I wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid so badly in 1984.
And not just regular, kid-level ‘want’, I mean I shed tears over this thing, crying to my parents about how I had to have one. I don’t ever remember asking for another toy before that one.
They were such a hot commodity, however, that you couldn’t just waltz into the Port Hawkesbury Woolco and grab one. There were people going to extraordinary lengths, chasing down delivery trucks, and offering insane sums to get their hands on one. The demand was outrageous, which didn’t affect little girls’ desire to have one but did made parents’ acquisition of this item much more difficult.
My dad drove all the way to the Sears Bargain Basement in Halifax to get one for me, having heard they had some in stock, and trust me when I tell you this was not a time when any parents drove four hours to buy a toy, never mind one of my parents. And even after that great effort he still came up empty-handed. (If my recollection of the story is correct, there was actually a fist fight in the store the day he was there. A Cabbage Patch Kid-motivated fist fight, imagine.)
I remember Christmas coming and going without the doll I wanted so much. Everyone did their best to make me happy by buying me one of the imitation dolls – the ones that came in clear plastic bags, with pink hair and that awesome/ weird/sweet plastic smell – but I knew the truth. I named her Samantha Maria, but there was no birth certificate to say so, just my admiration of the host of Video Hits on CBC to thank for her lovely moniker. And no Xavier Roberts birthmark.
I can’t even tell you how disappointed I was. My five-year-old self was so sure Santa was going to bring one, a real one with blonde hair who looked just like me and had a birth certificate with a cool name. Alas, it was me and Samantha Maria, in it for the long haul.
Until my birthday in March, at least.
I still remember where I was sitting in my room in our old trailer when Genevieve Elisabeth was presented to me. Complete with blonde hair, her own birth certificate, and the all-important birthmark, I think you could have passed me a cheque for $10,000 and I wouldn’t have been as happy as I was with that doll.
Somewhere along the line, knowing how badly I wanted one for Christmas but not realizing I had been gifted one in the meantime, a well-meaning relative bought and delivered a second Cabbage Patch Kid to my house just a few weeks after Genevieve Elisabeth got there. Her yarn hair was chocolate brown, and while Erica Charlotte was a great gal, I did not, as it turned out, have enough love in my heart for both of them. Within a day or so, Erica was given to my first cousin, who had also woken up disappointed Christmas morning.
I had many toys over the years, but never one I wanted more, enjoyed more, or cherished more than Genevieve.
Whew, talk about digressing. I intended to use Cabbage Patch Kids to segue into Barbies and look where we ended up. Anyway, what I was going to write has to do with Barbies and how Mattel recently rolled out 15 new Ken dolls, in every shape and size (well, in at least a few… there is no “Dad Bod” version, but there is slim, broad, and original). They even sport seven different skin tones and nine different hairstyles.
My favourite quote, from the senior vice president: “By continuing to expand our product line, we are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation. Evolving Ken was a natural evolution for the brand and allows girls to further personalize the role they want him to play in Barbie’s world.”
Barbie’s chiseled-body boyfriend with the parted hair hasn’t changed much through the decades, so this is a big deal. Not only is there a Ken with corn rows and another with a man bun, but there is also a Barbie with hips wider than the impossible 34-inch scale of the dolls we all grew up with, as well as many different skin tones and hairstyles.
It’s about time, really. Back in 1984 a stroll down the toy aisle was dominated by blue-eyed, blonde-haired, pale-skinned dolls wearing baby pink. How nice that now all little girls, not just the blonde ones, will be able to find a doll who looks just like them. Their own Genevieve Elisabeth.