As adventurous as I like to claim I am, there are some things I’d just never do. For example, I’d never wear socks with sandals. I’d never (again) ask my stylist for a bowl cut trying to look like Demi Moore from Ghost. I’d never intentionally skip a meal. I’d never say Donnie is the cute one from NKOTB.
And, for the most part, I can proudly say I’ve stayed true to my beliefs here.
When you’re a new parent, you say things like, I’d never let my kids demand to eat something other than what we’re eating. I’ll never rub that poison death cream into my baby’s soft skin to protect him from the sun. My child will never eat a month-old french fry off the floorboard of the car. He'll never pitch such an epic fit in the grocery store that I shamefully slide out the back door, leaving a piled-high cart of groceries inside, only to have him sweetly smile and say, “I love you Mama” once I’ve reached the car, pit stained and throbbing with embarrassment.
Oh, no. Never.
But, of course, you do it all. In the name of love. In the name of desperation. In the name of FINE-I’ll-give-you-the-goddamn-iPad-if-it-means-you’ll-stop-whining-for-just-one-minute.
But the mother of all never-evers, the one that I’d smugly swore to never even consider, the one that caused my upper lip to curl at the mere thought of it was this: I’d never, ever step foot into an American Girl Place.
In college, I lived just a half a city block from the Chicago American Girl Place and would watch, from my apartment window, all the pink-cheeked, ponytailed brats bounce into the building and exit, hours later, with magenta bags of bullshit. I would be outraged by the ridiculousness of it all. Doll outfits that cost more than my real outfits! Somewhat trashed moms with mimosas digging deeper into designer purses so their girls could sip pink lemonade and dine with their overpriced dolls. Tantrums thrown by spoiled little girls whose first words were “I want” and whose Daddies bought them ponies for Christmas. It all made twenty-one year-old me want to vomit.
Never. I would never.
But then, I had a daughter. A sweet, beautiful daughter who was turning seven who, thanks to smart marketing and catalogs sent through the mail, wanted nothing more than a Luciana Vega doll from, you guessed it, American Girl. Suddenly, all the never-would-I-ever became maybe-I-could-just-this-once. Besides, American Girl had come a long way in 20 years. There was now some diversity among the dolls and some pretty positive girl-power type messages within the not so well written stories. Upon researching, I even discovered that while the company did rob its customers for doll ear piercing (Seriously! Doll ear piercing?!) and hairdos, it also gave to some great charities. American Girl is a modern day Robin Hood! It can't be that bad. (Warning: this is the exact kind of rationalizing that puts you on the fast track to a bowl cut that you think could be cute.)
Eventually, my never, ever ended up being two plane tickets to Chicago, two-nights stay at a hotel, one massive birthday lunch at the American Girl Cafe, a Luciana Vega doll, and a matching girl/doll outfit.
The doll is an astronaut. Science is good! A female scientist is a great role model! (See what I’ve done there?)
At the end of it all, I had one happy Birthday Girl and boatload of remorse, but it wasn’t nearly as regrettable as the bad haircut.
What to do: American Girl Place Chicago, of course! It really is what little girl dreams are made of. Then, when you’re done, hit up the Shedd Aquarium and donate some money to saving the oceans. It’ll make you feel better.
Where to stay: We stayed at the Raffaello Hotel. Great little hotel so close to American Girl Place that you could almost throw a rock to it.
Where to eat: Pizano’s is an awesome kid-friendly Italian restaurant off the beaten path. Cheesecake Factory is everything you’d expect it to be. American Girl Cafe included top-notch service and makes incredible accommodations for food allergies (egg-free Birthday cake!).
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