Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Future You

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Future You

Article excerpt

On the afternoon the postman delivered Holly's Future You doll, she had no more than retrieved it from the bottom of her driveway and walked two steps back toward the house, when she heard the neighbor ladies across the street whispering excitedly. She was eleven years old, and she did not wonder what they were gossiping about because she was certain that they were talking about her and her mother. Holly's mom hated them. They hadn't gotten along with any of those women since Holly's father had left six months ago, and that same day her mother heard Mrs. Paulson tell Mrs. Baker that she'd heard Holly's mom tell Mrs. Henderson that Holly's dad had just decided he wanted a divorce one day out of the blue." Ever since then, Holly hadn't been allowed to play with any of the neighbor kids. She and her mother never went to any birthday parties or barbecues because those people were all just a bunch of destroyers-of-reputations anyway.

So Holly hugged the package closer to her chest as she hurried inside. She wasn't certain how they knew what was in it, but she was sure they did.

The way a Future You doll looked was of great interest to anyone who knew the doll's owner. The toy was modeled to look the way a girl imagined herself looking when she grew up. It came outfitted with clothing and accessories to match the child's dream profession. Each Future You was imported from France, where it was handmade according to pictures the little girl ordering it had sent along with her list that stated exactly how she expected herself to look, and what she expected to do, when she became an adult. Only a few kids at school had them because they were expensive. Premium toys, according to the Future You's box. Her peers who did have them were younger than Holly, and they had all the boring types: doctors and actresses and lawyers and pop stars and ballerinas, and they all looked like models. No imagination, Holly's mother would say. No ambition. Where were the women presidents? The ambassadors? Where were the engineers? The artists? All the Future Yous were skinny with long, thick hair and straight teeth. Didn't these little girls know there was more to life than looking pretty? Didn't their mothers teach them that a little gap between the front two teeth, thick eyebrows, some extra chub, added character? Holly knew all that. Her mother had told her she was just as she should be, and her doll was supposed to reflect it, even if Holly wasn't yet sure who she wanted to be or what she wanted to look like. The goal wasn't to create a doll that would look like a girl's ideal image, her mother said, but one that would show the child older, working her dream profession. At least, that's the way a Future You should be. Holly was maybe a little skinny for her age, maybe a little awkward with her retainers, maybe a little clumsy with her big feet, but she was at that stage-the one between being a girl and a young woman. If Holly's mother taught her anything, it was that she should be strong and independent, that these little girls had had their heads filled with lies and unattainable expectations. Don't expect to grow up looking like a model, her mother had said. Aim low lookswise. You're going to be a career woman. Keep those expectations high. So Holly did. She ordered her doll just as she expected herself to look after college: successful and taller than average.

Holly was careful not to trip as she walked up the steps to the front door. She didn't want to fall and land on her Future You, break it before she could even look at it. Because of that, the door slammed behind her, drawing her mother's attention from upstairs. The sound of slippers flapping against the wooden steps.

"Is it here?" her mom said, and Holly rolled her eyes. A second later she appeared at the landing. Then, seeing the package in Holly's arms, said, "Oh, good. That took a lot longer than I expected."

Holly gave her mother a tight-lipped smile and sat down on the ottoman in front of the TV. …

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