Depending on the circumstances, 1300 square feet can seem like a lot of space. If you are a mouse for example. Or a cock roach. But If you are one of my kids, or if you are anyone who is in the same room with one of my kids. It can feel pretty small.
Sometimes I think that my life would be so much easier if we only had a back yard. Nevertheless, we don’t and I figured plenty of people have lived in igloos. Or on boats. Or in psych wards.
With all the cartwheeling and somersaulting that happens around the coffee table, I was confident that our lack of outdoor space has not compromised my kids’ gymnastic talents. They were so busy bouncing off the walls how would they even know another option was possible?
Then, I was shuttling them to the library (to watch a movie). My daughter asked, “Why can’t we he a jungle gym?” Without missing a beat my son, answered, “Oh, don’t worry, that is an easy problem to solve. When Mommy gets us a house, she can order us a jungle gym online.”
I didn’t know what to say. I was dumbfounded. This was the first time my son professed any faith in my competence in any field. This is the child who, upon hearing the lullaby,
“And if that mocking bird won’t sing, mama’s gonna’ buy you a diamond ring.” replied, “Yeah, right.”
(And who could blame him? I had bought his snowsuit on ebay for $6. There was “slight wear in the knees” as advertised, but otherwise just fine. Still, given that his cousin wears a swanky Spyder one-piece snow “system,” I can see him thinking, “what a rip’.”)
Hearing this baseless but sincere expression of confidence in my purchasing abilities, and for a house no less, I was so touched! It was a call to action.
So I did what I always do when I am supposed to be doing something important: start surfing the internet.
What I discovered is that purchasing a house is no small decision. It determines so much about how you live and how you are perceived by others. A house, more than the $6 snowsuit (which, when you include shipping was really closer to $16), says a lot about who you are or who you are trying to become.
Take the Barbie Dream Castle for instance:
For the price of one ticket to The Lion King ($170 dollars), this castle offers 36 inches of plastic splendor. Sliced in half, along the transverse axis, occupants of this palace are comfortable with exposure, telling the world that they expect to be watched. Virginia Woolf would approve, this is a home for women, each of whom will have a room of her own.
Then again, she might raise an eyebrow when she learned that none of these rooms was designated for any intellectual purpose and that this castle comes with the expectation that each princess confine herself to the space that defines her best:
Ariel in the tub. And Snow White in the powder room.
and Cinderella on the staircase (where she can keep in shape, naturally).
And Jasmine (the princess of undetermined “Arabian” descent) has a place outside the castle on a flying carpet. Hands down the “coolest” princess, one is left to wonder whether Jasmine really would have anything to do with the girls on the inside if she did have a choice.
Upon closer analysis of the product box, feminists would be somewhat relieved to see that Tiana has shunned her designated domestic sphere, fleeing instead to the roof where she is plotting her escape or just looking to hang with Jasmine.
In contrast to the Princess castle we also have the Play House from plan toys.
This item exemplifies the Manhattan take on things, in that it seeks to improve on the original concept of “doll house” by making it look more stylish. This is also the house for people who want to feel like they are doing their part, through consumption, to save the planet. To be fair, this doll house does “smaller footprint” than regular doll houses (the barbie princess castle would count as a junior four in Manhattan). But whether its “eco-responsible” wooden design does anything to protect the environment is debatable.
Interestingly the marketing materials stay away from the term environmentally “sustainable.” This might be because benefit of using recycled rubberwood in the construction is somewhat undermined by the fact that construction takes place in Thailand where, regardless of working conditions, the factories are all more than 9000 miles away from the tastefully if not sustainably decorated playrooms of the upper east side. And the “smaller footprint” probably has more to do with the fact that “recycled rubberwood” is about 20 times heavier than plastic. –Toting this thing around is likely to give you very toned shoulders if not a hernia.
One thing’s for sure, this doll house is not a castle. There is hardly room for any furniture in there and the kitchen is part of the T.V. room, study, and living room etc. (just like its Manhattan apartment counterpart) It looks pretty, but there isn’t room for any stuff. No doubt, the inhabitants of this house are going to need a mini “mini-storage” locker or two.
Who lives here? No bimbos, as it turns out. The people who live here make Scooby Doo’s Thelma look like a trollop. These guys are stiff, short, and are condemned to a life where they can never take their clothes off. Ah yes, a typical couple with kids.
But as you can see, there are no kids. There is no room for them. They must at sleep away camp. See, how the grown ups are smiling? Despite it all. Despite that there is no room for both of them to be in the kitchen at the same time and despite the fact that this is how they have to sleep.
I don’t even need to say it, but the inhabitants of the Barbie castle are a little different.
And without drastic measures, the princesses wouldn’t even fit in the Plan House, much less be able to party in it.
No, no. Not withstanding my son’s belief that I am capable of buying a house, this little internet exercise has illustrated that no matter how small the house, home purchases are complicated and fraught with all sorts of unintended implications. No, for the time being we are staying put. There are certain advantages to living in our little place. And at least it doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg to live here.