By Alexa Von Bargen
I spent my time playing Polly Pockets with friends in grade school. I’d devote hours to setting up the doll town, the house, the wardrobe…but after the family was situated and beautifully posed in their dream home, there was nothing more to do. The figurines were all too small or delicate to really ‘play’ with and it usually took so long to set the whole place up that I was sick of it by the time we were ready for action. So what could we do then? We’d leave it, the entire Polly Pocket town set up inconveniently starting in the middle of the floor and working its way up steps and chairs onto desks and coffee tables. There they would sit for a few days at least, a tripping hazard and painful intrusion on my mom’s feet. After repeated requests and eventually orders to “Clean up that mess!” I’d stage an atomic bomb, a tornado, a meteor shower, a dinosaur invasion, maybe even an earthquake. Some type of disaster would unexpectedly hit our dream town and demolish all of Polly’s dearest belongings. A few characters would die, some would be permanently injured, and all would be devastated. Then we’d be interested in playing with the dolls again.
I was drawn to pain, anguish and hopelessness. We’re so sheltered in our lives today, numbed from the world around us, that we crave the disaster in our stories, in our doll towns, in our minds and in our imagination. It stretches us to imagine what we need to survive and what we could live without. There’s some sort of terrorist tendency inside of us interested in experiencing and exploring that which we have not.
And why shouldn’t we? If you think of all the ‘exploring’ some adults do with ruining their lives, it makes you wish we’d gotten it all out of our systems as kids, with Polly Pocket and G.I. Joe. We have this presupposition to build ourselves these perfect lives in perfect homes with perfect jobs and perfect families. We spend all of our time, energy and resources in the construction, but once it’s built we realize we’re actually kind of sick of it all. So we leave it, take a vacation and avoid the world we’ve spent our entire lives building. Eventually, we destroy it. We gamble and lose all of our savings. We drink and cheat on our husbands. We stop dreaming and imagining and let ourselves fall into dismay and ruin, the aftermath of an atomic bomb we welcomed into our lives.
I recognized early on that I enjoyed the giant earthquake of my small six-year-old body in Polly Pocket town far more than my friends did. As they cried when I knocked over the dollhouses, I reveled in the feeling of the miniature plastic chair digging into the skin of my big toe, of toy cars crashing into my legs; I wanted things to fall at my feet.