American Girl Place: The Experience

This past weekend Elena and I went to Chicago.  The only set plan was to go to the big American Girl doll store.  Elena is not a huge American Girl doll fan – she has Kit Kittridge, along with a few of the off-brand dolls from Target, and while she has a fair amount of doll swag, none of it is actually American Girl brand.  When I asked her where she wanted to go for vacation and presented this as an option, she was excited about it generally, because it was an ENORMOUS STORE FOR DOLLS.  I did not have an American Girl doll; I was a little older than doll-age when they became a thing, although I remember reading the books.

A few months ahead of time, I made a reservation for Saturday brunch (at 9:30) and found out sort of generally what sort of things we could do at the store, which included: doll hair salon and spa, create your own matching girl and doll t-shirts, design doll outfits, and, of course, shopping for every doll accessory that exists.  I wasn’t sure what Elena would want to do, but I told her she could have as much time in the store as she wanted, but that she had a budget and we couldn’t just buy everything that she saw.

We arrived in Chicago on Friday and did a run-through to get an idea of what all was there and where it was located. Saturday AM we woke up fairly early and started making our way to the store, which opened at 9, with plenty of time to spare.

8:50AM we are not the only early people.  About 10 girls and their parents are milling around the entrance waiting for the store to open.

8:54AM I notice that all the girls waiting are blonde.

8:59AM we are permitted to enter!

9:01AM we make a beeline for the hair salon.  This turned out to be a good choice because we didn’t have to wait in line.  To get a doll’s hair done.  Elena selects one of the few styles available for her short-haired doll.  She decides against doll ear piercing and doll manicure.  I’m proud.

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9:08AM I wonder if one tips a doll hair stylist?  What is the etiquette?

9:10AM I wonder how the doll hair stylist explains her job to other people, or describes it on a resume.  “I braid doll hair.  That’s my job.”

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The finished product.  (Yes, we have a cast for the doll.  She fell while ice skating.)  Her hair is cute.  It should be, as it cost the same amount as a haircut for my actual child.

9:12AM we check in for brunch and receive a number.  As is my habit, I eye up the crowd to assess how many elbows I’m going to have to throw to get seated.  My assessment of “zero” turns out to be accurate.

9:16AM the bathroom is pink and purple.  The stalls include doll-holders, which is both ingenious and ridiculous.  Actually, much of the American Girl store is both ingenious and ridiculous.

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9:20AM Elena claims she is not hungry.  I explain that not being hungry is not an option.

9:26AM The doors open for brunch.  When the hostess comes to seat us, she asks, “how many dolls are with you?” and provides a chair for the doll that hooks on to the table.  The doll also receives her own tea cup, which we “get” to keep.  We do not get to keep the chair.

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9:29AM Because these people are geniuses, champagne is on the menu.

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9:32AM on the table is a box of questions for discussion, things like “what is your favorite day of the year?” and “what is your favorite dream?”  This box of questions is nice – it gives us something to do that involves talking to each other instead of playing video games while we wait for food.  (Take a hint, Chili’s.)  We order food (heart-shaped pancakes for her, quiche for me), talk about the questions, and eat our cinnamon roll appetizer.

9:41AM A Joni Mitchell song starts to play (something from Blue but I can’t remember what).  I feel like Joni would disapprove of this experience.

9:54AM Elena does not like heart shaped pancakes.  We request and receive more bacon for her.

9:59AM I text some coworkers a few pictures from the morning, which naturally leads to a discussion of capitalism and the rise of working class.  We pick at dessert; it’s beautiful and tasty but the humidity in Chicago has stolen our appetites.

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10:04AM At this restaurant, the waitress walks around with a pitcher of milk rather than water or iced tea.

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10:07AM We leave brunch and Elena does some American Girl shopping.  She decides Kit needs some glasses.  We look at a few clothes options but she’s not sold on actually purchasing any of them.  I look at books that describe things like ways to make your very own doll cereal.

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It appears possible to recreate the spa experience in your own home.  This spa chair costs $110 dollars.  I’m not kidding.

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10:23AM Elena decides she wants to go to the Lego store without buying anything else at the American Girl store.  I consider whether this may be my proudest moment as a parent.

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After some browsing at the Lego store, we head back to the American Girl doll store, where Elena designs a bathing suit for Kit (which I approve of, because Art, and Creativity).  Her favorite toy purchase of the day may have been a set of Lego people, which she plays with for pretty much the rest of the day.  We are about shopped out by 12:30.

So this was a fun experience, and we were lucky and fortunate to be able to do it.  We had a good time in Chicago generally.  I’m also glad we did not spend five straight hours in the American Girl store, because as Elena pointed out, I might have gone “cray-cray.”

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