Palin doll a terrifying thought

Posted Oct. 12, 2008, at 9:37 p.m.

When I heard about the new Sarah Palin action figure from herobuilders.com, I couldn’t wait to get one. And not for any political reason. My husband, Dustin, the military pilot trained for war, is terrified of dolls. He is especially afraid of dolls whose heads come off.

I saw the action figures made to look like the GOP vice presidential candidate on a cable news network. The anchorwoman held up three headless bodies and one head with Palin’s characteristic up-do and reading glasses, which can be placed on the body-outfit of your choosing. For the men out there, whose action figures and other toy characters usually come with the capes and pants painted directly onto the plastic bodies, this idea of three bodies and one head must be unsettling.

It is especially unsettling to Dustin. (Consider that when our son’s stuffed cow once mooed in the middle of the night, Dustin couldn’t go back to sleep until I removed the toy’s batteries.) Rest assured, however, that Barbies and other girl-toys usually come with one body (its head attached) and multiple outfits.

The unusual nature of the Palin action figure, as shown on the cable news network, was exciting for me. I wanted to buy one and have it sent to Dustin at work. Imagine him going to his inbox and finding a package with three headless doll bodies and one doll head.

I’m not sure why Dustin is so skittish when it comes to dolls and otherwise normal household items turned into pieces of horror on television and the movies. Dustin watches two episodes of “The Twilight Zone” every night before bed. They have never bothered him. But show Dustin something mundane, such as a doll, then give it a creepy twist, and my military-pilot husband (who has been trained for war, remember) will send me to take the trash out in the dark the next night.

Just last month, Dustin and I watched Stephen King’s thriller “The Mist.” It was all part of our theme of breaking in the new house in Bangor, King’s hometown. The next weekend, a mist rolled in off the coast, canceling the Blue Angels air show in Brunswick. Dustin didn’t think much about it until I said jokingly, “Beware the mist.” I’m not positive, but I think I actually saw him scan the area for large, man-eating bugs.

By far, however, the creepiest thing for Dustin is dolls. He especially distrusts antique dolls whose heads wobble on the knobs that are their necks, or whose wiry hair has fallen out and left holes in the scalp. Maybe this is why we have had only sons.

Except, even normal boy stuff can be made scary if you think about it long enough. Last weekend, I watched a garage full of school-age boys use a baseball bat to whack at a pinata shaped like Spider-Man. My youngest son, Lindell, almost 2, who was sitting on my hip and clinging to my neck, cried and hid his face on my shoulder. I bounced him, put on a cheery voice, and said: “Look! Look at the piñata! Isn’t this exciting?” And then I thought about it more. But it was too late. My other son took a swing and knocked the body off Spider-Man. Candy poured from the pinata head. Lindell saw the head swinging from the garage ceiling and screamed. I made a mental note never to buy a pinata that is shaped like Clifford or Snoopy. I probably shouldn’t buy novelty candles — the kind that are shaped like Santa Claus or a teddy bear, until you light them and they melt — either.

It seems as if this tendency to fear creepiness, despite otherwise exceptional intelligence, has transferred to my oldest son, Ford, 7, as well. Like his father, Ford is incredibly bright. He was doing 100-piece jigsaw puzzles when he was 18 months old. He can explain how an airplane flies and why a ship floats. Yet just the other night, my analytical son was curled up in my lap, afraid to go to sleep, because he had read a story about Darth Mal from “Star Wars.”

“Honey, it’s just a man in makeup,” I said, rubbing Ford’s head.

“I know, Mom,” he said. “And that’s really creepy. He has those horns and stuff.”

“Well, try to think of him without that face. Or picture Yoda’s head on him instead.”

Ford looked like he would vomit. “Mom, that’s worse! You can’t just switch the heads!”

I guess I should be glad he didn’t see the Sarah Palin action figure, which, according to a spokesman for herobuilders.com, is not actually sold with three bodies in one head, so maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Darn.

Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. Sarah Smiley’s new book, “I’m Just Saying …,” is now available. She may be reached at sarah@sarahsmiley.com.

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