In human pop culture there are lots of stories about seemingly ordinary people who turn out to be extraordinary. Whether it's Buffy, the high school student destined to be a vampire slayer, or Neo the computer programmer, hacker and long awaited savior of humankind in The Matrix, or even Mia Thermopolis of The Princess Diaries, who discovers she's the heir to the throne of Genovia. I think there must be some shared human wish to be recognized for your unique talents, to be special, to be chosen.
In a way, I think dolls share this wish. We start our lives outside of the factory sitting on store shelves, hoping someone will buy us. There's no feeling quite like the thrill of being picked from a row of dolls, especially if the other dolls in the row look exactly like you. However even when we find a home, that wish to be special doesn't completely go away. I think many dolls secretly hope to be the 'favorite toy'. And although the fear of being replaced by a newer, prettier, flashier doll is something we try not to think about, that doesn't mean the possibility never crosses our minds. Dolls who have had more than one owner are especially vulnerable to this fear. A doll who has been sold or donated or given away by their first owner often feels rejected. And if you've been rejected once, it's very easy to believe that it could happen again.
Treesa is my second owner. Like Geena and Celeste, I started out as a collector doll who was given to a child as a gift. To be fair, it did say 'Children's Collector Series' on my box. After years of play, I was donated to Goodwill. My hair was messy, and my pretty dress was gone. I was afraid, wondering what would happen to me now, wondering who would want me like this. Then Treesa came. She looked me over so carefully, studying me. "Perfect," she said. She held me in her hand as she looked around the store, before going to checkout. As she carried me, I felt this overwhelming sense of safety. I felt like Treesa had rescued me. On top of that, she had said I was perfect. Treesa had seen something worthwhile in me, something that my first owner hadn't. Even without my pretty dress Treesa thought I was valuable, special. Being accepted that way, after my first owner's rejection, raised my feelings of self-worth. I was so grateful that before we'd even left the store I'd given Treesa my full loyalty. I was Treesa's doll now, and I couldn't imagine anything more wonderful than that.
Treesa talked to me while she sorted through her boxes of Barbie clothes, picking an outfit for me to wear. I didn't answer, of course. Although Treesa knew I was alive, I hadn't met any of Treesa's other dolls yet, so I didn't know that she knew. But I don't think Treesa really expected an answer that first night. She was just being polite.
After enjoying what felt like the best night's sleep I'd had in a long time, I woke up the next morning not sure where I was. When I lifted my head a little, trying to get my bearings, I heard another doll's voice coming from behind me. "Rise and shine Sleeping Beauty." I turned and saw a Barbie doll with short, dark hair, dressed in leather.
"How did you know I was a Sleeping Beauty doll?" I asked curiously. The other doll looked surprised. "I didn't," she said. "It's an expression, you know?" She looked me over and said, "I haven't seen you around before. You new?"
"Treesa bought me last night," I said. The other doll got a sour look on her face when I mentioned Treesa. "She give you a name?" the doll asked.
"Charity Violet," I said. The other doll stared at me for a minute. She looked surprised, but she quickly shrugged it off. "I'm Halle," she said, holding out her hand in a friendly way. I couldn't help but notice her claw-like fingers. Still, I reached out my own hand to shake hers. But before I could I heard the sound of human feet coming up the stairs. I froze. Halle rolled her eyes. "Speak of the devil," she said. Treesa came into the room and headed for the spot where she'd left me. When she saw Halle standing there, she paused. "You work fast," Treesa said.
Halle glared at Treesa and said, "Somebody's got to help the newbies." I'd never heard a doll talk in front of a human before. It was something dolls just didn't do. Treesa didn't seem surprised though. "Typical Halle," Treesa said with a laugh, "I get a new doll, you have to be the first to know about it."
"At least with me around we'll find out there's a newbie," Halle said, still glaring. I wondered about Halle's attitude, wondered what Treesa could've possibly done to tick her off. Treesa just sighed and said, "I know, I know, humans don't tell you anything." It sounded as if Treesa was used to this sort of thing from Halle.
"Anyway," Treesa said, "since it's a weekend I thought I'd come over and check on Charity Violet before the welcoming committee shows up."
"Welcoming committee?" I asked, a little hesitantly. I still wasn't sure how I felt about talking to a human.
"I have a lot of dolls," Treesa explained. "And now that you've met Halle word of mouth is going to spread fast. By the end of the day the whole collection will know there's a new doll in the house."
"I'm standing right here!" Halle said, sounding angry.
"I'm just stating the facts," Treesa said. "You've made it your job to keep the other dolls informed, and you're VERY good at it."
I guess Halle didn't like being teased because she stormed off, muttering under her breath. Treesa watched her go, then turned to me and said, "I'm sorry you had to see that. Halle and me have a...complicated relationship. I do try to respect her opinions," Treesa continued, "most of the time."
I wasn't sure what to say, so I didn't say anything. Treesa apologized again. "I'm sorry," she said. "This must be a little weird for you, talking to a human for the first time. Maybe you'd rather talk to some other dolls."
"Are they all Barbies?" I asked curiously
"Mostly," Treesa said. "I have a few non-Mattel fashion dolls, and I have some dolls from other Mattel lines besides Barbie. And of course there's Barbie friends and family dolls who aren't actually Barbies, like Ken dolls. I have a lot of Kellys and Kelly friends."
"Do you have any other fairytale dolls?" I asked. For some reason, I thought Treesa looked a little disappointed. "I don't have any other dolls from your series," Treesa said. "But I have some Disney princess dolls and their families." Then Treesa's expression seemed to perk up, as if she'd had an idea. "Would you like to meet some of them?" she asked.
I nodded. I felt I would be more comfortable talking with other dolls than I was talking with a human. And in my experience, Disney dolls are generally cheerful and pleasant dolls to be around. Treesa and I started to cross the room. Treesa carried me, pointing out some of the highlights along the way. "The bed's over there," Treesa said. "The bureau's on this side of the room, near the closet." From my vantage point above the floor I could just make out flickers of movement here and there, other dolls, I assumed. We had almost reached the bookcase when Treesa stopped suddenly. "Oh, hey Lawson," Treesa said. She lowered me back down to the floor, where I came face to face with a muscular action figure doll.
"Charity this is Lawson," Treesa said. "Lawson, this is Charity Violet. She's new here." Lawson didn't say anything, but he glared at Treesa, just like Halle had. I was beginning to wonder if all of Treesa's dolls disliked her. "It's nice to meet you," I said to Lawson, a little uncertainly. He nodded once but didn't say anything. He didn't seem very friendly, and I wondered why Treesa had bothered to introduce us.
Treesa looked at her watch then. Lawson opened his mouth to say something, but Treesa must not have noticed because she cut him off. "I'm sorry Charity," Treesa said. "I know I said I'd introduce you to the Disney dolls but I have to go. I'm sure Lawson can give you directions." Then Treesa left the room. I was very confused. I didn't understand why Treesa would suddenly leave. I told myself that she must have a good reason, but I still felt a little abandoned. Then I noticed how angry Lawson looked. He was staring at the door where Treesa had left. I guessed he wasn't happy that Treesa had dumped tour guide duties on him. "I'm sorry," I apologized. "I don't mean to be a burden."
Lawson looked at me and said, "Not your fault. Treesa likes messing with our lives, probably 'cause she can't get her own life together." At first I didn't understand what Lawson meant. Then I realized what he was actually saying. Lawson obviously thought that Treesa was trying to play matchmaker. My first thought was that Lawson had to be wrong, that someone like Treesa would never do something like that. But then I was forced to admit to myself that Lawson probably knew Treesa better than I did. "Treesa...does this sort of thing a lot?" I asked.
"You don't know the half of it," Lawson said. "If she's not playing matchmaker she's pairing up siblings or arranging adoptions for doll parents who weren't planning on being parents."
I felt conflicted then. The part of me that had given my loyalty to Treesa still wanted to defend her, to argue that Treesa could have a perfectly innocent reason for leaving me with Lawson. But another part of me had started to question Treesa's motives.
"If you want some company I'd check by the window," Lawson said. "Just pass the bookcase and keep going 'til you get to the black metal shelf unit in the corner. The window'll be on the left." It was pretty clear that Lawson wanted to get rid of me, and I needed some time alone to sort out my thoughts. "Thank you," I said politely, and left.
I've met many other dolls since then, and most of them aren't as hostile towards Treesa as Halle and Lawson are. I think they all get annoyed with Treesa from time to time, but for the most part they don't seem to hold grudges for long. They seem to accept the fact that Treesa is human, and that humans can be thoughtless sometimes. I've heard stories from multiple dolls about Treesa's 'meddling', so I know it does happen. But aside from Halle and Lawson, and maybe a few others, the dolls in the collection don't really take it personally.
(Be sure to come back to read how my name was changed from Charity Violet to Rowena.)