Her room was pink and pristine. My feet sunk into the carpet when I walked in, slowing my steps as I approached the most beautiful dollhouse I had seen in my seven years of living. It was simply majestic. The sun shone through the window and over it like a spot light. I thought that made it look like a gift from heaven. It was massive, definitely taller than me, with all the details of a real house, including a bathroom with a toilet. I reached for the dark-haired doll to march her up the grand staircase. Oh, she’d look lovely descending it in that red ball gown hanging in the upstairs closet! It’d be so dramatic, like that Gone with the Wind movie my mom liked. But before I could grasp her, a firm hand gripped my wrist and yanked it back with a blast of, “No!”

I stood perfectly still, scared to move, careful not to “make a mess” or disrupt anything after her mom bustled out of the room, probably to disinfect the air where I had exhaled.

“You can sit here,” she said, patting the space next to her on the daybed. But it was all so white and the pillows were lined up just so. I could still feel the impression of her mother’s hand around my arm.

“That’s alright,” I said and dropped down on my knees. I stared longingly at the dollhouse. “Do you ever get to play with it?”

“Sometimes.”

“Why aren’t you allowed?”

“My mom says it’ll get ruined.”

I never went back to her house. It was cold and weird and no fun at all. And even at my young age, I knew her mom didn’t think I was good enough to play with her dollhouse.

Recently, I’d read this quote from Dee Hock the founder of VISA: “Make a careful list of all things done to you that you abhorred. Don’t do them to others, ever. Make another list of things done for you that you loved. Do them for others, always.” I thought it’d be a fun little project to make those lists. So many people have been creatively kind and loving toward me in my life and why not give them a nod? And the negative stuff had the potential to be HILARIOUS. But whenever I’d try to start, I couldn’t get past that dollhouse. Probably because most of the things people have done to me that I abhorred have been a variation of this theme. And the hurt I felt at seven is the same now when someone asks me not to use their “good” furniture because they want to “keep it nice.” The difference now is I have tools to lessen the sting. I can just eat a doughnut. Or nickname them “Nigel” and trade quotes from this scene from This is Spinal Tap (at the 1:05 mark) with Dave.

“Don’t touch it! Don’t touch it!”

“I wasn’t going to touch it. I was just pointing at it.”

“Well don’t point, even. It can’t be played.”

“Can I look at it?”

“NO! No. You’ve had enough of that one.”

When I think about that dollhouse, I feel all that hurt. There’s no buffer. And I really hope I have never made anyone feel the way that woman made me feel.

I wonder what would compel someone to act the way she did towards me. Maybe she’d never been made to feel so worthless. Perhaps she had been made to feel that way a lot. Or I guess it could just be a raging case of assholism. All I can say is this: if I invite you to my house, you can play with all the toys and use all the furniture. You’re even welcome to use the “good” stuff. (Although, there is no “good” stuff at my house, really. There’s just stuff. We use it all. Because that’s what stuff is for.) I promise to be kinder to you than I am to my furniture. I can replace broken furniture. I can’t replace your heart.