When I was about four or five years old, my father brought home a baby doll for me. Since I don’t remember having any before then, I assume this was my first doll. It must have been a portentous moment because I can remember it so vividly. I held the doll for a while, looking it over closely while Daddy smiled down at me. He appeared to be more excited about the doll than I. We didn’t have much money, so there weren’t many toys in the house. Daddy worked for a railroad agency and, occasionally, shipments would go unclaimed. Sometimes, after the appropriate amount of time had passed without the items being claimed, employees were allowed to choose one item from the lot and the rest was sold. Daddy usually brought home sensible things, like dishes, blankets, etc., but this time he thought of me and brought home a doll. The doll was made of a combination of hard and soft plastic with no hair and wore a stiff pink dress. It came with a tiny baby bottle to place in the ‘O’ shaped mouth, and its eyes closed when you laid it down.
I held my new baby doll for the duration of Daddy’s joy for the evening. At bedtime, I placed the doll on the sofa and, as far as I know, never picked it up again. My friends had dolls and we’d play ‘house’ with them, but I was never the ‘Mommy’—always the big sister. I never felt the desire to have a doll of my own. To me, a baby doll was something to be played with in a group of friends at someone else’s house. My imagination stopped there. I don’t know if my dad ever knew how I felt about that doll. I wish he was still alive now so I could ask him.
As I grew up, I thought of that doll frequently, yet still never wanted one. (Barbie dolls – yes. But, those are in the action figure category, right?) Dolls are creepy, especially the porcelain ones. If one is in the room, I’m quite uneasy and definitely can’t have one in the room where I’m sleeping! Going to museums can be particularly challenging if they have dolls on display, even with glass between me and them. Never look directly at those empty eyes; only admire the historic clothing the dolls are wearing and move on quickly. (Oh, look! There’s a replica of an 18th century outhouse!) And, don’t EVEN invite me to watch Annabelle or any Chucky movie! It wasn’t until recently that I discovered there was a name for this phobia—pediophobia. A relatively common phobia, it is a branch of automatonophobia; which is a fear of humanoid figures. Since I do like Barbie dolls and Minecraft’s Steve, I assume I don’t have a fear of humanoid figures. (Whew!)
Many theories are connected to the cause of this phobia—Sigmund Freud’s theory that children fantasize about the dolls coming to life, for instance. (But, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is it?) Most claim that a traumatic experience associates the dolls to fear and anxiety in a person. Maybe. But I don’t remember any traumatic experience involving dolls, unless I’ve completely blocked it out. (Time for a therapist’s couch?)
For my youngest granddaughter’s birthday this year, I bought her a “My Size” Elsa doll because Miss M is sooooooo into Frozen. My purchase was very popular with the little girls in front of me in the checkout line. (We even sang “Let it Go” together while waiting! I think I spotted a man in the line next to us mouthing the words as well!) Miss M loves her Elsa doll; which she happily lives with in her bedroom. She obviously doesn’t suffer from pediophobia.
Today, I delight in visiting the toy section with my grandson looking for another Minecraft figurine to add to our collections and to see what new LEGO® sets have appeared on the shelves. Shopping with Miss M can get a little tricky in the doll aisle, but she has a shorter attention span and the dolls are inside boxes and plastic. (Hey, M, wouldn’t you rather have an R/C tractor? Look! You can use it to help Mommy plow the garden.)
I guess of all the phobias that exist—and there are a ton of them!—this minor touch of pediophobia that I live with on a daily basis is really not so bad.