English: Hannah Montana aka Miley Cyrus on the...

English: Hannah Montana aka Miley Cyrus on the stage of Hannah Montana Tour Français : Hannah Montana alias Miley Cyrus sur la scéne de la tournée de Hannah Montana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several birthdays ago, Dee received one of those Hanna Montana barbie-like dolls. She was probably at the zenith of her Hanna love. She wore Hanna to school and to bed. She watched Hanna. She wondered “what would Hanna do”.

To be clear, she understood that Hanna was a fictional character and could distinguish her from Miley Cyrus, who she has never shown the slightest interest in. Dee just loved the idea of an “ordinary” girl with a secret identity that just happened to be completely outside the realm of what could possibly be considered normal. And she’s a sucker for slap-stick.

But, as is the fate of most dolls in our house, Hanna was rarely – if ever – played with. After her initial new novelty wore off, she was sentenced to life in the box of forgotten dolls.

Until this last Saturday.

Dee’s new BFF, Pai, was invited to sleep-over. Like most of Dee’s friends, past and present, she is enamoured of the dollhouse that Rob (aka Santa Claus) crafted for her several Christmas’s ago. It is a house of beauty, and it’s massive. Dee and her friends are only just able to see over it and it takes up a good deal of bedroom floor real estate.

In addition to the doll mansion, Dee’s amassed quite the impressive collection of Barbies and paraphernalia. The latter in no small part is thanks to Edie and Mick, who bequeathed her their late 80’s/early 90’s accessories of which many would be completely new and novel to Dee’s friends. Naturally, they all want to play Barbies, and it’s about the only time Dee herself will sit and play with her collection for literally hours on end. Dee is a cardboard box, scissors and Scotch tape kind of kid. Barbies don’t make her top ten list of ways to pass time. Unless her friends want to play.

At some point in the late afternoon, Hanna Montana was discovered and one of them noted that she seemed evil and perhaps even – alive with evil.

Thus came plan A. To catch Evil Hanna in the act of animation. And to this end, Steve Jobs came to the rescue.

Both girls are nearly as welded to their iPods as the average teen’s eyeballs and thumbs are ensnared by their smart phones. Hanna was left on the lower bunk caught in the cross-hairs of two lens with video rolling. If she moved, they would know.

But, both iPods mysteriously stopped filming after 12 seconds.

“There is no way that could have happened,” Dee told me later.

And Hanna, again quite mysteriously but certainly with sinister intent, flipped from her back to her tummy.

“She moved,” Pai said solemnly.

“She did,” was Dee’s saucer eyed concurrence.

Plan B was clearly needed, and this involved “caging” a now trussed up with ribbons Hanna in a mesh pop-up hamper. Surveillance was once again employed, and the girls went about their merry way.

Fast-forward to bed-time and despite the wicked Hanna’s lack of obvious escape attempts, neither girl felt able to sleep in security as long as the malevolent hunk of plastic molded by underpaid Chinese  was in the room.

A defcon level plan C was hatched on the fly and Rob and I, who were showering off the day’s asphalt roofing material, heard the patter and scurry of feet down the basement stairs. Mood killer that it was, I dried off, donned robe and went to assess.

I found the two of them in Dee’s play area and Pai was attempting to tie a cloth belt from an old swimsuit of mine around the play dishwasher while Dee perched on the mini-trampoline, clutching the stuffed bison she picked up in Yellowstone last summer holiday. A thin cloth ribbon tied around her wrist was looped around Pai’s waist.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

They both looked at me as though it should be plainly obvious to all but the most mentally defective.

“We can’t sleep with Hanna in the room,” Dee said. “So we are caging her down here.”

“I see,” I said, “and you are tied together why?”

“Stuffies will protect you from evil,” Dee explained. “So I am holding Bice and Pai is protected as long as she is tied to me.”

Which is what best friends do, selflessly risk corruption by unspeakably evil Mattel products while you have their backs.

“It won’t tie,” Pai piped up.

“Let me help,” I said.

Which is what Moms do, we humor children who have needlessly hyped themselves up to irrational levels of imaginary fear.

After Hanna was secured, I ushered the children back up to Dee’s bedroom and told them I’d check back when I came back up to bed for the night.

By this time, Rob was out of the shower and upstairs and I updated him of the latest in Hanna control to which he rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“At least we have proof that they actually have imaginations,” he sighed as if that were the only lemonade that could be squeezed out of this mushroom cloud of escalating terror.

Before bed, I peeked in Dee’s room again to find both girls in the top bunk, ringed in by every stuffie Dee owned.

And, of course, I had to ask.

“Stuffies can be used as a force field,” Dee said.

“This way,” Pai continued, “if Hanna gets loose, she can’t get to us.”

“Good thinking. But if Hanna gets loose, tomorrow we are going to have Dad chop her up with the hatchet and burn her in the fire pit,” and with that I wished them pleasant non-Hanna dreams and went to bed.

I was reading when Rob slipped into the room, closing the door behind him and grinning like an evil Hanna Montana doll.

“What’s funny?” I asked.

“You should have seen the looks on their faces when I asked them why Hanna Montana was sitting in the hallway.”

“Way to give them nightmares, Baby,” I told him. “I told them if the doll got loose in the night, you’d chop it up tomorrow.”

“What did they say to that?”

“Pai asked if she could chop the head off.”

The next morning found Hanna still secure and the girls decided that more permanent measures for her ultimate containment were in order. Armed with stuffies, they retrieved evil incarnate from the dishwasher and with only YouTube vids as their guide, they constructed a cage out of old pizza boxes and a drink carrier from A&W. An hour and a half, water-colours, and tape later, the Hanna was neutralized for good.

“We taped her arms and legs together and then taped her to the bottom of the cage,” Dee said. “She narrowed her eyes at us, but she can’t get out.”

Last night, Dee slept soundly, even though Hanna-bot was under the bed.

“I have Bice and as long as he is touching me I have a thin force field around me for protection.”

And so, once again, the power of little girls, stuffies and arts/crafts has vanquished the sinister forces of the world. Rest easy.

This is a photo of a model from 1975 wearing a...

Image via Wikipedia

A recent Dear Prudie at The Slate tackled the all important fashion dilemma that keeps me up at night  – how to make my breasts appear more Barbie like. And not pointy impossible triple D rocket shaped Barbie breasts, but disturbingly smooth in a neutered way because, in case you’ve never noticed, Barbie doesn’t have nipples.

She doesn’t have a vaginal area either but that’s less horrific than her counterpart Ken’s lack of any genitalia.

Ken, by the way? Nipple-less too.

But getting back to Prudie’s dear reader, the woman had just discovered that the outline of her nipples might be considered a fashion don’t in the workplace. What should she do? Provided that it really was a no-no and that something short of a burqa was involved.

Prudie’s advice? Well, a quiet polling of her female co-workers was all over the map, so she did the most Solomon like thing she could, though I doubt really that his majesty objected to a bit of nippage in his harem,

So I will anoint myself the nipple arbiter and say, particularly at the office, keep your nipples under wraps. This does not mean wearing a Kevlar bra; it means finding one with enough lining or tensile strength to make sure that if you’re cold, or if you’re thinking about Mark Ruffalo, the rest of the office won’t know.

I shared this with Rob, who needlessly pointed out that I am in violation of nipple etiquette every day of my life due to my near RainMan inability to tolerate underwear.

Indeed, I have only recently discovered the almost perfect sports bra, which falls short on the all important strap issue but is so sheerly awesome that I barely know it’s on.

Okay, I know it’s on, but it doesn’t threaten to break ribs or realign my spine.

Bras have been my bane since I sprouted boobs – which have always had nipples on top just like a Sundae has whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. There is something slightly off about the way women are expected to disguise the fact that, like men, we have nipples.

Men do not wear padded undershirts. Their nippage is not considered provocative – by them anyway. Really, men are silly creatures. Oblivious to the fact, it seems, that women ogle them as much – probably more – than they ogle us. We are just better at it.

But we are not kind. Know that and live in a bit of fear, gentlemen.

Getting back to nippage though. Is it really that big of a deal if mine show?

When I was forced from my comfy undershirts to the utterly useless for comfort or warmth training bra (an interesting concept but one that makes sense because little girls must train for the chest bondage to come), nipples were not camouflaged as much as they were just smashed flat.

Padded bras and then padded with underwire followed. And they were both of equal awfulness. What is the point of keeping just the breast area warm?

The padding didn’t help with straps that rubbed or underwire that dug into the cartilage, and it was damp by the end of the day.

As a young adult, I found sheer bras that didn’t really help with shape because I am small – cup wise – and, of course, promoted nipple outline.

Shoulder issues, and retirement from teaching, eventually freed me from bras altogether, but I consider my most pressing breast issue to be not falling out when I teach a yoga class.

To that end, I generally wear a wrap sweater of some type though to practice, or if I am teaching a class where I have to do a lot of modeling poses, I man up and don a sports bra.

Still, sports bras mean smashed nipples not invisible ones.

At issue is, once again, the tender male brain. Men, apparently, have the self-control of toddlers and can’t rescue themselves from their sexual impulses. This explains our second class status and the need of religions to swaddle and enslave us. Men can’t rule the world after all when their kryptonite wanders free, equal and showing off nipple.

We could wish that Prudie had taken a more Moses like stand, “Let our nipples show! So let it be written; so let it be done.” But productivity in the office place is paramount. Work suffers when the staff spends more time pondering the reasons behind nippage (is the a/c set too low or is she thinking about doing me?) than attending to their jobs.

Alas, discretion and coverage are the better part of valor for the working woman.

I remain defiantly bra-free and not particularly repentant. After all, I stood on God’s altar this last weekend as witness to my mother-in-law’s wedding completely nude under my lovely formal wear. Comfort above all should be etched in my coat of arms somewhere, methinks.

My mother made a little pink coat for my Barbie doll when I was about ten years old. She made dresses and pants too. I rescued them from a basement purging Mom conducted the summer before last. She sold many of our old Fisher-Price toys, collectors items that she could have made real money off of on eBay were she not a complete Luddite when it comes to the Internet. The clothes were in an old play suitcase that I used to us when we would take little trips. They were musty from years under the basement steps and Katy eyed them dubiously when I told her enthusiastically that they would fit her dolls. She clearly had reservations about allowing these smelly old rags anywhere near her dolls, forget about on them. But, I took them back to Des Moines with us and washed them a time or two and though a bit tattered, they served.

The dolls’ clothing was a mixture of regular size dolls and Barbie clothes. Some of the doll clothing was for baby dolls and some were made especially for the Crissy and Velvet dolls that my sister and I had gotten for Christmas one year. Do you remember those dolls? The ones with the I Dream of Jeannie knots on the tops of their heads that you could pull the pony tail out for long hair and wind back up inside them with a round knob on the back? My father didn’t understand why any of our dolls needed more clothing than what came on their backs, so my mother ended up finding patterns and buying material, snaps, buttons and ribbons to make doll clothing for us. If my father had known how much the materials cost or the amount of time Mom put into the creation of these tiny wardrobes, he might have just let her take us out to buy the extra clothing for which we were clamoring.

I was reminded of just how much went into each piece when one of the buttons came off the pink coat and needed to be sewn back on. Rob took the tiny pearl-like thing from Katy and immediately handed it off to me, pronouncing it to microscopic for him, and it was very, very small. The head of a pencil eraser is bigger than those buttons. As I worked on replacing and subsequently tightening up the hold on the other buttons, I marveled at what close and intricate work this was with a needle and thread and how skilled a seamstress one would have to be to cobble together such tiny garments on a sewing machine. My mom had a Singer machine in a stand alone desk that she could fold the sewer into before closing the lid atop it. It was rarely every put away when I was young. Mom sewed, it seemed to me, all the time. She made clothes for our dolls, us, and herself. I think there was even one point when darn near everything she wore, she had cut from a McCalls or Butterick pattern and sewed together herself.

The two (miserable) years I spent in 4H, I learned to sew as well, but I never loved it. I found it tedious and thought the clothing made me look frumpier than I knew I was. No one wore homemade clothing when I was 12, except for the halter tops that nearly every girl I knew, younger and older, were wearing but which I was not allowed. I don’t know if it was because I was wearing a bra by then (a training one but according to my parents – that counted) or because I was fat and neither of my parents could stomach the idea of my pudgy (not little – I was already 5’ 6”) self’s rolly flesh showing (and in case you think I might be putting thoughts into their heads, my younger sister was allowed to prance about the neighborhood in halters and bikini tops until we were both well into our high school years). But, I just didn’t see the point of sewing your own clothes unless you were good enough at it that no one could discern your homemade from the store bought. That is just a gift. Mom had it sort of but I didn’t and still don’t.

Mom got her sewing gene from her mother. My grandmother’s doll clothes and tiny quilts still survive and Katy has several of them today among her play things. She likes the blankets especially and I have to admit that I love the fact that they have survived and she is playing with them. Same goes for the Barbie ward robe and doll clothes. There are many kinds of heirlooms but the ones I like best are the things that a person uses and then passes to the next generation for their use too.