Sarah Stewart Taylor, friend of the Tarts and author of the sublime mystery series featuring art history professor Sweeney St. George, will be guest-blogging now and then while Elaine recovers.
I Had a Secret Love Affair With Marie Osmond!
By Sarah Stewart Taylor
Not the real Marie Osmond. No, I was in love with the six-inch plastic version, her dark perfect hair, the cool pink-and-purple dress with the shredded hemline, her sky blue eyeshadow, the very Marie-ness of her, the way I could almost hear Donnie’s voice singing Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing when I made her shimmy on my bedroom carpet.
Let me explain.
At some point in my early childhood, my mother decided that I shouldn’t have Barbie dolls. I was born in 1971, smack dab in the middle of second wave feminist parenting, and the reasoning was that Barbie dolls, with their big boobs, long, long legs, tiny waists and long blonde hair, represented an ideal of female attractiveness that very few little girls would be able to live up to. Therefore, my Mom and the other wholesome Unitarian mothers of our New York suburb decided we weren’t having any of it. No Barbie. No Barbie-like dolls. Instead we got anatomically correct and multi-ethnic doll “families” that languished lonesomely in their all-wooden houses. If I remember correctly, there was something vaguely disturbing about the elderly Grandma and Grandpa dolls and their realistic crotches.
(Aside -- If you haven't seen a copy of Book Tart Sarah Strohmeyer's Barbie Unbound, go find one. Now!)
So, I made do without Barbies. I wasn’t much of a lover-of-dolls anyway. At 3, I lopped the hair off a gorgeous Madame Alexander doll my maternal grandmother had given me and named her . . . Timmy. Most of my friends were living under the Barbie ban too, but when I visited the ones who weren’t, I would always take a few guilty looks at the Magic Playhouse or whatever and then try to steer the playdate away from dressing Barbie. It just wasn’t that interesting to me. Once you’d put her clothes on, and she’d had simulated intercourse with Ken (we had that backwards, huh?) what was there left to do with her? I would rather have played hours-long games of hide-and-seek or pretended to be detectives.
But then came my ninth birthday. My parents must have been doing something else when I was opening presents, because when I unwrapped a package from the daughter of some unenlightened materialist, I felt a surge of excitement and fear.
It was a purple cardboard box and inside was a Marie Osmond doll with long legs, stiletto heels, and a sexy-yet-somehow-modest dress. She was holding a little silver microphone. She sparkled! And she was all mine. I looked for my mother, made sure she was out of sight, and did what any nine-year-old under a Barbie ban would do. I ran up to my bedroom and I hid that Marie Osmond in the secret crawlspace behind my closet.
Now, my parents were – and are –very nice people, but somehow, in my nine-year-old mind, it was like I was hiding Anne Frank. If they found her, I knew what they would do to her. They couldn’t find her. They couldn’t!
And so began my secret love affair with Marie Osmond. Every day after school, I would go up and visit her in the closet. She didn’t seem to mind being locked in the crawlspace. I got myself a second-hand copy of Who’s Sorry Now and I would play it on my little powder blue record player and let her lip synch. I didn’t tell anyone about her. She was dangerous and forbidden, with her makeup and short skirt and her high morals.
But then it got kind of stale. I don’t know, I guess I listened to Paper Roses one too many times. And Marie’s pink and purple dress with the shredded bottom? It started looking a little trashy. It was the ‘80s now and Marie was stuck in the ‘70s. Her TV show got canceled. For Christmas that year, I got a Blondie album and that was that. I started visiting Marie less and less often and then one day I closed the door to the crawlspace and didn’t look back.
I don’t know what happened to Marie. My parents sold the house when I was in graduate school and I always wondered if the people who bought it found her when they were inspecting the second floor. I wonder what they thought of Marie and her trashy dress. I wonder if just for a minute they heard someone singing Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.