I waited and waited while all the beautiful long haired princesses got picked up by cute dimpled girls in frilly frocks. I knew I wasn’t a princess. I was just an ordinary girl with a plain dress. My hair wasn’t long or blonde. My dress was simple red and white checks with a red belt with no fancy silver buckle. My shoes were black and kind of ugly. I used to gaze longingly at those beautiful homes Barbie lived in. Bursting with colors and blooms. She had an endless wardrobe and accessories. I had nothing. I stood in a plastic case. Slowly gathering dust. Sometimes when the toys became too dusty, dirty or old they were thrown into a box and never seen again. I wondered if that would be my future. I dreamed of a sparkling little girl who would see me within the dusty old plastic case. She would make me her best buddy. She would probably not want to brush my hair because it wasn’t that long but we were going to do a lot of great adventures together. I was so sure of that.
And then that day came. It was a lovely family. The perfect mother, father and children. But they were boys. The elder one had kind eyes. He looked at me and slowly picked me up. "It has been here a long time, very dusty", his mother said. He wiped a part of my case clean with his fingers and looked carefully into my eyes. "Such a clever doll. She is a chef" he said. I was blushing. No one had ever found that out about me. I was a cook. A chef he said. I was so happy. He really saw me. But would he want a doll? He was just going to race for the trains or trucks or planes. I didn’t want to get my hopes up but then he never put me down. "Let us take her mom, please", he said. "What are going to do with a doll? “His mother was very surprised. "We can gift her Ann. It’s her birthday next week. She has invited us for the party, rem?” he replied."Oh yeah, your cousin Ann. But I guess she would be expecting a beautiful princess doll...not this one...” his mother was reluctant."She has so many of those....she would need a chef as well some time...please mamma, let us gift this doll to Anne", he was so persuasive. And that’s how I got all cleaned up and wrapped in a beautiful gift box with a pretty ribbon.
I was a little sad that the boy who saw me as who I really was didn’t want me for himself. Anyway I am going to have a home, a friend and so many adventures. I tried to comfort myself. So now I waited in the darkness of the gift box for Anne to find me. Days crept by, but I could imagine what went on the outside of the gift box since my little prince would come and talk to me everyday.
"Hello Cheffie...Guess what happened in school today..Are you sleeping ?...", he would go on...describing how his friends were teasing him or fighting...or about some exploration they did in the lunch break. I would try to imagine all that....I could still remember his face.
Anne's birthday arrived and it was a grand party. I felt nervous hearing all the commotion. So many children...so many giggling girls. Was Anne
going to like me ? Would she want to play with me ? Would she talk to me ? There were so many songs..I guessed they were playing some games...they all seemed happy and nice. I was going to be fine, what was I worrying about. I felt a bit sleepy...the noises seemed to be coming down...there were byes being said, so I tried to stay awake...Anne will open my box any minute now. After a billion good nights I heard the distinct sound of a little girl skipping towards me. "I am going to open all my presents now... "No Anne..You have to go to school tomorrow..It’s very late..why don’t you go to sleep now ...let us do it tomorrow after school.." , a very strong authoritative voice played out.
There was a loud shrill wail. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO...I want to see them all now........sob sob....its my birthday....you have to listen to me....sob son sob"
"Stop crying Anne...you cannot blackmail us on your birthday...."
The wailing increased in frequency.
"Ok, you can open five presents..the rest tomorrow after school..."
There were footsteps..fast ones...my heart started pounding..this is it.....I could hear her ripping off wrapping paper...not my box..I was still inside..and not moving...one after the other...finally I felt movement...I was going up...the box was open in a flash. And Anne, a most beautiful rosy cheeked little girl with bangs and beautiful long hair looked at me..I couldn't breathe. I was so overjoyed. She was more beautiful than any princess doll.
She smiled at me and picked me up..."What’s this Ken has gifted? He should have got me a book..he has no taste in dolls" ..she examined me closely and kept me on the shelf. She then disappeared. So his name is Ken. I smiled remembering the kind little boy. I recalled that Barbie had a vain boyfriend called Ken. But the Ken who gifted me to Anne was hardly vain. I wondered if Anne liked me.
I was to find that out the next day afternoon. After opening all her birthday presents princess Anne ordered her staff to clean up her room and arrange all the new toys according to their new jobs. I eagerly awaited my new station. I was not in the back rows. I was placed near a Barbie palace. I looked around and saw the beautiful Barbie dolls in amazing gowns and bejeweled denims. I started to feel like scum. Anne came near me and looked me over carefully. "You need a makeover. Let me see your hair". She loosened my hair. I didn’t have much long hair and that was pretty disappointing for her. She frowned. "You have terrible curls...let me brush them" . I was happy. Anne was going to turn me into Barbie. Brushing was painful at first. I had never brushed my hair before so I assumed my hair was a mess. But Anne got impatient after sometime. I sensed that she was using more force to move the brush and it started hurting more and more. "Why doesn’t it stay? What’s wrong with your hair?...maybe u need conditioning..."
I found myself soaked in cold water while Anne shampooed and put some smelly stuff into my hair. She decided to blow dry my hair then. The heat was so awful. I wanted to scream while my cheeks burned. After that Anne was a bit tired but not happy at all with my hair. She put me on the shelf. She went out to have refreshments I think. This was no fun, I shuddered. Barbie looked at me and said “I hope you are all right”. “Not very”, I replied. Why was being beautiful so easy for her and such a torture for me? She was so graceful. I just stared at her. I could never become her.
Anne returned all refreshed with new ideas for my reformation. She cut away my dress. I felt so ashamed. She then wrapped me in an itchy lacey clothe and tried to sew it in some weird dress like silhouette. The needle poked me innumerable times. I don’t remember when her sewing ended. After sewing she decided to have tea with her army of Barbie dolls. I hoped she would include me in the tea party. I was a chef after all. But she never thought me worthy.
This went on day after day. She painted my nails one day and scraped it off with some sharp blade like thing the next day. She tattooed on my hands and legs and later tried to scrape it off too. I felt that I was dying….losing bits and pieces of myself day by day. I started to feel scared every day as the noon sun shone brighter. What ghastly game plan would Anne have today?
She cut my hair in all weird styles. She colored some part of it. She even started painting on me. The most painful were the sewing days when she decided to play dress designer. I had never imagined that this would be my life with Anne. It had never crossed my mind ever that I would be treated this way, like something with no feeling…no self respect. Anne never even looked at me. All she wanted was to use me. She was not playing with me. Playing should be fun for me too. I wished to see Ken again. Maybe he would see my agony and rescue me. Would he understand unspoken words? Would he read my plea for help? Would he want to be even seen with a doll? And now I dared to call myself nothing less than hideous. Ken hardly ever came to see Anne but one day I heard Anne discussing Ken’s birthday party with Barbie over tea. That was my chance. To flee from a life of zero respect. To be treated like a chef who I rightly was. I decided to hide in Anne’s bag and run away to Ken’s on the birthday day.
Climbing into her bag was easy. I lay low, praying she would never find me. At the party I sneaked out and hid under the chair. I was slowly making my way into a room when someone picked me up. A pair of kind eyes. Ken!!! He looked at me “Who do you belong to?” he asked. He could not recognize me I realized. Anne had really tried out all her makeover strategies on me and now I was probably some alien life form from Neptune. Ken looked at me again…”Do you belong to Anne? ” I wanted to scream “No”...don’t hand me back to her …keep me over here… Just then Anne appeared and my heart sank. “Ken…come along …time for games….you silly birthday boy”. Ken frowned …”You are not getting your doll back Anne” he muttered and hid me behind the curtains. I waited there…..hoping that no cruel ice princess find me. Ken may have forgotten me….he may still not come back and get me from behind the curtains but I was going to have my adventure. Hideous as I may be now…I was going to go on and have all my adventures. I smiled in my new found courage and promised myself that I would never suffer again.