A few years ago, I happened to be talking to my mom on the phone when she mentioned that the night prior, she and my dad had attended a 70th birthday party for their friend Shelly.
My mom said, “We were all supposed to bring a gag gift, so I gave her that old Cabbage Crotch doll.”
Me: “What? You still have those?”
Mom: “Well, not anymore. I came across that one in the back closet, and I thought it would be funny to give it as a gift.”
Me: “Holy shit. What did people say? Did you tell them the story? Can you get it back? If there’s ONE THING I want for Christmas, it’s that doll. I’ve told so many people about that and I’m pretty sure no one believes me.”
And so my darling, elegant, educated mother went to her friend, explained the story, and returned with the last Cabbage Crotch doll in existence. Now it lives in MY back closet, which is the only appropriate place.
In the fall of 1982, when I was 12 years old and Cabbage Patch Kids were approaching their peak popularity, my mom was inspired by something (lord knows what) to start making the “adult” version at home. I imagine that she would take them to work and giggle with her co-workers, although looking back, these things are more of an HR violation than most of the “Me Too” stories you’ve heard.
Now, keep in mind that my mom was in her late 30’s at the time, a registered nurse (RN) by training who had been promoted to a position running the surgery department at a well-reputed hospital. Presumably she earned this role by displaying sound judgment, a dedicated work ethic, and natural people management skills.
HOWEVER, here’s what was going on at home: she had turned our family room into an upscale sweatshop for producing bizarre anatomically correct dolls out of plastic googley eyes, cheap fake fur, and used pantyhose.
Allow me to set the stage. My grandmother (her mom) was out visiting from Iowa, staying with us for 6 weeks to recover from bunion surgery, as grandmothers do. Never one to sit idle, she must have asked if there were any household projects or mending she could help with while she was essentially confined to the couch all day. I don’t know which one of them cooked up the idea, but what I remember is coming from middle school each day to help stuff abnormally large penises with pillow guts and then sew them onto the crotch section of nude-colored pantyhose. Yes, I know it’s hard to picture, so here’s photographic evidence.
Granted, the boy doll was more offensive than the girl version, which sported two nylon breasts and a triangle of fur. At the time, I knew what naked women looked like (thanks to my father’s subscription to Playboy and my tendency to read all of the mail), but I found the boy doll shocking and unexplainable. It would be years before I found it funny.
Now, it’s perhaps the funniest thing EVER. I really want to Google “cabbage crotch dolls” to see if anyone else remembers this short-lived trend, but I’m terrified of: a.) what will turn up in my immediate search results, and b.) what will turn up later in my YouTube suggestions when I’m presenting something at work. If anyone does a successful search, let me know!