May the Schwarz be With You

“Beached Whale? – SLAM. A partially deflated rubber whale slammed on the floor in front of me.Chris looked at me expectantly and I tried my hardest not to laugh. A horrified look crossed the face of a customer I was talking to at the Comfy Computer, and she picked up her “genius? child and ran off. I laughed. I laughed hard.

“Free Willy? I chimed back.

Chris broke into a soulful clap and dance singing Michael Jackson’s title song to that awful film.

Annie, rushed over joined in our now Michael Jackson soul circle dancing around the deflated whale, humming along with us as we realized we didn’t know the words but but scarily remembered the tune to the song.

Just another day at FAO.

From fathers hiding from their familes in the narrow furniture hallway sitting in pink feathered and sequined chairs under canapés of pink tuille, a mass of long legs peeking out from tiny chairs, to parents trying to convince me their two year olds are too advance for the child’s computer I’m selling since the two year old already has mastered Google and has their own myspace-there’s never a dull day sets in at the FAO Schwarz.

Nothing however beats poor little William. You see, Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on FAO Schwarz. I’m not even referring to the monster children or even worse Upper East Side parents who not only cater to every whinge and moan of their child, and demand the world themselves while chatting on their cell phones. No, up the escalator from the life sized animals, past the big piano that only costs $250k, lay Madame Alexander’s Doll Factory replete with severed doll heads on the wall.

The children choose the skin color, eye color, hair color, and hairstyle of their collectible, customizable, personalizable mini-me. After which we helped construct the doll in a fun process that includes microwaving the doll (not to long or the plastic melts as I learned) to and strapping it into a mascochistic torture restraint device in order to glue hair on. Fun, we promote, at least for future serial killers. But we do it all with a smile, wink, and an attempt to make the doll semi-normal looking. Quite hard when you are giving a two-minute brief on how to make the doll before you are thrust on to the floor as a certified dollologist with years of experience and a degree in doll making.

It’s normal, light skinned, blue eyes, medium blonde funky flip. Latin skin, grey eyes, dark brown playful pony. All little girls with their parents who have convinced that spending $40 on a unique doll will shut them up for 10 minutes, or older women who want to recapture their youth by collecting dolls. That was until little William, a little three-year old boy dressed in tight leather pants, a lambskin coat and a pink scarf wearing nail polish brought in by his grandmother. The Scissor Sisters youngest fan. Grandma decided that it would be oh so cute to have William make a doll. Now the store’s blatant girls ‘section of dolls and arts and crafts divide with boys’ science, math, and cars personally offend me. I think boys and girls should have equal opportunity to play with things. But the Madame Alexander Doll Factory was different. It’s definitely a girl’s girl type of create a girly doll with painted nails and makeup.

William and his grandmother struggled between the fair and Latin skin doll with brown eyes to match William’s. After choosing the Latin skin doll to reflect his slightly tanned tone, I’m sure that was applied from a can given how fake tanned his grandmother was, next came the hairstyle design. Black was a given. Now the closest to his short-cropped top was the Mop Top Bop, a bowl hair cut typical of young girls haircuts. But that didn’t do for Grandma. His hair isn’t straight she informed me. Then turning to William “What would you like your hair to be like when you get older?? He chose the crazy corkscrews, corkscrew twists on top of the head evident of longer girly locks tied up in a funky type of style.

I, slightly phased at this point, decide that this isn’t going to be a normal doll making. I debated between referring to the doll as her or him, since this doll was supposed to look like William, but was very evidently a girl doll. “What do you want to name your doll?? I said in the process of twisting the legs in, deciding on the gender-neutral description of doll over him or her. Grandma replied “Willameena, that’s what you like for later right William.?

Pause. It became evident. Grandma wasn’t a female empowerment equal opportunitist. No, grandma has already decided that William, age three, will become Willameena and is using this doll as a mechanism to help him comprehend his future self. Every fiber of my being was trying not to look shocked and I tried to shoot discreet “OMG? looks to the two girls at the register that were already blatantly gossiping behind hands covering their mouths. Quickly I finished the doll with the trademark wink and smile and decided that indeed maybe Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory wasn’t truly a reference to the dolls, but to the parents or grandparents who raised their children here on the Upper East Side.


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