Last post I mentioned Barbie.
Odd reference, and I had to think about why I was thinking about Barbie, something I have little or no association with (other than my infamous "Barbie Girl Dance", formerly the hit of battalion dining-ins) typically. Turns out that it combines our adoption trip to Guangzhou, and Missy's new bedroom.
In the process of setting up Missy with her new digs we culled through her toys, pitching many of them into the Goodwill bag, but also finding a few new ones for baby girl. Among them was "Going Home Barbie".Now you can't go to Toys R Us and pick up a "Going Home Barbie". You can't get one from the dolls-and-teddies store, or at a collectors show unless you're very industrious.
Because the only way to get one of these things is to go to China and adopt a little orphan.
I'm not sure if everyone gets one. But I know that if you go to China and stay at the White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island you will. It shows up in your room one day, like a pillow mint or fresh towels. You come in and there it is on the TV cabinet or on the desk; perky-faced, slender, blonde Barbie holding her adorable dusky Chinese Orphan Barbie Baby.
I don't know whether Chinese Orphan Barbie Baby comes with eczema, giardia and scabies or whether you have to buy them with the "Social Welfare Institute Disease Playset" sold separately.I was frankly too stressed and overwhelmed by the mess of Baoxin's disrupted adoption and our subsequent whirlwind week with Shaomei to really think much about Going Home Barbie. I know she got thrown in the luggage because she turned up on Mojo's dresser sometime in the autumn of 2007 and hung around up there for a while. Eventually she disappeared and I can't say I regretted her much.
But this past weekend suddenly, there was Little Miss, clutching Chinese Orphan Barbie Baby. I went to look and there was Mommy Barbie, facedown on the bedroom floor, abandoned for the moment. Mojo explained that she had come across Going Home Barbie and had finally accepted that it was Just A Toy and, as such, belonged with a child. Barbie and Baby were played with for less than a day before they went back into the loose-toy bin on the bottom shelf of the armoire.
I'm not sure where I stand on Barbies in general and "fashion dolls" for my little girl in particular. We have not emphasized these dolls, or the other apparently inescapable preteen-girl accessory, the "Disney Princess", but we have not actively discouraged them, either. Little Miss seems to treat them like any other toy, no more treasured than her stuffed animals, her bike, or her puzzles, and much less than her favorite books, which she adores and will drag around to be read and re-read to her whenever possible.
If that changes, we may have to decide what to do about dolls with the physiques of stick-insects with breasts and permanently deformed feet. But not today.
But what really occurred to me as I stood contemplating prone Barbie abandoned on the woodwork was to wonder what a Chinese toy factory worker thought assembling this doll that would would seem almost a comic-book representation of the history of Western colonialism and cultural imperialism that's often linked with international adoption. Does this silly bit of commercial crap say anything about international adoption? Nothing? Nothing good? Or just nothing at all, just another damn cynical marketing ploy, a politically incorrect misfit toy, the lawn dart of dolls?
What does she know of disculturation, of assimilation? Of the loss of her child's native language and surroundings, what does she care? Does she try to get Ken to go to Mandarin class? To play Hong Kong hip-hop and wear Shanghai fashions? Does she worry that her daughter will be castigated if she wants to date nice Chinese boys as an "ABC" - "American Born Chinese"...and stereotyped by Caucasian boys as a "China Doll"?
Barbie herself says nothing. She just teeters there in her hot pink CFM pumpsand her vacant grin, unaware that her Chinese baby is mingling with the my little ponies and the Little People and Noah's animals down in the toy basket on the floor. Unconcerned about all the things waiting out there for a little Chinese girl growing up in America. She doesn't worry about race, and gender, and hope, and fear.
And Little Miss doesn't either.