Sometimes it’s hard telling people you have a doll or toy collection, or make handmade outfits for them. What makes it difficult, perception-wise, is often defined by your age, and how others interpret it. Today I want to dispel the notion that age has any kind of control over one’s creative mind, and should not dictate having a doll collection, or a hobby that you love.
This post developed while I was sorting out my own thoughts, trying to figure out why exactly people are so judgmental when it comes to doll collecting. Then I turned a little introspective and wondered why I didn’t like being seen in public with dolls, especially around friends or adults. Despite what I tell myself–that I should just stop caring what people think–it doesn’t work. The dolls hardly ever go out on adventures with me. And when they do (as Wren can attest) they’re usually not in visible sight; either stuffed in a backpack or at the bottom of a bag. Which isn’t good for their health, or my sanity.
With all that in mind, I put these thoughts on paper (or screen) to try to figure them out. This is what came from it.
The modern world has its virtues, and downfalls. We’re told that we can be as creative as we want, that anything’s possible, at any age. But no matter how much everyone wants it to be true, there are still conditions. Social constructs still exist. They’re not always bad, but if they come from a particularly archaic perception, it can get very frustrating.
Having toys and dolls around falls under one of those perceptions. Apparently it’s alright to “be as creative as you want” when you’re a kid. But around middle school, or during the transition from high school and adulthood, something changes. Peer influence starts to take its toll; or interest simply comes to an end. Anyone and everyone who doesn’t understand may think doll collecting is a “childlike” hobby. One look and they assume, Isn’t she too old to be playing with dolls?
The very definition of “play” has been construed with fantasy, make-believe; little girls skipping around the neighborhood, playing dress-up with their beloved friends. That’s the first tier, when you’re much younger and there are no societal limits to you creative mind. Unfortunately, that’s how adults interpret what doll collectors are doing with their “friends” when they’re older: that they’re still trying to figure out what to do with their life. Such a notion is unmistakably biased, and is a complete misunderstanding of what it means to have a doll collection.
Doll and toy collecting is an individualized hobby–one that shouldn’t be used to determine maturity. If you feel that you don’t like dolls anymore, or don’t feel the joy you used to when being around them, that’s fine. It just means you’ve moved on. For those who haven’t, though, or never will, it can be isolating knowing how easily others judge. In the first place, “playtime” is not a concrete way to measure one’s maturity. The term itself is defined as: “The state, fact, or period of being mature.” Well, isn’t that vague! If dolls are contrasted with video games, they’re by far more fun, interactive, and safer than most technology out there. And they bring delight and happiness.
Now, let me ask you this: What does it really mean to grow up? Because dolls and toys are frequently associated with playtime–which supposedly occurs before someone “develops” psychologically and “grows up”–I decided to do some research. I looked up the term “grow up,” and found the following definitions: “Advance to maturity; spend one’s childhood and adolescence.” “Begin to behave or think sensibly and realistically.” “Arise; develop.” The second definition caught my attention. It’s where I think perception has become horribly muddled. You can be mature, realistic, and still have dolls. You can design hand-crafted, detailed outfits and accessories for them (which does take a considerable amount of work, let me tell you!). The only thing stopping you is either your own self-doubt, or letting the words of others seep through and actually have an impact on you.
Furthermore, a potential solution to this wrongful perception stems from the fact that creativity and maturity are not interchangeable. Most of the time they actually work hand in hand, but are not the same thing. You can be mature, and still creative! Just don’t mistake a creative mind for an immature one. That’s one of the biggest insults to an artist.
However many times this has been reiterated, it still needs to be said: You’re never too old to have toys. You’re never too old to carry them around in public. Whether you’re a teenager (like me) or someone who has enjoyed the hobby for decades, you enjoy it not because it’s a frivolous endeavor, but because those friends inspire you to be creative. These little pals aren’t just lifeless objects staring at you… they’re companions, travel buddies, meant to have their stories told. And hey, they don’t judge. Which definitely says something.
Here’s an example: Wallace and Gromit, the beloved duo of the globally famous clay animation series, are much-loved characters admired by fans of all ages. They were created by Nick Park, who never, ever stopped expanding their intriguing world. There are numerous other artists, creators, inventors and brainstormers out there who maintain their creativity. Are they “all grown up?” OF COURSE. They just never lost hold of their imagination. Instead, they transformed it into something truly remarkable, worth the endless hours of time and energy.
In the modern world, even adult doll artists aren’t always taken seriously, when they should be. And there are many, many doll artists out there. Did they listen to others and tell themselves they were too old to continue doing what they love? Of course not! They sculpted their own dolls and are now internationally renowned for their work. Quite a few have even earned the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Now, to those who think such a hobby is selfish, you’re wrong. Dolls are out there to bring comfort, give one a sense of belonging, be characters and best friends. You make things for them to sell to people who love and appreciate the work put into something so wonderful. If you have a niche market in the doll collectors’ realm, that’s fantastic! Make what you do matter. Don’t fulfill the very stereotype you’re trying to combat.
If you’re still a bit tentative about bringing your toy(s) around or photographing them in public, think of it this way: it’s a creative opportunity, which is very different from a stereotype. You hold in your hands the ability to transcend your brainstorming in a technological era and create something spectacular, original, innovative. Imagination is the only thing limiting what you do. Don’t be reckless. Don’t be an idiot. But don’t let go of the positive, fun aspects of your life, just because people tell you it’s not realistic. “What will so-and-so think?” is not a good excuse, so don’t by it.
Next time someone asks, “Aren’t you too old to be playing with dolls?” just turn and walk away. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.