Jessica Day George

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake's Friends Are Real?

I have red hair. Some of you have met me, and you know this. Some of you haven't, so there it is. I have red hair, it's natural, and I like it. I have never once wanted another hair color.

My mom takes the credit for my positive redhaired attitude, because she (and this is not an exaggeration) filled my room with red-headed dolls.

I'm the youngest of four and the only redhead. My parents don't have red hair either, but my maternal grandmother did, and my mom always wanted to have a redhaired girl. She (sort of) jokes that she only kept going with the kids until she got her redhaired girl. So it's understandable that she wanted me to like my hair. So she tried to surround me with positive images of redheads. Anne of Green Gables was big around our house (which is funny, because Anne hates her hair color), and so was Strawberry Shortcake.

And this is where it started to get weird. I have not one, not two, but three Strawberry Shortcakes. (One is a ballerina, one came with a carrying case.) So if I wanted Strawberry to play with someone, she had to play with her clones. I asked for a Blueberry Muffin, since blue was my favorite color at the time, but was told, "She doesn't have red hair!" I asked for a Care Bear, the blue one with the rainclouds on its stomach, but was rebuffed on the grounds that they were just bears, no red hair to be seen! Later my dad took pity on me, and after the second movie came out, he gave me a Care Bear Cousin I still treasure, Gentle Heart the lamb.

I have an Annie doll, complete with limo and wardrobe, but none of the other orphans to interact with her. I have one of the first Cabbage Patch kids, with red yarn hair, one of the later ones with "cornsilk" red hair, and one that talks (it was pretty creepy, sometimes it said, "I have a secret, I HATE puppies!") I have a Hugga Bunch (remember those, anyone?) and her baby, both red-haired. By the time I was in high school, I had a shelf running the length of my room (specially built by my dad, who is the MAN when it comes to wordworking) just to hold my redhaired dolls.

Now, back to the Strawberry Shortcake part of the story. I had heard of Miss Shortcake, and seen a cartoon of her and her food-named friends, and then I received one of my own. And I loved her, and her shiny hair and her smell of strawberries. And then my friend Heather got Lemon Meringue.


"She's Strawberry Shortcake's friend!"

"Strawberry Shortcake's friends are REAL?"

I thought they had existed only for the purposes of the cartoon, which also featured the vaguely nasty Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak. My oldest brother could do (and still ocassionally does) a dead on impression of the Pieman, which is both awesome and disturbing, and later I learned that you could also purchase this toy, although I can't see how he would have been that popular. Thus began my campaign to own some of Strawberry's friends, repeatedly thwarted by my mom, who seemed to think that if even one doll entered my room without red hair, I would immediately reach for the Miss Clairol and go blond. When they came out with the Strawberry Shortcake baby dolls, I asked for ANY ONE but Strawberry, and I heard my mom telling my red-haired grandmother that for my birthday I wanted one of those dolls, the Strawberry one of course! My heart filled with dread, I had Strawberry Shortcake! Three of them! Plus stickers, t-shirts, and a bike! My grandmother, who also liked her red hair, sent me Baby Apricot. I loved her. She had white hair, and smelled of apricots, and had a little pink outfit. I was fascinated by her hair, which was so shiny and wonderful. I didn't want different hair, but I wanted to look at different hair . . . was that so wrong? I think my mom was reassured by this. I didn't start hating my hair, and I continued to play with the redheaded dolls, it's just that one of them was different.

I soon became obsessed with My Little Ponies, and my parents switched from dolls to ponies when they realized that buying them was much, much cheaper than buying me a real horse. Though not by much, since I ended up with 96 ponies, plus every stable, castle, mansion, dance studio and ice cream parlor. By now I think my mom had calculated that her early indoctrination had worked: I loved my hair, and we could all relax. So it was that when, in Jr. High, I asked for a bald boy Cabbage Patch Kid newborn, my request was granted, and we all laughed about how many redhaired dolls I had lined up with him.


I can't say that I didn't experience the teeniest pang of jealousy three years ago when, for my son's first birthday, my mother gave him a Care Bear. A blue one.


Jade said...

I think there is a point about liking your natural hair but also not HAVING to like it by toy influence.... hmm

You should seriously go buy yourself a blue Care Bear!


Mae Lee said...

I agree: Go buy yourself a Big Blue Care Bear, if you dont feel like buying one... you can go to some random amusement park and get someone to win one for you.

SandyKay said...

Go redheads! I've always liked my red hair, too, which I also credit to my mother, though I was not indoctrinated through the withholding of lesser-colored-hair dolls, I'm relieved to say.

And I would have wet myself if I had seen your pony collection as a 7-year old. I hope you saved all that for your female offspring. My daughter recently acquired a pony from my childhood, rescued from my parents' attic. ONE pony. Don't tell her such a collection as yours exists!

Thanks for the retrospective of 80's redheaded playthings!

c'est moi said...

There's no vagueness about the nasty - he WAS NASTY!!

Jessica Day George said...

Hilariously, when I told my husband about this when we first got married, he immediately drove me to Toys R Us . . . where we learned that they no longer made Care Bears. They do now, so I'm quite, quite tempted again. And yes, Sandy, all the ponies and their domiciles are in mint condition and in the basement. Next time you visit . . .

maribeth said...

Haha, that's hilarious.

That's taking things a bit too far, but at least your mom had good intentions and you got a ton of ponies. :D

Danyelle Ferguson said...

LOL! I LOVE Strawberry Shortcake and Anne of Green Gables. I love that I grew up with them and then they become "in" again. They are quite popular at my house.

Ls said...

She had to play with her clones!!!

Julie Wright said...

These are the things we get to talk to our therapists about ;) Your mom is cute that she wanted you to love your hair.