Object lessons

Featured in

  • Published 20061103
  • ISBN: 9780733316722
  • Extent: 252 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

One: The doll

DO YOU REMEMBER the smell of a doll’s plastic body and the pinkness and the hardness of the doll against your belly as you pressed yourself close to it for the comfort? Or were you the kind of girl who refused the doll, fearing its mix of the living and the dead?

When a mother first gives her girl a doll, she thinks only of the innocence of the thing: its tiny body and big eyes. She does not remember a doll’s perversions. For all dolls have their darker side, the side that requires the child to punish the perfect passive body. A Barbie doll carries something in her body that is unbearable to small girls, she stirs something in them. They dress her and undress her, they press her arched feet into her shoes, they fondle and tear at the perfect hair. At dusk, they take her down to the water’s edge. They do not hear their mother calling them into the light of the little fibro holiday house, calling them into the warmth. They do not see their mother standing behind them, her long evening shadow mingling with theirs in the waters. They are entirely preoccupied with the acts they are performing on their seven Barbie dolls, dressing each one in a costume of fantastic design and lying them face down in the shallows, where they move slowly in the waters. There are seven drowned Barbies, long hair, satin and sequined tulle floating around their hard little bodies. Don’t ever imagine there is tenderness in a girl for Barbie. Barbie is never loved, merely coveted. When all the dolls are dressed and drowned the two small girls see the mother’s shadow and in a single move they turn up their faces towards her and smile, beatifically.

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About the author

Alison Ravenscroft

Alison Ravenscroft teaches in English at La Trobe University, Bundoora, in the areas of contemporary feminist theory and 20th-century US and Australian fiction.Her short...

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