6 Life Lessons I Learned From The American Girl Dolls
Let it be known that I am not one for nostalgia. Never. "To the future!" I cry bravely, as I ignore Facebook links to "90 Reasons the '90s Were the Best" (shoulder pads outweigh every. single. one. of those) and "18 Reasons Kansas City is the Best Hometown" (I know where better barbecue is, KC, and it's in Brooklyn). But after reading about how Mattel was compromising American Girl's strong-women-encouraging messages and replacing them with spa days (admittedly de-stressing but also distressing) and butterfly chasing (hahahahaha I can't, sorry), even I experienced some Kirsten-induced nostalgia about the State of American Girl Dolls and Also Humanity.
But apparently nostalgia and reflection are two different things, and my editor would like me to focus on the last one because it indicates some sort of self-awareness and maturity. So here is what I learned about being an adult from the American Girl books, which, like pretty much all my friends, I read cover-to-cover and occasionally fell asleep with on my face.
1. Everything you learned about long-distance relationships, you learned from Felicity and, um, her horse
Felicity rescued and revived a maltreated horse named Penny from a man named Jiggy Nye, who became the stuff of my nightmares as an eight year old. But she had to set it free, so it could move on to greener pastures, and also so she would't get arrested for stealing a horse. But in Felicity Saves the Day, Penny comes back. And, not in a creepy way because all 10-year-olds have an inexplicable love for horses, it sort of sounds like she's narrating a scene from the arrivals terminal at JFK. Just swap out "Penny" for a potential long-distance-partner:
"During the months they had been apart, Felicity had often imagined what it would be like if she were ever with [insert name here] again. But even in her dreams, she had not imagined how happy she would feel, or how content. It was as if something sad and longing in her had finally come to peace, all because [insert same name here] was back.
Just like that, but with less falsetto maybe.
2. Everyone has friends cooler than they are, and on that note, Agnes and Agatha say long underwear is OUT, guys
You heard it from Agnes and Agatha, Samantha's BFFs, first — way back in 1904. They've been calling it for years, unless you live in Scotland or some other arctic-ly cold country, in which case we won't tell. Also the latest things, according to the NYC twins: ice cream molds, petits fours, and teddy bears. The twins are ahead of the curve. And you know what? They're gonna be hella cold next winter.
3. Act your age (aka don't grow up too fast)
"After [the teddy bear] had gone around the circle, the party got too quiet again. Everyone was trying so had to be polite and grown-up, they were as stiff as the lace on their collars."
Holy hell, worst birthday party ever, Samantha — and that was before Eddy salted the ice cream, too. If that happened at any of my social gatherings with my BFFs, it would be shots for everyone, because polite silence is not a thing with best friends (except when it is, and that's fine, too, but not at a party). I mean, it was only when the teddy bear got stolen and the prim Victorian girls had to run (heavens to Grandmary) and duck under hedges to get the damn thing that things got exciting. In terms of thrill levels, that's like a 10 year old's equivalent of a Jagerbomb.
4. Women have been fighting for our freedoms for a long time, and eventually the old conservatives in the establishment come around
First there were the abolitionists challenging slavery to secure liberty for Addy. Then Samantha was fighting for Nellie's right to education in Samantha Learns a Lesson, and Aunt Cornelia campaigning for the right to vote later on. Women haven't had it great in history, thanks primarily to old white guys locked in institutions (the political kind). But the girls showed us that women have to be vocal in the debate in order to bring about any changes that will benefit us. The issue biggest at hand right now? Our health — something definitely worth fighting for.
5. New York is magical and the best
"New York City! Just the name was magic! ... In New York it always seemed as if something exciting was about to happen." Thus spoke Zarathustra, Samantha's third-person limited narrator in Happy Birthday, Samantha!. It was obvious then. It's obvious now.
6. Lastly, do what's right by your hair
Molly, she of the fine straight hair (hair diversity FTW), had a close call in Changes for Molly, which was almost called Permanent Changes for Molly until Jill stepped in and was all, "Get the hell away from the perm solution, almost-tweens." Thank God for Jill. Molly's hair never would have held a perm, and Susan wasn't exactly Jefferson's No. 1 stylist. Because of Molly, we learned that our hair is all unique and that some people can do hair things other people can't. Some people, like me, have three heads' worth of hair. Others have precisely the right amount, and it can even hold a curl for more than an hour. And never our products shall meet.