According to recent news reports, elaborate fake babies—called “reborn dolls”—are becoming popular with adult women.
The dolls, which can cost more than $12,000 (but often sell for several hundred or a few thousand dollars)—have extremely realistic hair and incredibly lifelike facial features
and skin tone, thanks to many hours spent by artists who paint them,
complete with one-of-a-kind birthmarks—and painstakingly apply their
locks and lashes. Some of the dolls are made to look exactly like
premature babies and delivered with an incubator and even with IVs.
younger women claim the dolls satisfy their maternal needs. Some
middle-aged women claim the dolls comfort them as their children leave
for college. Indeed, companies will supply custom-made dolls that
closely resemble a woman’s own baby—born twenty years before.
would be one thing if women were buying “reborn dolls” out of morbid
curiosity or a passion to collect them (like Hummel figurines). But
women are taking their dolls out in strollers (no kidding) and strapping
them into car seats for trips to the mall. Fortunately, they don’t
actually believe their “babies” are real. That would be a true psychotic
delusion. But they are able to suspend disbelief and play with them as
though they are real—kind of like believing in a movie while you are
While this may seem like a harmless fad, when taken
with other evidence that we prefer fantasy to fact, I see this as the
latest symptom that our species is losing its grip on reality, in a
wholesale fashion. Increasingly, we are loath to accept our own life
stories, and work through the inevitable painful chapters, in order to
achieve real personal growth. People who are dissatisfied with who they
are can now pretend they are entirely different people on
secondlife.com. Children who might otherwise have to establish real
relationships with pets, can adopt animated ones on clubpenguin.com.
who haven’t seen the world at all can wear tee-shirts from trendy
retailers emblazoned with logos of hotels and restaurants in exotic,
far-off locales (hotels and restaurants which, by the way, may not even
exist). Many millions of people can sterilize their life stories into Facebook
profiles and each effortlessly gather hundreds or thousands of
“friends” (not one of whom need necessarily be a genuine friend, at
all). Politicians who choose not to address real threats to our economy
can print money and prop up failed or fledgling industries. And, now,
women who might have integrated the end of their childbearing years (or
their inability to ever have children) into their self concepts and
found new ways of truly expressing themselves, can dodge that journey by
ordering fake babies and “nurturing” them.
“Reborn dolls,” seen
this way, are closer to drugs than they are to collectibles. Like street
drugs, they reduce anxiety by substituting an illusion. But, like every
anesthetic, they only delay the inevitable reckoning with anxieties
everyone must face. A woman who uses a fake baby to treat questions she
has about her value as a human being after her childbearing years is
actually dodging those questions. And, like every artificial way of
avoiding discomfort, nurturing a fake baby will only increase that
discomfort, in the longer run.