REBECCA WATKINS

Real Dollhouse Poet:

THE DOLLHOUSE:

When I was nineteen, I fell in love with a boy, and then tried to fashion him into the dream Ken doll I’d made up in my mind as a kid— a rugged, bearded, sexy, lumber-jack Ken doll who was handsome, played guitar, organized camping trips, wrote poetry because he was sensitive, but could also make my panties tingle. In my mind, this boy became my real-life Ken who would let me dress him, fix his hair, tell him what to say and what not to say,  and allow me to decide how we were supposed to live our lives—what cute couple traditions we should have, what our style would be—until of course he couldn’t take it anymore and decided (rightfully so) that he wanted to be his own person—the one who didn’t fit my tight, unrealistic expectations. 

It was the summer of 2015 when I realized the relationship I’dso carefully crafted was beginning to crumble. It came to me after a long trip out west that we took to find out where we’dlike to move and settle down. It all escalated rather quickly after we’d visited Portland, Oregon. He decided that was where we should live, placing us among the many young souls who wanted so badly to fit into this hipster haven. 

But as I watched him plan and plot our future—the one I siren sang him into—I began to suffocate. 

My head and my heart began to battle. As a child I had been seduced into wanting the simple life, settling down with a decent job and a Victorian house—the dollhouses I played with engrained in me the desire to live with Ken and our well-adjusted children. The happily ever after. 

My head told me that this is what I wanted and needed and what would make me happy, but my heart reminded me that I wasn’tsatisfied and that I needed to travel, to meet new people, to continue my education, to write and experience more than what I knew at twenty-two. 

When we got home from our trip and were both falling out of rhythm and out of love, I decided to make my own dollhouse from cardboard boxes—boxes that came in the mail full of subscription clothing I didn’t need but used to make and remake myself. 

I glued and taped, employing papier-mâché to form the walls and staircase. I harvested pebbles from our gardens to form the cobble-stone drive and fireplace chimney, and I searched for moss and flowers to press and paste to the outside. 

I wanted to create the perfect house—the perfect life that was certainly not the one I was living. I was still practically a child and in failing relationship with the boy I’d come so close to molding into an almost man. I was clinging desperately to this idea that I knew deep down wasn’t what would make me happy. Both of my sisters ended up getting married before twenty-five and I felt I must follow suit. What does it say about me if I am the only single, unmarried sister? 

Making the dollhouse became my obsession.  I sat on the floor of my tiny apartment with supplies spread around me, organized and in control over design and building materials. I took trips to Michaels to buy printed wallpaper for my Pinterest perfect palace. I meticulously planned and outlined the staircase pattern made from mosaicked pieces of bottle glass from the alley. 

Presently, my dollhouse sits in a state of decay, gathering dust in the painted castle attic, near the storage containers that home the dolls of my childhood. I stopped working on the dollhouse after I took it outside to cover the exterior walls with stone texture spray and left it in an unexpected downpour. After I realized it was pouring, I rushed to grab it and take it inside—but too late. The bones of the dream were just cardboard, now turned to mush, to muck and melancholy.  

The state of the dollhouse mirrored the state of my relationship I tried to save both, but both had unstable foundations—no studs or concrete slabs to keep them from crumbling— just the exterior walls, covered in pretty little things.