Friday, November 25th, 2011
I have a lot of experience with American Girl dolls. I have a 9-year-old daughter, work a few blocks from American Girl Place in New York City, and am, apparently, a sucker. It stared with a “Just Like Me Doll,” which Grace wanted for her 6th birthday. I loved the idea, until I realized she was asking for a $100 doll. And that any given outfit for the doll was going to cost $20 to $30, which is what I spend on an outfit for my actual daughter. But I consulted with a neighbor whose girl is the same age, and heard all the good reasons to drink the American Girl Kool-Aid: The dolls are well-made, the girls understand that they’re special, and maybe most importantly, once girls are older than 5, the number of toys they really want dwindles rapidly. It’s nice to have them still want a toy, you know?
So we got the doll, and Grace named her Hollyfield, which is one of Grace’s middle names. Hollyfield has held up well over the past few years. And still gets played with! This past weekend, Grace totally scored a wheelchair for Hollyfield from some friends, who were holding a yard sale of American Girl stuff. I found out about it because their mom posted a notice on Facebook. A friend commented something along the lines of, “It’s so sad when they outgrow their American Girls.” And the mom posted back, “Oh no, they’re selling old American Girl stuff so that they can buy new American Girl stuff.”
The Christmas after we got Hollyfield, I was doing some television for American Baby magazine (no relation to American Girl dolls!), and had an excuse to call in and feature Kit and Ruth, who are friends in American Girl world. (All the dolls come with books, which help real girls learn stories about them, and a bit of history along the way.) Grace got Kit and Ruth from Santa, and that was thrilling. She took to Kit right away, and I’m going to go ahead and admit that I fell in love with Ruth. I joked that she was “mine” although she lives in Grace’s room. The following Christmas, Grace and I took Hollyfield and Ruth to American Girl Place for stylin’ hairdos, earrings, the works. And here’s my word of warning: That store is great fun, but a money pit. I paid as much for Ruth’s hair styling as I pay for my own blowouts. And the craziest thing is, the store is absolutely packed with parents pretending that spending that kind of money is normal. But. That’s what happens when you fall in love with a doll.
Here’s Ruthie—check out her leather jacket!
There have been other trips to American Girl Place. We once went in for $14 doll glasses. Grace insisted Hollyfield needs them, I lied that the doctor checked her eyes and she was fine, Grace wouldn’t let up and saved money for the glasses, and we bought them. They lasted less than a year before they were stepped on and broken. We went to the cafe with her grandparents and had fun (note: They serve alcohol to the grown-ups), we went to the cafe with her friend Natalie and had a blast, and Grace went to a birthday party there too.
Now we’re heading into Christmas 2011, and Grace has announced she’s asking Santa for Cécile Rey, a new American Girl doll who lives in circa-1853 New Orleans with her friend Marie-Grace. I’ll admit, I still had the reaction I had years ago: Do I really have to pay $100 for a doll? But here’s the thing. Grace is 9. This may be the last sweet toy I get to buy for her. And at least she’s not asking for both dolls. I will take a deep breath and buy the doll and secretly kind of love it.
Oh, and I did ask someone at American Girl if there’s ever a way to get a discount. The answer was pretty much no. They have a “sale” section on AmericanGirl.com, but it’s small. If you “like” them on Facebook, you can find out about promotions such as free shipping. But! I went ahead and asked if they’d let us do a giveaway. They’ve agreed to give just one lucky reader a new Bitty Baby, plus the Snowflake dress to go with the doll.
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