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Essay: Lammily "Period Party" Doll
Only Women Bleed
By Leah Mueller
Barbie and I are exactly the same age. Both of us were born in the dark era of the late 1950s: a time in which the dolls had permanently arched feet, impossibly tiny waists, and color-coordinated wardrobes. My parents immediately bowed to the media hype that surrounded Barbie's birth, and purchased a complete doll set which included the coveted black carrying case filled with plastic shoes and seductive outfits.
Undoubtedly, my parents presented this gift to me with the hope that I would acquire traditional feminine characteristics through a process of osmosis. Perhaps the act of attaching plastic high-heeled pumps to Barbie's feet would cure me of my habit of walking with my own feet turned sideways, like a duck. If I cared for her dresses by draping them on tiny plastic hangers, then there was at least a possibility that I might do the same for my own dresses. It was worth a shot, anyway.
I was unutterably bored with my new toy, and mostly kept it in the closet until my girlfriends arrived. Once they were settled in my bedroom, they clamored for a chance to play with my Barbie doll. I reluctantly removed all of the gear from my closet and dumped it on the floor. My girlfriends pounced on it, squealing, and for the next several hours I was forced to watch them enact scenarios that revolved around dressing for dates, lounging in plastic lawn chairs, and just standing around looking perfect. These rituals were profoundly boring and depressing, as well as unrealistic. I didn't know any actual women whose lives were like Barbie's. Plus, she never had to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom.
Menstrual periods and dolls were concepts that were never imagined together, let alone discussed. At the age of eight, the idea of bleeding every month seemed as abstract to me as quantum physics, and about as much fun to contemplate. I was aware that my mother bled every month, and that some day I would do so, as well. Occasionally, she made dark references to being out of pads, and a couple of times I encountered the thin white belt that she used to attach the pads to the shadowy, dripping place between her legs. My mother always snatched the belt from my grasp and said, “Oh, THERE it is! Hand it right over” while I stared at it with confusion.
I had a dim notion that periods were both messy and inevitable, and I hoped it would take as long as possible for my own monthly cycle to arrive. Finally, at the age of fourteen, I announced to my mother that there was blood in my underwear, and she congratulated me, as though it was a great achievement. She then presented me with a large, bulky pad and one of her spare belts and declared, in a maudlin tone, that my childhood was over. Actually, my childhood had ended a long time beforehand, when my stepfather entered our lives and my mother started having a slew of babies, but I didn't say that. I mutely accepted the belt and pad, and a new era of my life began.
My parents were members of the Greatest Generation, and they didn't talk much about body functions. Even my mother, who was shockingly outspoken about most matters, stayed mum about monthly bleeding, and was uncomfortable when I broached the topic. Through a long, secretive process of trial-and-error, I learned what methods of blood stoppage worked best for me. I ditched the belt, graduated to the peel-and-stick variety of pads, and finally moved on to tampons. The Playtex tampon box contained detailed instructions for insertion, complete with black and white diagrams that looked like something you might see at a gynecologist's office. There was an internal map of the vagina that included a properly inserted tampon, and after a few tries, I was able to duplicate the process in my own cavity.
My experience was no different from most of my friends. Breathlessly, at slumber parties, we recounted the details of our periods—age of first menses, the benefits of plastic versus cardboard applicators, etc. We were Boomer-era young women, and our mothers were involved in their own crises. Independent to a fault, most of us navigated the path to adulthood without much assistance, and that included our menstrual cycles. Deep down, we felt neglected, and we strove to make up for our perceived deficiency by giving constant, sensitive attention to our own children. We read to them in the womb, swaddled them in cloth diapers, made certain that they had non-gender-specific clothing and toys. We wanted our daughters to realize that, when it came to menstruation, they needn't feel shame or fear—all they had to do was come to us with questions.
We were disappointed to discover that our children were no more willing to discuss these matters with parents than we were at their age. Still, boomer and Gen X mothers fervently desired openness with our children, and we had a hard time understanding how they could grow to adulthood without constant, earnest feedback. Somehow, they still managed to navigate puberty, menstruation and loss of virginity without much assistance.
Now that our children have (gulp) reached childbearing age, a new sort of toy is needed for their soon-to-be-conceived offspring. Enter the Lammily Doll! The doll is the creation of 26-year-old Nickolay Lamm, a man who is undoubtedly the son of attentive boomer parents. A little over a year ago, Lamm decided to create a doll with normal proportions, a kind of anti-Barbie. He kept Barbie's trademark flowing blonde hair but designed a very different body. The Lammily doll sports a strong, round ass, powerful thighs, and feet with normal arches. Winning points with feminist moms everywhere, Lamm said, “Normal Barbie shows that you are beautiful, just the way you are.”
Though the original doll appears to be very Nordic, darker-haired models are now available, as well as optional, add-on pimples and stretch marks. Both dolls cost $25, and the add-on pack is an extra five bucks, which strikes me as reasonable. Lamm is now making dolls hand over fist, and has plans for other personas, ethnicities, and body types. Not bad at all for a project that began as a Crowdfunding campaign.
The latest add-on has been dubbed, “Period Barbie”, but a more accurate name would be “Period Lammily.” The period pack includes a pad and liners, a calendar and dot stickers to keep track of a menstruation cycle, and an informational pamphlet. Lamm, who describes a woman's cycle as a “perfectly healthy, natural process (that) is still surrounded by taboos” is optimistic that his creation will appeal to a new crop of hip, body-aware young females. He's probably right, and there is no doubt that now is a good time to buy stock in his company.
Admittedly, I'm cynical. My child-bearing and menstruation years are behind me, and I don't miss them at all. My 20-year-old daughter Hana posted a Facebook status a few months ago marveling about how much period blood a woman loses during the course of a lifetime, adding, “Why should I be shamed and silenced for this, when it's SO COOL?” I was proud, both of Hana and of myself for raising such an aware young woman. Hana claims that she never wants children of her own, which is of course her right. If she ever changes her mind, however, I can easily imagine her picking up a Lammily doll for both her male and female offspring. Undoubtedly, her kids won't want to hear her long-winded, self-conscious descriptions of the menstrual cycle any more than the rest of us did. But they will get to sit at the table and eat breakfast while they casually apply pretend menstrual pads to a doll's pretend vagina. Our children's children are gonna be awesome.
#Real #LammilyDoll #Periods #GenXMothers #PeriodDolls #BodyDiversity
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