Op-Ed: Yes, I’m 14 and I Still Play With Dolls


Valentina V.

My doll, Aria, and I

It’s play day in sixth grade, and I’m sitting alone in the back corner of my cluttered classroom with my favorite American Girl doll, Gabi. She’s sitting at her little desk as I teach her the basics of multiplication and division. The rest of my class is playing card games like Uno and Speed or begging our teacher, Ms. Adnams, to let them play football. Eventually, Ms. Adnams approaches me and says that it’s time to play outside, but I don’t want to go outside. I want to play with my doll inside, but no one else seems interested. I look around and notice that the room is empty and all of my friends have transitioned to jump rope and freeze tag. Suddenly, I realize that I’m alone in the classroom.

Gabi and I at the American Girl Doll store in New York. (Erica Rosales)

In previous years, my classmates would be impressed with my dolls and ask to play with them, but in sixth grade, something shifted. When I got home from school, I sat down in front of my mom’s laptop, took a deep breath, and googled, “Am I too old to play with dolls?”

My search was met with various mom websites about how dolls are great for your child’s socialization, so I still don’t know if I’m too old for dolls, but I do know that I like playing with them. I also like stuffed animals, sparkles, rainbows, and rewatching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Unicorns are my favorite animals, and whenever I go somewhere new, I check if there’s an American Girl Doll store nearby. When I was younger, my friends would say, “Valentina, you are so girly!” No one ever calls me “girly” anymore. Now I’m “childish.”

People often treat me like I’m special for enjoying things like dolls and My Little Pony. Recently, a well-meaning friend told me that I am very “intelligent but immature.” Though they had no intention of upsetting me, I felt my stomach drop. I’ve been told more times than I can count that I am “immature,” but it still bothers me. I’m not trying to be immature. I don’t want to be kept out of a secret because I “won’t understand,” and I don’t want to be “protected at all costs” from a world that I am actively living in. I do the things I like because they make me feel happy. 

I currently have 14 dolls. Each has a story, a personality, a unique relationship dynamic with the other dolls, and so many clothes. Sometimes I feel like I am expected to throw it all away once I hit a certain age. The day before my 14th birthday, my family had a joke that the next morning they would wake up to doll limbs scattered around the house, as if once I hit a certain age, my dolls would magically mean nothing to me. The thought disgusted me, but it also made me wonder who I would be without my dolls.  

Roll call of dolls (most of them). (Valentina V.)

When I was a kid, I loved playing with my toys and performing for my family, but those are things that I was expected to grow out of. I always thought that I would still like dolls into my teenage years, but I felt like nobody else thought so. When I was 11 years old, I wrote a letter to my high school self and asked, “Do you still play with dolls? It might be a silly question. I mean, no one believes that I will be still playing with dolls when I’m your age.” 

Yes, here I am. I still play with dolls. I don’t have nearly as much time for my dolls as I used to because I’m committed to theater and my academics, but if I’m overwhelmed and need a break, I turn to my dollhouse. My dolls provide me with so much comfort. I know that playing with dolls has become more of an escape from my new responsibilities as I get older. Sometimes I find myself using my dolls’ friendships to help work out issues I’m having with my own friends, or when I really don’t want to do homework, I bring one of my dolls to my desk to help me. Occasionally, I even use my dollhouse as a desk. 

Throughout middle school, I was often considered the “younger sibling” or “child” in my friend group. I eventually grew tired of my peers acting like they had to take care of me. Carrying around a stuffed goose doesn’t make me a five-year-old, but I’m also not suddenly going to rip all of my dolls heads off the second I turn fifteen. I want to freely embrace every aspect of myself, including my interests, without being labeled “immature” or “childish.” Calling my hobbies “childish” implied that they’re something I’m going to grow out of. I may be “unapologetically myself,” but it can be so hard sometimes. I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m not hurting others, but it still kind of hurts when people judge me.

Picking out the perfect Kavi doll! (Erica Rosales)

Sharing my hobbies and interests with new people is always slightly nerve-racking, especially when they’re my age. There’s always a fear that they will think I’m weird. It’s hard to be proud of something that people think is creepy or silly. I love using my dolls to tell stories, doing their hair, dressing them up, and taking cute pictures of them for my doll-dedicated Instagram account, but I don’t love it when people jump out of fear and then begin whispering about whose doll is in the corner of the black box. It’s my doll. Her name is Kavi Sharma, Girl of The Year 2023.