Less than immaculate. Infinitely fallible. Occasionally messy. Never quite measuring up to standards much more suited to the molded idyllic replicas of “daughter” which graced the household shelves - including the ones now in my bedroom.
Over the years, the number of dolls had grown directly in proportion to the myriad of ways I seemed to constantly fail her. Until stealthily, the collection of perfection crept its way into my room under the guise of being “my investment”.
Investment? Those words confused me. The definition of “investment” is something which is expected to appreciate in value. Money was spent to purchase the dolls with the idea that their worth would grow. As for my own merit? I had yet to have proven it to her apparently.
I didn’t want the dolls.
I didn’t like them.
Yet I was stuck with them.
In a weird twist of self projection, she soon expected me to covet them as gifts, or use my own money to increase their population. It was as though I was being crowded out by those objects who would never disappoint her. And now I was supposed to feed the obsession.
Suddenly my already overactive brain was haunted daily by the figures in my peripheral vision. “My room” was no longer a sanctuary from the rest of the chaos that surrounded me. Instead it was a place where I might be spied upon by nonliving figures she communicated with as though they were alive.
It’s interesting now to look back on those days. Like a scene from a horror flick, I half expected the dolls to come to life and stab me dead in the middle of the night. Naturally they would do so without getting a drop of blood on their tailored dresses, nor breaking a sweat on their porcelain bodies.
I remember one night, my junior year of high school when I was sick and homebound, I lay awake staring up at the ceiling. It was then that I wondered if SHE would have preferred to have spent the rest of her life playing with the dolls because they could never disenchant her.
Unlike me, they would never make decisions she did not like. They would certainly not do things she could not control. They always wore the loveliest outfits - no room for creative individuality that didn’t mesh with her sense of style. They forever would be pretty for her to admire. Most importantly, they would NEVER EVER abandon her.
Like I did.
I was 18 years when I discovered that not every family unit was like mine. I grew up in a world of pretend. Like the set of an old western movie, much of my life was a facade.
Everyone wanted to be like our family. We seemed ideal, like the dolls on the shelf. Always together, never fighting, as though any moment we might break into the Brady Bunch song.
(Amusingly we were given that nickname goodheartedly by some of my school chums. Retro re-runs were big when I was a kid.)
But like the dolls on my shelves, our outside appearances covered the lack of substance behind our fragile veneers. We seemed loving and kind towards one another. But below the surface there was anger motivating some, and fear controlling others.
I didn’t know I felt afraid, until I left. Because how do you explain what fear is, when you’ve never felt the absence of it?
I didn’t know I mattered to this world, until I went out into it. Because how do you know you are worthy of existing, if you’ve spent your whole life never quite achieving the impossible standards set for you?
But then I left. Innocently enough. Going off to a college on my own dime, not afforded by the “doll” investment still back in the place of my childhood.
It was a college that I would also later leave. But going to the city it was located in, was eye opening. I discovered that there was a world out there glittering in an awe-inspiring way. Not like the lurid glass eyeballs of the dolls always watching me.
Ironically it was in Los Angeles - La La Land itself - that I discovered what was real and genuine. On my own, paying my way for everything, I realized these truths:
It was in Los Angeles that I grew brave and curious. Riding the bus, bluffing my way into jobs, asking questions about everything I saw. I filled the empty spaces inside with knowledge, friendship, community, my first love affair. The dolls would never be more than vacuous entities.
Yet they were perfection. And I still wanted to be looked at by her with the same adoration that she gave to them. It’s funny how we often want those who intentionally and willfully hurt us the most, to love us the best.
So I went for a visit. I had not yet heard the phrase “you can’t go home again”. Perhaps I would have been too naive to have believed it. There was still a part of me that wished I would somehow be found as worthy of the time and attention and care she lavished on those damn dolls. And that was when I learned my hardest truth, and the one that set me free:
So once again I left. And gradually over time, I severed the ties that bound me to the people who cared more about the dolls, than the living human that once was imprisoned under their so-called care.
Now at night when I rest, the only glistening I see is the light of the stars shining in my window. I sleep happily with the moon being the only other witness to my dreams. And unlike the one who claims to have raised me, Mother Nature never tells me that I am not deserving enough of her love.
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Tink, world traveler, positivity muse, and adult entertainer, has also freelance written for a number of companies as their ghostwriter. Now talking directly to YOU on this platform, she is also writing two books at her community's request.