Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reborn dolls: Babies that look real, but aren't

I thought I'd take a little break from blogging about breastfeeding to discuss these amazing dolls. I'd heard of them before, and to be honest, I found the hobby strange but fascinating. I can't vouch for the fairness of 20/20's coverage because I am not personally into the reborn scene. They did say it was difficult to find women willing to share with them. Anyway, you can watch the video here.

Several months ago I stumbled upon a few of these dolls on Etsy while looking for another sort of doll for Suzi. To my surprise, I think the prices of most of these dolls is quite reasonable. While the most expensive doll is $725, I prefer seller ShamrockLady's creations, which are under $300 each--and that's for a custom doll. She even features a baby of the month club in which members pay $1200 and get one doll a month for six months. You don't get to choose what sorts of babies you get, but she guarantees a variety and I have to say, her babies are some of the cutest on Etsy and are definitely the most affordable.

I don't think it's weird for grown women to play with dolls. I love dolls. I still have four American Girl Dolls from when I was a kid ($82 each back then, which sounds crazy to some people) and I still haven't decided whether I will let Suzi play with mine or keep mine and buy Suzi her own. I don't play with dolls currently (it's more fun playing with Suzi), but shopping for them and seeing my old ones takes me back to some of the best times of my life. I pretended to be their mother. I set all twenty-something of my dolls up in my room and taught school, and then laid them all down for a nap. My favorite doll went pretty much everywhere with me, and I still get warm fuzzies when I get this catalog in the mail (I guess they don't realize I'm 24 now) and look at all the teeny little (ridiculous) accessories that are available now.

But I digress. The point is, I totally get why a woman would want one of these dolls. And if I saw a woman out with one (assuming I was able to tell it wasn't a real infant) I would probably ask to hold it. These are more than just dolls. The doll is but a canvas until the artist puts time and love into painting in every detail. To me, owning one of these dolls would be akin to having an original painting hanging on the wall. Right now I can't afford either one, but if I ever win the lottery I may be tempted to buy a reborn.

One thing I have been trying to wrap my brain around is when women who cannot have children use the dolls to fill that void. It isn't that I think it's wrong; my heart just aches for them. One of the artists, Eve, said she'd had seven miscarriages, and that the dolls afforded her "a modicum of joy and happiness." I would say that these women should try to adopt a child, but that is an arduous and emotionally draining process, and the women on the show did not feel they were equipped for it. I think the healthiest thing to do in such a situation would be to find some sort of passion to pursue--and that's what Eve and these other women have done. Of course, they had a naysaying psychiatrist on to point out that this may be "more than just a hobby" and could lead to problems in some cases if the dolls were used as a prop and were the only means of social interaction. That could be true, but drugs and alcohol are frequently used as props to facilitate
social interaction, particularly by lonely, depressed people, and at least the dolls are constructive props and not dangerous ones.

I just happened to remember that my mother once sewed a little doll for her grandmother and took it to her while she was living in a nursing home. It looked nothing like a reborn; actually, it was a frizzly-haired sock doll, but it brought my great-grandmother comfort during a lonely time in her life. I don't think anyone should begrudge a woman that.


Cheryl Lage said...

You know what, Jenny? You've given me pause and caused me to entirely re-evaluate my initial response to these dolls. Never a doll person myself, the sensitivity of your words gives me strong reason to be less kneejerk judgmental (which I do have a problem with at times. (Hellooooo, resolution needing to be made...)

Kindly and poetically done. Great post.

Theresa said...

Once again, a great post. You sure know how to cut right to the point, and make me think. Why can't I think like that on my own? sigh. And thanks for mentioning the part about the doll your mom made for your grandma. Should give everyone pause. (Does that make sense? Sometimes what I am thinking does not look right in black and white!)

Melissa said...

I really wanted to see this episode and could not. I was amazed at your picture of the dolls. They look very real. My grandmaother used to sit for an elderly lady who could never have children. She had this doll she took care of like it was her child. She sewed clothes for it and made sure to sing to it daily. She was not losing her mind at all. She just needed to take care of something and have that satisfaction since her ability to take care of herself was not there. I think dolls have so much purpose for whatever reason they are loved by a person. Oh, take it from me...wait till Suzie is at least ten before you pass on the dolls from your childhood. You will not have to cry when the arm falls off from too much love, or the hair gets cut in beauty shop play.

Emily said...

Samantha was my FAVORITE American Girl doll! My parents would never buy me one, though- they thought thy they were too expensive. Maybe if I have a little girl one day I will get to enjoy watching her play with one :-)

Oh, and your new doggie is adorable!

Marketing Mama said...

Jenny - thanks for your recent comment on my blog! I just heard about the reborn dolls recently and am amazed at how realistic and beautiful many of them are.

I work for a hospital and we give stuffed animals to the older adults as studies have shown it helps keep them calmer and prevents them from getting out of bed and falling. Actual real studies on this - so I'm assuming that caring for dolls would have the same effect.

Steve Smith said...

ya i totally agree with you.

Sue said...

I cant view the video you posted for some reason, but your comments are straight toi the point and i guess I cant ddisagree with you! (im a doll collector myself)

Flower said...

I love these dolls.. and I love reborning, to me it's art.. too bad many people think of it as "disturbing"

Niamh said...

i love reborns im only a kid but i think that they are so cute!!!!!!!!!!