Friday, December 20, 2013

Barbies and Army Men

My brother and I both played with dolls.  Of course, he would not like to see it that way. After all, I had a very elaborate collection of finely wrought dolls garbed in mid-Victorian and
American antebellum dresses which I arranged carefully in the window seat of my bedroom. I also had a collection of Troll Dolls, along with Barbie and Midge, whose little high heels and metallic cloth dresses made me jump up and look into the mirror and wonder what I would look like when I was 25.

Paul’s dolls (okay, “action figures”) were not very elaborate; they were formed of molded plastic, probably a low-density polyethylene, and they were designed to position in strategic formation. So, while I was busily arranging my dolls and ordering their worlds for battle on the dance floor and for the attention of men in the beau monde, my brother was busy unpeeling Black Cats (small firecrackers) to harvest their powder to make something powerful enough to blast out an entire battalion and launch dirt clods into the air. The tiny figurines were expressions of our inner lives, and an opportunity to enact games of omnipotence, or at least explore all the ways why you could just never know everything, nor could you predict how, why, and when things might fall apart.

His improvised explosive devices were often unpredictable. The could be duds, or they could blow up. There were times when he was lucky that no one was around except me, and obviously I did not count, having had my own frustrations and disasters with my dolls, my little proxies, whose hair did not grow back after I cut it, and whose outfits were limited to my fledgling skills with a small sewing machine and a great imagination.

Perhaps we should have changed places and I could have experimented with tunneling and blasting and my brother could have role-played social scenarios in Barbie’s Beach House rather than the mass carnage “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning” types of bravado-infused stories and enactments.
Hard to say.