis – so I had to make sensible clothes for them to wear.

I guess I presumed that girls didn’t have adventures, they just got abducted by dodgy-eyed men with fluffy penguin henchman (I seemed to have several soft toy penguins). But on the plus side, they could quite happily have two boyfriends who remained the best of friends. Neither of these ideas played out in experience - apart from the penguins, of course.

I did become conscious of some aspects of clothes early on. I knew that sometimes if I wore trousers I could be mistaken by other adults for a boy and thus get away with far more low-level naughtiness and dangerous behaviour. I can also remember being bothered at one come as you please day at school (day when we didn't need to wear uniform) that I was the only child in class who did not possess a shell-suit, then the height of fashion. With hindsight, I am quite proud of the fact.

My first interest in make-up was the casualty make-up we put on in The Badgers (St. John’s Ambulance Brigade for wee ones). Bruising was my speciality but I could do a nice gaping wound if required. I had a brief flirtation with cosmetic make-up in my late teens and early twenties when I became very conscious about my remarkable texture and colouring, but I am still not sure how to put it on and not look ever so slightly like a clown.

I don't think I have ever been obsessed with my hair.

I only got into high heels when I could no longer walk any significant distance anyway; you can wear three or four inch heels in a wheelchair and it doesn’t make a great deal of difference. Can’t combine them with a short skirt though – it is simply bad form to sit with one’s legs crossed in a wheelchair, as well as being bad for the circulation.

Eyeing up boys at twelve? Twelve year old girls, in my experience, are completely and utterly baffled by boys and their relationship to them. Just a short time ago, everything was fine, but suddenly they've gone all odd; they don't smell too good, they don't look too good, you've got to try not to giggle at the fluctuations in their voices and it's no longer possible to hang out in the uncomplicated way you used to - and will do again when you all get over yourselves in a few years time. The state that twelve year old girls are in themselves means that while boys may be a source of bewildered preoccupation, it's not eyeing up so much as giving anxious sideways glances to.

And I have never bought a copy of Cosmopolitan Magazine.

All this and yet clearly, I turned out all right. I am perfectly normal in every conceivable way.


Katie said...

I had a Sindy who was a ballet dancer. My parents were confused when I requested her because I had *never* asked for a doll before. But - I told them - I wanted this Sindy because this Sindy had a caliper. Like me, at the time.

They were even more confused. What she actually had was a plastic stand you could balance one of her legs in while you made her do medically impossible ballet poses. But it looked like a caliper to me.

The Goldfish said...

Am I allowed to say Aw, how sweet? Maybe Sindy had hypermobility in some of her joints (but not all, obviously)?

Sally said...

But I love crossing my legs, showing off my heels, in my wheelchair - confuses starers wonderfully.
When nephews/nieces grow up a bit, you can play with Lego all over again. (I've kept my bumps Lego; wouldn't let her donate it elsewhere.)
Have a great trip south, and we look forward to you blogging your news when you have time.

The Goldfish said...

Thanks Sally. AJ and I have a lot of Lego still and when we've spent Christmas by ourselves we've usually spent the day building Lego models - mostly Heath Robinson style devices for doing pointless tasks out of the Technical stuff.

Wow, the Word Verification is almost a real word, it reads studd. So there you go.

Mary said...

Humm. I was flirting at six, have never bought Cosmo, got my first lipstick at twelve, and as for dolls, my sister and I discarded the Barbies as too small and the Tiny Tears as too big, we had a doll each that was just the right size to have romantic liasons with our respective teddybears and they were the favourites.

Future Doc Wilson said...

Don't forget the play makeup kits, plastic beads, feather boas and going in mom's closet to play dress up! And Easy Bake ovens! Much fun!!

P.S. Sister looks very nice-- very round, but not enormous. Round, comes down--enormous is forever!

Sage said...

My neighbour just had twins, and I made a plaster cast of her belly days before she delivered. My view of what constitutes enormous has changed permanently. But your sister looks lovely with that pregnant glow stuff happening.

I did two things with my Barbies. Mainly I built incredible homes for them. I even crafted an outhouse with a sliding door with a moon carved in in, and a little roll of toilet paper inside. I'm angry to this day that my folks pitched it. It was brilliant, dammit!

And the other thing I did was to make them all have sex. They had some wild orgies in that outhouse believe me. My Barbie scenarios all involved walking on the beach then suddenly falling into lustful passion. (Too many Gidget and Beach Blanket Bingo movies??) If I couldn't get one of my brother's GI Joes, I'd make a Barbie in a pantsuit be the guy. I remember my next door neighbour, a girl two years my senior, really enjoyed watching me play. I found it odd that she didn't want to join in the fun. Different strokes...

And I turned out just fine!!

BloggingMone said...

I had one Barbie and several dolls. I was given them by my aunties and grandmas, because normal girls play with dolls. I never played with my Barbie, I just knitted little sweaters for her and I have torn the dolls clothes off and put them on my toy pets, a big bear, a lion and an elephant. I even had a little toy push pram. There was never a doll in there - bear, lion and elephant were taking turns. I was a proud member of our street soccer team and was looking up to boys only if they were good soccer players, couldn't think of any other reason.... I do wear make up from time to time, I cannot walk on high heels, I am the least fashion conscious person I know and I have the same hair cut since my kindergarten days, with minor differences in length from time to time. I suppose I have just turned out fine!
Off topic: Goldfish, Emma is waiting for you!

Mary said...

Arlene, the only thing I really did with my toy oven was try to cram a disliked doll into it during a re-enactment of Hansel and Gretel.

Katie said...

Oh, that Sindy was DEFINITELY hypermobile. She could bend her knee backwards.

NB: I made a masseuse - who (luckily) was also a close friend - scream when she realised just how hypermobile some of my joints are. (I can bend my fingers back until there is much less than a 90 degree angle between them and the back of my hand. I didn't realise this was unusual until I got accussed of trying to put someone off in a chess match, aged about 13.) Sindy would have made her pass out.

Anonymous said...

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