Tressy - my escape into science fiction
When I was eight or nine my mum bought me a Tressy doll. Even at that young age I wanted to be a little different. My friends, not that I had many, seemed to have Cindy dolls (Barbie didn't appear to later from my memory) and I didn't want to be the same as them. Thinking back now, Tressy seemed slimmer than Cindy, but that is probably my imagination. I don't know if it was a gift for a birthday or for Christmas but I was thrilled to get that doll. I can still remember the colour of her hair, it was somewhere between blonde and light brown, I'm not quite sure of the name of the colour. It wasn't quite natural anyway. No one seemed to have much money back in the 60s but our family seemed to have less than most so I knew I had to look after my toys. She came in a box with a stand which clipped around her waist, a tiny silver key to wind up her hair, and little white mule type shoes. She was lovely.
For a long time I only had the outfit she came in and I longed for more clothes to dress her up in. Thinking this through, she was probably a birthday present as I remember getting clothes for the next big event which I expect was Christmas. I remember mum sewing and trying to keep it a secret but I knew what she was doing. She made a dress and a matching coat in a blue cotton material then she took some fur that had been died royal blue, it came from an old fairground prize, a monkey I seem to recall. The monkey was originally my sister's. It had cheap white plaster hands, feet and a face and wire in the body so it could be slightly posed. My sister left it on the floor and the dog chewed it, making it useless as a toy. I did not realised that mum had saved the fur, which she used to trimmed the neck and the arms of the coat then made a winter muff and a lovely Russian style hat. I thought my mum was so clever. That dress, coat and accessories are one of my strongest memories of gifts.
I used to play with Tressy at the table in the back room. Today we would call it the family room. It was separated from the kitchen by a half-wall. We had a wonderful German Shepherd dog called Shane; he was a lovely animal with one floppy ear. I think he was the runt of the litter as he always seemed a little dim and; as he grew older he developed hip displaysia, a disease brought on by inter-breeding.
I have always been untidy, always been nagged to put away my toys, always having a reason why I didn't have time. In fact excactly like my daughter. One morning I came downstairs to realise why I should have obeyed my mum and dad. I couldn't find Tressy on the table, on the chair or on the floor. At first I accused my sister of playing with her but she became very indignant that I should think she would dare touch anything of mine. I enlisted the help of my mum and, eventually, my beautiful long legged doll was discovered hidden in the folds of Shane's dog basket. He didn't even do me the courtesy of looking guilty but just wagged his tail to show how clever he thought he was. As mum retrieved the doll she looked at me with a sad look in her eye, I knew something was wrong. There in her hand was my pride and joy, bitten and mangled, clothes stained and torn, bathed dog drool and matted with dog fur, beautifully grotesque. I was beside myself with distress. I screamed at Shane and sent him cowering into a corner, tail between his legs, I screamed at my mum telling her it wasn't fair and why did these things always happen to me, and I screamed at Tressy lying pathetically in my mum's hands. At first I didn't want anything to do with her and refused to listen to my mum's assurances that she would wash up OK.. Eventually I took her to the kitchen table to inspect the damage more closely. It was worse that I thought. Under slobber and dog smell I could see where a canine tooth had pierced the right hand side of her temple, she looked as though she had a third, off centre eye. I could also see that her legs, or more specifically her thighs had come off pretty badly too. The right leg especially was gnarled and indented, but it wasn't until I undressed her completely that I could fully see the extent of her life threatening wounds. Life threatening because it was now I had to decided whether she was fit only for the dustbin. The poor doll had been violated in the most awful manner. Anyone who has ever seen a naked teenage doll, albeit a Cindy, a Barbie or a Tressy, will know that they are anatomically impossible, the hips are small, the waist minuscule and the breasts so large they would give a normal woman back problems. This last feature would no longer be a problem for my Tressy. Shane had managed to pierce her directly on the boobs. Inverting one completely and seriously compressing the other. Even at my tender age I knew this was an abomination; I knew that Tressy was no longer a real woman.
But what to do. Of course I asked, begged and pleaded with my mum for a new doll, for a new role model, but I knew the answer before I began. There was no money for a new anything and besides, if I couldn't look after my toys I didn't deserve anything new.
I remember throwing that poor lump of mangled plastic into the toy box, running to my bedroom and sobbing my heart out on the orange candlewick bedspread. Poor me, it was everyone else's fault, of course, never my own.
In the days that followed I tried to play with other toys. Mr Potato Head kept me busy for a while and Lego and Fuzzy Felt made an appearance, I even resurrected a game whereby I had lots of plastic petal shapes that I could fit together to make flowers. It is driving me crazy that I do not know what it is called. But I was really past playing these games, they were fine for my sister but, in my own eyes, I was almost grown up.
If there is one thing to get me fired up, like generations of children before me, it is my sister touching my things. I came in from playing one Sunday afternoon to find my younger sister sitting on the floor with my Tressy in her lap. I was immediately enraged and snatched it from her, no doubt with shouts of how dare she touch my things. Of course she had been witness to my earlier fits of rage as a result of the mauling and felt that this would be an opportunity for her to have a teenage doll of her own, even a defective one. My jealousy roused I snatched Tressy away from her, hitting her in the head with the legs as I did so and causing her to emit loud screams of pain mixed with screams of annoyance, competing with my screams of righteous indignation that she should ever think she could touch anything that belonged to me. I remember it taking us an age to get back down to simmering point. There was no way I was letting that doll out of my sight if it meant my sister would get to play with it. The fact that she wanted to play with it, regardless of its obvious defects elevated the doll in my estimations. There was no way she was going to get it, this one item that meant I was a big girl and she was just a child. Eventually my sister was placated, probably with biscuits, and I was allowed to reclaim my prize. But what to do with her now. She was no longer the air hostess/model/actress of my earlier imaginings, I knew that people as damaged as her could never make it in this world where women had to look perfect, unless they were mothers.
To this day I am not sure how my imagination took the leap, but leap it did. Maybe I have Dr Who to thank. I raided my mum's rag bag and cut snippets of fabric from torn and outgrown clothing, creating, in my imagination the clothing of a far off planet. These women were different from weak earth women. They were, of course, all tall and thin, but they had other attributes. Their hair had magical powers and grew rapidly when there was trouble at hand. They were incredibly intelligent and independent, not needing men for anything (well I was only young). In their own way they were also beautiful, sporting sacred scarring on their bodies and a third eye just off centre of their forehead. They wore scant clothing and usually left their breasts uncovered, especially when going into battle, to show their enemies how much pain they could withstand and still fight to the death.
I no longer needed to dress my doll in regulation clothing, and although I still kept it for years, the blue dress and coat set stayed in the drawer as my warrior woman roamed the universe asserting her right to be strong and independent.
This world was mine, I knew I could never share it with others, even my best friend would never understand, after all, alternative worlds were not a place often visited by young girls with their dolls, but it was my place, and, if truth be told, it still is my place. Somewhere I can drift off to when the need arises, when the boys in the office tease or the office manager takes out on me his inadequacies as a manager who cannot get respect by leadership so demands it by intimidation.
Yes my world of strong if slightly damaged women does exist and one day they will break through to this world, then men, you had better look out.