When I was five years old, I loved my blond-haired, blue-eyed Ginny doll. She didn’t have breasts or hips, like Barbie, thank god. Instead, she wore jeans and sneakers and braids in her hair, and, best of all, she had a pair of roller skates that really rolled. Of course, because I had openly shown my adoration for Ginny, and marveled at her roller skates, my brother had to grab her out of my hands and make her skate across the street. I couldn’t catch up to him; he was a worldly seven-year-old after all. And somehow, with all of the chasing and racing and grabbing and skating, Ginny lost one of her roller skates and no amount of searching could help me find it.
I don’t know what happened to the Ginny doll I had at five, but recently I looked Ginny up online, just to see if my memory of her was accurate, and I found her on eBay, pristine in her original box, with her roller skates. I could even buy her some new (old) outfits and a new dresser, with hangers, to keep it all in. But that would have been going too far.
I’m not sure what to do with her, now that she’s here. I was never quite sure how to play with dolls as a kid and I’m even more stumped now, but it’s a relief to have her back, and on a high enough shelf so that Cricket can’t chew her head off.
When I looked for Ginny on eBay, though, I found out that there was a brunette Ginny too. I thought all of them were blond. I assumed all dolls were blond when I was little, because I never saw one with brown hair like mine. As an adult, I thought maybe I should buy the brunette Ginny, to correct the past in some way, but I really wanted the Ginny doll I remembered. And that made me think, Oy, really? After twenty years of therapy, unresolved issues still have to pop up?
My best childhood friend was blond and looked a lot like my Ginny doll. Her family had more money and more stuff than we did, more games and toys and clothes and food and an in-ground pool in the backyard. Her mother took pity on my doll-less-ness and bought me a cabbage patch doll one year, another blond, and later on, she gave me a hand-me-down two foot tall plastic doll with long blond hair. My childhood friend and I weren’t really friends anymore by then. I still loved her, but, it’s a long story. One day when I was alone in my room feeling some inexplicable anger, let’s call it rage, I saw that two foot tall plastic doll with long blond hair sitting in the corner, and I took a pair of scissors and cut her hair down to the nubs. I can’t explain why I did it, or why I did the same thing to my own hair a few years later, but when it was done, I felt a little better.
Later, when my brother and his friend were into making videos, they stole my short-haired doll and made her the star of a movie called “Ten ways to kill a baby.” They hung her from a lamp post, drowned her in a pool, dropped her out a window and shot her with an arrow. I don’t remember the other things they tried. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one with anger issues.
My associations with blondness weren’t all negative, though. Around the same time as Ginny, I was enamored of Olivia Newton John, especially the version of Olivia from the movie Xanadu. She was a blond-haired muse come to life, on roller skates. She got to skate with Gene Kelly, and sing Xanadu and Magic and I loved her. I loved the other worldliness of her, with her blond hair and wispy white dress and spacey electronic music. The first record I ever owned was one of hers. The album itself, that big round black disk, felt like a magical thing. I held it out in front of me and twirled in a circle and felt like I was flying a plane and escaping from the down to earth world I had so little taste for.
I still had mixed feelings about this blondness thing when I went looking for a new dog eight years ago. I grew up with black dogs. We had a lot of mutts and even our two pure bred dogs were Dobermans, mostly black with brown patches. I felt a kinship with the black dogs, maybe because I understood, without realizing it, that black-haired dogs had even more of a self esteem issue than I did, in a world where black dogs were usually the last to be chosen from the shelter. But after my black lab mix, Dina, died, I needed a change.
I wasn’t quite ready for blond, though. I met the most adorable little red-haired Cockapoo at a pet store and when I could not choose her (because she cost $1300, and was clearly from a puppy mill, and I was just starting to have an idea of what those were), I went looking for a reputable Cockapoo breeder. I chose Cricket over the red heads because I liked her breeder more, and felt better about how she’d been raised, and I tried to ignore her white blond hair because I loved Cricket right away.
The day we went to the shelter a year and a half ago was an impulse, not a plan. We thought we were going to volunteer to foster a dog, but I also had in mind a sister for Cricket, and we got sidetracked. I was looking for someone small, and calm, and older, but I had in mind a brown or black dog. And then I met little white-haired Butterfly and she smiled at me, and I was hooked.
I’m afraid that people will look at my pretty blond dogs, and then look at me, and think I don’t fit. Clearly, these girls are adopted. But they carry that childhood magic for me, that Olivia Newton John, Ginny doll magic that made me feel like I could fly away.
I still feel disloyal to the dark haired girls and dogs like me, but I also know how lucky I am to have these particular blonds in my life. Seeing my dogs each morning is like looking at sunflowers, or eating a cupcake with a mile of frosting on top. There’s a chemical reaction when I see them that raises my neurotransmitters from their daily slog. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
But, still, the temptation to put them in roller skates is extraordinary!