the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson




S: Should we talk about doll games that weren’t the Doll Games proper?

P: The Kiddles are important, although they have no relation to the older dolls.

S: They were important, but they were from an earlier stage and a completely different mode, I think.

P: They were more pre-sexual.

S: They were pre-sexual. They did a lot of swimming.

P: And yet this blonde one was sort of my first love: Bo.

S: There was that one intricate game we played with those ugly dolls we never used again, who wrote all those letters to each other. I guess we should transcribe them, even though what’s so weird is that we put so much work into this one game, this sort of Pyramus and Thisbe game with these characters that we never used again. "Dear John, you wrote ’Ethel’ again. Will you quit writing that, dear?" I feel reluctant to get into the Ethel and John and Penny thing.

P: It’s weird that they don’t relate to our other games. Is it an interesting story?

S: I don’t know if it’s interesting. They loved each other through a wall. They lived in neighboring homes, these two boring dolls that we didn’t even like very much. And they just boringly loved each other. They doted upon each other. There was this other doll, Ethel, one of our fat baby dolls who was always trying to get John. And there was some tension about it because he would occasionally call Penny ’Ethel’, as if he was maybe really drawn to Ethel, but of course he wasn’t, because she was horrible.

P: What about our musicals?

S: Our songs! We should write down those lyrics; it’s just one line [sings while typing] "Aina, Aina, will you marry me?" "I’m a soldier —" was that all?

P: "I’m wounded, I’m returning from the war."

P: Is there another song?
S: No. But we can also document songs that we used in our stories, because I remember we had one doll game where there was a singing contest and our star sang The Minstrel Boy, in pure and clear tones.

P: Who sang, "Aina, Aina, will you marry me?"

S: The cowboy doll, Dan.

P: So it’s the same one who said "I’m a soldier I’m wounded I’m returning from the war?"

S: Oh, maybe it wasn’t the cowboy doll.

P: I think they might both have been the cowboy doll.

S: Maybe, because it was from a period when we were briefly infatuated with him, even though you couldn’t take his clothes off.

P: He had such excellent hands.

S: It probably was Dan. He was our musical hero!

P: Maybe it was the same game as "Aina, Aina will you marry me?"

S: No, because "I’m a soldier I’m wounded"—that wasn’t even very much of a game. All I remember is that he just kept marching. It was like a Beckett play! It was just him endlessly returning home, marching.

P: And nothing happened?

S: I think we were just fascinated with chanting that. And how stupid we thought he was.

S: We should also talk about how other things that weren’t even humanoid became characters, when we needed extras in our doll games. Like sticks, and the Suave shampoo bottle. Actually, I remember having this whole realization— and I even did it kind of as an experiment to see if it would work–I was down below in Orinda, and I made a little house tying some grass together to make a teepee and I played a doll game with sticks. And I think maybe I threaded the tops of the sticks through round leaves so they had faces, but basically they had no features, and I was experimenting to see if you could play a doll game with anything. Whether really imagination was all that was required. And I felt that I had proved that yes, I could.

P: I had an amazing doll game with bubbles that I played out in the back yard one time. It’s one of the few games that I remember playing all by myself, and it was really lovely and complicated and afterwards I could never do it again, I couldn’t remember how it had worked. There were these bubble people and they had some intricate world.

S: And they incessantly died?

P: That’s the thing, they must have. I don’t know how it worked. But their voyages toward death were somehow very–they met and had romances and— I don’t know!

S: Wow, how mysterious.

P: It was great! And I just remember standing in the backyard making bubbles and having this whole story that was so pleasurable and perfect, and then never being able to access it again.