How do I say this nicely?
Don’t call me doll.
Now, I find myself stuck in the position to correct you without offending you for offending me. And it’s not really that you offended me, it’s more that you completely and totally turned me off.
I know you don’t want to turn me off. You’re currently dancing for me and attempting to show me you’re interested in, I guess, my dollness.
I hope I don’t come across as a doll. If I do, please let me correct this now for both of us. Even if this blossoming friendship stops here, may it be of benefit for you to understand “doll” is not a compliment.
Perhaps, I’m being self-involved right now but I think most women agree with me on this.
I asked some mindfully smart female friends how they’d nip this thing in the bud because it had already occurred twice. I walked away, shut down, and ignored. I didn’t address it, though I knew I’d have to. I knew you meant well, in your mind, and I didn’t want to hurt you by correcting you.
One friend said, give him the “look.” I mentioned the conversation has been through text messages, so I can’t shoot a look. But, her next suggestion for a “look” in a text was to simply reply, “doll?”
We talked about expressing disapproval. I called it a healthy boundaries expression. One suggested asking directly, “What did you mean by that?” But all feels to me to be rude, except the question back of, “doll?” which may have created a discussion. But I missed that opportunity when I went silent, twice. So now, now it must be addressed.
I began to wonder, when would I feel okay being called “doll”? I think it lands in the categories of really offensive sexual and racial slurs, and any other derogatory name you can think up that is okay used in context, if you know your audience, within your own gender, race, or religious group—or with close friends who get you. But, I don’t really know you yet and you don’t know me.
I have a male friend who lives in Texas and is kind of rockabilly. I get his sense of humor. We go way back to childhood. He could pull off calling me “doll” without me getting offended and totally turned off. In fact, he’d say it in a way that would make me laugh.
It’s nuance. It really is and being intelligent enough to know the power of the word or words you’re using. Words are energy and do stuff. Stuff we can’t see. They can mix and swirl the air into a magically and vibrationally fun and energetic space between two people—or they can stifle the parties involved. It deadened me in an instant because now instead of paying attention to you, I’m lost in my mind wondering: Does he really not understand that “doll” isn’t appropriate and why it isn’t appropriate? And, he’s obviously not getting me at all or the kind of woman I personally think I am.
The funniest part of the movie “Airplane” comes to mind:
Ted Striker: Surely, you can’t be serious.
Dr. Rumack: I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley.
“And don’t call me Shirley.” It’s that ridiculous, this topic of words, yet so powerful it must be addressed.
Mind you, he said a few enticingly perfect lines as well that were beginning to soften and open me up and make me think: Maybe I can get on board with this guy. But, the moment the word doll dropped, I closed off and dried up. The opening slammed shut like a loud, heavy door to a dark, damp, and cold basement.
There’s more to this. Even if I correct him, I think it’s an automatic sign of our incompatibility. I’m at a place, or striving for a place, where I don’t need to explain these things to another person. I need the people in my life to “get” the basic essence of me and I of them, knowing there will be a learning curve in other ways where we will teach and grow each other.
But. Not. This. Way.
And, I don’t want to be mean or rude because I’m sure he doesn’t know any better. But, I’m watching everything and reading between all the lines. It’s how I am for now. I’m keeping myself safe. The word “doll” doesn’t feel safe to me in the brain of a man I’ve only just met.
It isn’t a serious issue, but I want you to know what it does to women like me to be referred to or pet named, “doll.”
Don’t call me doll.
If you do, I won’t respond to you. I will sit in a corner all plastic-like and not respond. A doll is caged, trapped inside a pretty, plastic shell.
I’ll look pretty and appear as though I’m interested in you. But, I will not respond. And you will not truly see me. Is that what you want? For me to shut up, stare with pretend enthusiasm, hiding behind a fake smile and bright eyes at you while you talk at me as an object that does not respond. Does not breathe. Does not laugh. Does not entertain your brain, stretch your mind, or tickle you. Or open your heart, or climb on top of you to caress your face, nuzzle your neck, breathe you in… Make you laugh so hard you cry or cry so hard you laugh—and understand why.
The word, doll, as a name for me, feels like dry sandpaper to the delicate parts of my body.
If you’re going to give me a name, call me warrior. Even better would be bad-ass warrior and better than that, bad-ass warrior goddess. These words have power and energy too, and they make me want to responsibly and with great purpose rise and be my best for you whether we’re friends or future lovers. This is how you draw me in a little closer to sniff you out. To make sure you mean well and are safe to explore.
Doll sends me away, to a corner, or, gasp, a pedestal—and if you’re really interested in me, you don’t want me there. If I’m a doll on a pedestal, I will shut down and you won’t hear or see me again.
It’s not a huge deal; it’s just a deal breaker for my desire to move closer to knowing and exploring you.
You have every right to want a doll, but if that’s what you’re looking for, I’m not it.
Author: Wendy Prince
Image: Flickr/craftivist collective
Editor: Travis May