Tonight my friend MLHawke posted a motherly confession: that she enjoyed playing with her daughter, Kender’s, toys. That got me to thinking and I realized that I have made forays into Toys ‘R Us, or through the toy section of the local Target. I have looked at toys and hoped people think I’m looking for a gift for a child. The reality is I look at some of these toys and wish it wouldn’t be perceived as sketchy for me to buy them for myself.
Don’t get me wrong. I do buy some toys for myself. I have a large collection of Harry Potter Legos; this summer I purchased the Hagrid’s Hut set from the Lego Store. I have action figures, and for a time was known for the LOTR figures on my car’s dashboard (RIP Nerdmobile). I have stuffed zombies. And we all know I have gaming consoles that get frequent use. But why is it strange for adults to want to play with toys?
Not going to lie, today’s toys are pretty cool. In a world where toys compete with television and videogames for kids’ attention and imaginations, the toys work to step it up. Some toys I don’t understand, and probably never will given that I’m not a child. But there are some toys I see and my imagination goes haywire. I think how cool it might be to play with them, and then make sure no one sees me thinking about it:
It brings me back to being a child. When I was young we didn’t have iPods or iPhones or smartphones… or heck even cell phones that we were constantly glued to. I had Nintendo that I played fairly frequently, but I also read a lot, and above all, I had toys. I played with Legos; I had model dinosaurs; and while I had Barbies and did play some typical Barbie roleplaying with my best friend, we (and I alone) also played with our dolls and made costumes out of existing clothes so they matched the images of made up heroines we’d created. My first official fandom was Legend of Zelda, and looking back now with my older, wiser, nerdier eyes, I see that what she and I were doing was writing fanfiction and creating original characters, as well as roleplaying.
Playing with toys forced me to use my imagination and become creative. And because of some of the elements of play that we involved, I think it was also integral to forming who I am as a nerd today. We saw our dolls through being typical teenagers… or characters in the Zelda setting… or with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Or any other scenario. It made me act, made me think, made me be creative with what I had. I was always grateful that I was able to learn to entertain myself, and I think my parents were, too.
Plus, my toys were cool. I had Legos. I loved my Legos. To this day I sometimes wonder what happened to all of them. One year between my brother and me we had the entire Lego Ice Planet series. That was my space year, seventh grade I think. Prior to that, I was totally obsessed with horses (which may be why I reload to save my horse.) Oh, I had Lego horses. The first Lego horse I had was brown, and came in a small set with a stable to build. And you’d better believe my dolls had horses. My favorite was this one:
The corral, the cardboard diorama, all the plastic grooming devices… they were epic in my mind. I asked my mom for some instant potato flakes to keep in the feed bucket, and would fill the trough with water. I would also use my brother’s Lincoln Logs to create jumping courses for my horses. Hedges, oxers, double oxers… I read a lot about showing and horses in general, so I knew about jump courses. Building them was a huge source of fun for me. I had the Blinking Beauty horse in the picture; if you “pet” her mane, she blinked and had these long eyelashes. But later on I also got another horse that went with another doll set. This horse had legs jointed at the knees and fetlocks, and the head moved up and down with a neck joint. It also came with a riding outfit for the doll. Now that? Was AWESOME.
Evidently those were some very important and formative elements of my childhood. I openly confess to still looking at doll horses and fondly recalling the days when it was okay to spend my time letting my imagination roam free and manifest in dressing up my dolls and taking my toy horses through their fake paces over Lincoln Log jumps. And when people like my friend say they want to play with their child’s toys I don’t laugh or scoff, I agree.
People are quick to point out a standard about what it is to be grown up. Pay your bills, live on your own, find a relationship, get married, have kids, don’t get married… and when it comes to having fun the standard becomes very interesting to look at, especially if you’re like me and your definition of fun doesn’t coincide with “their” definition. In one episode of How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Lily decide they need to have grown up fun, so they have people over for a wine tasting. The episode plays up the dull nature of things until both hosts finally escape through the bathroom window and meet their friends, leaving the “grown ups” waiting for the wine to breathe.
Of course knowing what those characters are like, it’s funny. But there are people like the “grown ups” who do find wine tasting enjoyable, and I don’t fault them for it at all. I appreciate that that’s where they find entertainment, even if it’s not for me. For me fun is making costumes; dressing up; walking around in public in a Medieval dress or like a zombe. It’s playing D&D every week and video games in between and doing things that stimulate my imagination. And I’d appreciate not being faulted for my definition of fun. We’re all different, and age shouldn’t be a factor.
In the end, I don’t buy the cool toys, mostly because I don’t have the extra money or room. But I do have my Legos, I do have an army of MegaBlocks Spartans from their Halo collection, and I do have two Halo Reach Spartan action figures. I will probably play some xbox when I finish writing this. Hey, my bills are paid and my work is done; I’m going to play with my toys!