Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Take it easy baby, Make it last all night...

My best friend from high school lives in the northern New Jersey woods. She is the youngest of four sisters and has four nieces and two nephews. The nieces and nephews live in Ohio and Michigan. She is very close to them, driving herself west with a travelling salesman’s regularity to their doors. She is, in a (hyphenated, foreign prefixed) word, the über-auntie.

The other day my best friend from high school had her nieces visiting. They were hanging out in Manhattan, where her mother lives. Her mother is about to move in with her and her wife, so the frequent trips to the city are sure to become less frequent. It was a very cold day, something like zero degrees Fahrenheit, so the bunch couldn’t venture much outside. So, my best friend from high school took her nieces garbage hunting.

Before you imagine a group of fresh-faced Midwestern youths being forced to rummage through rat- and roach-infested heaps in search of their evening meal, let me explain garbage hunting as it was explained to me by my best friend from high school. People in Manhattan apartment buildings throw their leftovers, cat litter, used tissues, dustpan contents, and other nastiness down the incinerator, where it is duly incinerated. As for the things they no longer need – a tricycle abandoned for a two-wheeler, a chest of drawers, an out of style coat, a board game – they put them in the basement, where adventurous nieces of über-aunties can go hunting for treasure.

Garbage Hunting.

According to my best friend from high school, the group really scored. I wish I remembered what they actually found…it would really strengthen this entry…alas, blame La Bimba for my post-partum mushy brain.

The following day my best friend from high school and her nieces went to American Girl Place to celebrate one niece’s birthday. I had never heard of American Girl, so I did a bit of web research.

For those of you not in the know, like my former self, American Girl is more than a line of dolls, clothes, accessories, books, movies, party kits, bath products; it’s a way of life. To quote from the website, “American girl celebrates a girl’s inner star – the little whisper inside that encourages her to stand tall, reach high, and dream big. We take pride and care in helping girls become their very best today so they’ll grow up to be the women who make a difference tomorrow.” Evidently, if the navigation bar below this bit of inspirational prosody is any indication, an American Girl is encouraged to stand tall on her tiptoes in order to reach the highest shelf in the American Girl store, where she dreams of emptying mommy’s wallet in a big way. The first word you see after the quote is SHOP. American Girl stores, or rather, American Girl Places, are in major malls and shopping districts in many US capitols. They even feature bistros, as if a girl of eight or twelve needs to stop thinking about lunchrooms STAT and start ordering Ceasar salads, hold the heavy dressing please, she’s watching her figure.

Let me state for the record that my snortingly snide remarks are based on the American Girl website. I have never been to an American Girl Place; for all I know it could be more than feather-boa-wrapped Dianetics for promising cheerleaders. There could be something truly spiritual about it, something nourishing and edifying. I’ll have to bring La Bimba there one day and let her be the judge.

My best friend from high school is a down to earth gal, a feminist, and the strongest woman I know. She was appalled at the scene, particularly the rich parents spoiling the rich children. She was busy trying not to judge (she’s good that way), when she overheard her nieces talking amongst themselves. They were talking about garbage hunting, how great it is, how they can’t wait to go garbage hunting again, how much fun they had, all the cool stuff they found. This in the middle of all the pink and glitter and doll manicures.

My best friend from high school: Saving young American girls, one girl at a time.

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