the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


s doll journal


Excerpt from S Jackson's doll journal, summer 2000

This dimensional problem [discussed elsewhere in relation to the disproportion between Harvey’s head and his body] also pertains to the behemoth baby-mothers and teddy-bear-fathers that turned up sometimes in those minor roles, and, in a different way, to the flatsies, who were better scale models of regular humans, but only from the front.

A sort of decorum prevented us from even noticing the comedy of their shortage-of-profile (or unpresentable back view, flat as the pan side of a drop cookie), even at the stage where we suddenly began acknowledging the eruption of anomalous doll-only problems into the illusional world of the games: "Wait, I have to take my head off," "Oops, my leg fell off," which we permitted with a kind of guilty glee at transgressing our own rules. It was like a problem from Flatland: a two-dimensional being does not wonder what she looks like from above; the question doesn’t come up. Like that, we couldn’t see Phyllis’s side view, it would be like laying your head down on a drawing to try to see what someone looked like from the side.
This makes it seem like we didn’t think of Phyllis and Anne as flat people, but as flat representations of ordinary people (whereas we thought of Harvey as essentially big-headed, at least to some degree, even if some perplexity about scale did linger about him).
This explains how we could use shampoo bottles and sticks as characters, in a pinch; we were used to imperfect representations (even our best, most beautiful dolls had frightening joints and neck-stumps we got more intimate with than we might have liked, since we had to take off their heads to put on their clothes), though the more perfect the better. Still, there was something unearthly about the Flatsies, and that was at least partly because a little essential flatness clung to them (we would have used the words "slender" and "willowy," also probably "nymph-like" and "ethereal") and made them seem free of earthly grossness, mass and weight.
They had no bones (and that made them seem lighter and less solid, too), they were bendy from head to toe, a long flat flexible entity like a tongue; they bent even where they weren’t supposed to bend—I remember taking a vicious pleasure in making them walk on their ankles, giving them unexpected extra knees, but most of the time we concerned ourselves with straightening their legs, though despite our best efforts they always wavered like legs seen through water, acquiring weird parallel sideways squiggles.
Their blue and pink hair also made them more like fairies than human beings, but it was really their dainty (flat) insubstantiality that most disqualified them for serious romantic attachments, that and the fact that with their pointed toes and lack of rigor they were too annoyingly feminine to live up to our female ideal.
Now I think it’s strange we never worried about their peculiar nipper-crab hands, but we did not, though we admired expressive hands, and spent a lot of time adjusting them and just looking at the way they rested on things or other dolls. Aina’s and Jessešs wrists of pathos, Danšs flexible (!!) grasp—the only flexible part of him, and the only thing that qualified him to enter our games as any kind of sympathetic character, let alone a romantic hero, yet it was enough—Big Josh’s broad, gentle hands, also his most appealing feature.