AHH, AMERICAN GIRL.\That late 90s/early ’00s childhood craze that taught a generation of young girls the time-honored American traditions of loyalty, courage and spending 90 bucks on (frankly kind of itchy) pajamas to match your doll. Each American Girl had a corresponding series of books ranging from the cheerful (Merry Christmas, Felicity!) to the borderline ominous (Molly Learns a Lesson) that aimed to insidiously school middle-grade readers in history. I don’t know if anyone ever actually read the books. I do know that my third-grade classmates and I mainly used our dolls in a game we dubbed Popular And Not Popular, in which we would take turns having our dolls be (you guessed it!) popular and not popular, with the former mercilessly tormenting the latter. Growing up before the advent of zero-tolerance-for-bullies had clearly done a number on us. It probably wasn’t what Pleasant Company had in mind, but for better or worse, your choice of doll said a lot about you. For example, the girl with Samantha (You know who you are!) conveniently never had to take a turn being an Unpopular. Just sayin’!
If you had Felicity, first and foremost you loved horses. Like, probably more than anyone should. Sure, every seven-year-old girl has a horse phase, but you took yours to impassioned, over-the-top levels where even the flannel-clad riding instructor you’d successfully begged your parents for lessons from was like, Girl. Chill. Aside from horses you probably liked bending the rules in a completely safe environment and feeling like a bad-ass even though everyone you knew refused to think of you as anything but unfailingly sweet. You probably got written up the first week of freshman year for playing old-school Britney too loud and splitting a bottle of Peach schnapps with your best friend — then proceeded to tell everyone about it. You pin Carrie quotes about some women being meant to run wild but you’re fooling no one. You want to get married and when you do you’ll probably wear a vintage-inspired dress you found on Etsy.
You’re either a woman of color or (more likely) your parents bought you Addy in a misguided effort to alleviate their vast reserves of white guilt. Either way, you’re most likely a bit of an activist. Like, not to the extent of stopping to talk to the clipboard-brandishing GreenPeacers, but you’ve been known to attend a rally or two. As a child you didn’t shy away from the rough stuff. You insisted on helping your dad bury your pet bunny and derived a bleak pleasure from crying when Beth died in Little Women. You talked to the kid nobody liked and your peers respected you for it. That or shunned you, because kids basically suck. Lately though, you fill your days worrying about the deteriorating situation in Gaza, entertaining advances from political science grad students who like to hear themselves talk, and combing flea markets for seashell-inspired jewelry, which you have an enduring fondness for.
So Kirsten was your doll of choice? You’re probably one of the most loyal people around. You know the world is a dangerous frontier where any moment your best friend could succumb to cholera or more likely need to be carried home after a few too many Tequila Sunrises. You made and exchanged friendship bracelets a little longer than was typical and you’re probably one of the few people who sincerely lists “camaraderie” as the number one reason you like being in a sorority — though the multitude of closets to borrow from are a pretty nice perk. You’re the one who fights to keep Christmas traditions alive while your brothers are like, Whatever, let’s just go get stoned in the garage. Not on your watch! And certainly not before the annual viewing of A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, dammit. You keep secrets, look great in braids, and would probably be great in a post-apocalyptic world, though no one would guess that from looking at you.
Let’s be real, you’re all about that free-spirit life. You shamelessly wear print on print and have probably sang at multiple open mics. Usually while your accompanist daydreams about boning you. But you’re like,nope, I’m on a month-long celibacy cleanse, gotta get home to my scented candles and kombucha. Though you’re now the dreads-and-hemp-pullover set’s pin-up girl you were a bit of an oddball as a kid. Like everyone would be playing soccer in PE and you’d be off gathering pinecones while the teacher was like, Well, OK, as long as she’s occupied. You’re fascinated by other cultures although you might accidentally appropriate a little bit at the various festivals you attend. Headdresses are fine, you reason, because you spent that one summer on a reservation. And because your open-relationship boyfriend is like, part Cherokee. You prefer biking to driving when you can swing it and you cite your carbon footprint. But you really just like feeling the wind in your hair, don’t you?
You were the playground’s queen bee but you were also kinda obsessed with everyone thinking you were a nice person, too. You were born to be an alpha but don’t quite have the ovaries for it. Sometimes you’ll say something scathing and then quickly giggle and be like “OMG, just kidding!” On occasion when you want to rack up karma you’ll join your Addy friend at her volunteer work and smile through it while thinking “everyone here kinda smells.” What you lack in backbone you more than compensate for in style. Nobody rocks a going-out skirt and crop combo like you. You’re whip-smart and you worry about what professors think of you. Actually you worry about what everyone thinks of you, but you shouldn’t because almost everyone likes you. You are secretly looking forward to the day when you can have well-mannered kids, spearhead a women’s league and hire a maid you confide in but never ask to call you by your first name.
You’re a suburban girl who longs to be scrappy and street-smart. When you try to pull it off you embarrass yourself. As a kid, Harriet the Spy was your guru and you passed many a happy afternoon shamelessly eavesdropping and scribbling in one of your many Lisa Frank notebooks. You idolize your dad, and the coffee shop dwellers who try to seduce you semi-regularly can’t hold a candle to him. You’re like, build me a treehouse and then we’ll talk, buster. You may have been the only one who watched that dorky short-lived MTV reality show about the kids on the school paper. You know journalism is a dying industry but if you could spray the smell of newsprint on yourself like perfume you would. Your best friends are generally girls who get considerably more attention from the opposite sex than you do and smallish boys you have zero sexual tension with. You give money to homeless people, unless you were saving that three bucks for Coffee Bean. A Kit girl’s gotta have her iced-blended.
Well, some kindly relative wanted to make you feel better about being the only girl in the fourth grade who wore glasses. They were ultimately unsuccessful, but you loved your Molly doll with a bespectacled fierceness, whispering to her about your life’s myriad injustices, namely you Not. Getting. Enough. Attention. Which coincidentally was the focal plot point of the majority of the Molly books. But now you’re having the last laugh. Glasses are in and adorkable is all the rage. You wear your quirkiness like a badge and it’s working for you. You have a sizable Tumblr following who think you’re like, soooo cute. IRL people are inclined to agree. You’ve learned how to spin your self-deprecating cynicism into a hot commodity and would probably actually make a very compelling politician. You’re well-read, opinionated, and immensely likable in a down-to-earth way. But secretly all you want is to star in a tap-dancing recital and totally hog the spotlight — while wearing contacts.
American Girl of Today
Um, you’re like ten. Get off your tablet before your teacher sees you, you tech-savvy munchkin! Also blot your bonne belle. You look ridiculous.