It's a Small World After All
I was pleasantly surprised today to see an article in the New York Times about one author’s somewhat closeted love for dollhouses.
J. Courtney Sullivan writes fondly about the dollhouse she received for her seventh birthday. My mother tells me that I did have a dollhouse when I was very young, according to her it even had electricity but I sadly do not recall this. What I remember is the cardboard dollhouse I made myself out of a huge cardboard box that had built in compartments. My mom brought it home from work one day and I instantly knew what I was going to do with it.
I set to work: using wrapping paper as wallpaper, cutting up towels (sorry, Mom) for linens and carpets. I bought dollhouse furniture at dollar stores and made beds out of sponges. It was inhabited by my very large collection of Troll dolls.
Sullivan refers to her enthusiasm for tiny things as “an embarrassing secret obsession”. I sympathize with her in this way. I LOVE building dollhouses, but it’s not something I just go around telling everyone. I don’t introduce myself by saying “Hi, I’m Erin and I collect dollhouses”. Some people have no idea that I have this hobby. And fortunately, the people that do know think it’s creative and charming (or so they say). My long-time boyfriend should be cannonized because he’s lived among dollhouses for years now and just accepts it without questioning now. Although, I do joke that someday I am going to start wearing black stretch pants, white sneakers, and a T-shirt that says “Love me, love my dollhouses”. (I actually saw a shirt like that once.)
But today after reading Sullivan’s article, I started reflecting on why I have this love for dollhouses, and why I feel the need to continue this hobby. What satisfaction does it give me? Well, I study children’s literature. I am not in the MFA program like many of my classmates; I prefer to read it, and write ABOUT it, but not create any myself. My classmates regularly get the wonderful feeling that comes when you create your own world. Imagine how JK Rowling must have felt while she was creating the vast land of Harry Potter. They create their own stories, characters, rules, realities, etc, and their writing is a window into the world they have created. I envy their ability to do that. I also enjoy creating my own worlds, but instead of sculpting the workings of my imagination into words on pages, I need to be more visual and tactile, and so I create a physical depiction of my worlds as I envision them. They are tangible and real, but they’re 1:12 scale of the human world.
I think humans need this ability to slip into other worlds. This is the motivation behind reading stories, watching television shows and films, getting involved in theatre, role playing games and online games alike, etc. We embrace it so openly when we're young- playing with dolls, imagining ourselves to be whatever we want. I never cared when I was little who saw me playing with dolls or pretending to be a Ninja Turtle outside. I suppose as we grow older we suppress this desire, and find socially acceptable ways of satisfying it.
watching TV shows= normal.
A 29 yr old running around outside with mask over her eyes using a long branch as a sword= not normal.
Perhaps my “embarrassing secret obsession” with dollhouses is not understandable to everyone, but I can justify it by explaining the normal psychological need for imagination and creative expression that I think everyone has in them. I am not JK Rowling, but I am happy in my own little worlds.