My daughter has a doll called Kaya. I really don’t mind this doll at all, although many dolls aggravate me. Most dolls are unabashedly materialist. Kaya genuinely seemed to be an earnest survivor–a native American just trying to get by. American Girl did a great job with Kaya. She is hardworking (according to the books that describe her tales) as well as gorgeous. My oldest daughter (aged 9) admires Kaya for the right reasons. Meet Kaya.
Well . . . my daughter and I traveled to Chicago to have a special father-daughter vacation. My daughter asked to visit the Chicago American Girl Store. I quickly agreed. It was her vacation too, and I like to believe that I am an armchair anthropologist. Therefore, I’m always at work.
If you have trouble finding the store in Chicago, ask anyone walking down the Magnificent Mile and they’ll tell you. The American Girl store is a major Chicago institution.
I just assumed that I knew what kind of merchandise was in the store, but I was wrong. There is a lot more to American Girl than brave little Kaya. There are all kinds of dolls, including trendy, preppy, smug, materialist little dolls. And how dare I call what they sell “merchandise”!
Here’s a slogan prominently displayed throughout the store: Those dolls are “just like you.” Just like me? Oh, I suppose they weren’t really talking to me. But those dolls are supposedly just like all those little girl customers. You’ll recognize those girls by the way they drag their parents around the store and convince their parents to pull out their credit cards for those expensive accessories–even Kaya has lots of accessories, including a set of plastic food for $20.
“Just like you.” What does that really mean? It means that the professional staff of the store can match those dolls up with your daughter’s physical traits. It also means that you can buy matching clothes for your daughter and her doll(s). By the way, that staff does include more than a few young men. Men who aren’t afraid to play with (or at least sell) dolls. The staff can match you up with your doll-counterpart fairly easily, because they have dozens of potential matches:
If you have medium brown colored skin, they have a $100 doll for you. I asked one of the staff whether they match up the personality with each girl’s personality. She looked confused, then laughed and said “no.” Those dolls are a lot like you–except (and don’t tell this to any of the little girls) they are plastic and not alive. Don’t tell that to anyone at the store, because they spend their energy succdessfully convincing the girls otherwise. The store has a big theater where real people portray the dolls in elaborate productions. Each ticket to one of these productions is about $26.
Ooops. Did your doll have a bad hair day? If so, you’ll need to take her to the American Girl Salon, for a $20 hair styling:
If your doll loses her head (or arm), you can take her to the American Girl Hospital. They don’t make housecalls and they don’t have an ambulance that comes out to the scene of the accident. But they are great doctors, according to the young female clerk. I asked whether any of the patients have died at the hospital and she gave me a nervous laugh.
I asked her whether those “Restrooms” mentioned on the sign are for the dolls or for the girls. She told me that they are restrooms for girls, though those restrooms include special accommodations for the dolls in the restroom, some sort of doll lounge, so that the girls don’t need to take the dolls into the stalls. Speaking of lounging, it’s been a long day, so the dolls need to rest a bit.
And now it’s time to have a meal. How about one of those $20 per person meals at the American Doll Cafe?
Where does your doll sit? Right next to you, of course. American Doll provides special seats for the dolls, right at your table.
Don’t put your doll too close to that Banana Flambé, or it might be right back to the Doll Hospital for you best friend.
Do you have any other questions? If so, check with the American Girl Store Concierge.
If you have questions after-hours, call anyway. Maybe one of those little dolls will pick up the phone and talk to you.