Rollercoaster with Ken

A thrilling journey.
About me and a Ken doll.
(But really, it's about attachment.) 
 Did I mention that Emmett is almost 17-years old and away for a week? 

Sitting at a cafeteria table, I find myself captivated by a peculiar desire: an intense yearning for a brand-new, 1995 edition Ken doll dressed as Professor Henry Higgins, complete with the original My Fair Lady packaging.

The 12″ figurine sports a brown herringbone suit, tailored cuffed trousers, a two-button jacket, a very proper vest, a white cuffed shirt, and a tie. 

What’s astonishing is that I didn’t even know of the existence of such a thing just five minutes ago. And, yet, at this moment, I must have it.

Why do I want it? For my young children? No.
I want to gift it to my 53 year-old brother-in-law for Christmas—it will be the perfect gift.


I’m a 40-year-old math teacher at Los Angeles Leadership Academy, and I’m currently attending the school’s holiday party, the last event before 15 teachers and seven administrative staff members head out for Winter Break.

It’s a white elephant gift exchange, an experience I’ve never encountered before, and I’m surprised by how thrilled I am.


The rules are straightforward:

Each participant brings a wrapped, low-value, and impractical gift and receives a randomly-assigned number from one to twenty-two (matching the number of participants).
The exchange proceeds sequentially, with each person given the option to unwrap a new gift or snatch one from someone who has already taken their turn.
In the event someone’s gift is pilfered, they choose between unwrapping a new gift or taking one from another player.
Note: any gift can be stolen only twice per game.


In just fifteen minutes, I go from boredom to excitement, happiness, and finally, distress.


3:40 pm – Bored

We’re only on the ninth turn, and I couldn’t care less that Etta, the principal, got a soap-on-a-rope. I can’t fathom why everyone’s laughing hilariously about it, but I join in at the right moments. 

My heart longs to be at home with Jane and the kids, especially as Jane’s done her Christmas magic to the house. 

I would much prefer being there. 

As I hold number 15, I again contemplate the potential negative social and job-related consequences of leaving this party early.


3:45 pm – Excited

The question, “Who is number 12?” resounds a few times until Al, the slim 9th-grade English Language Arts teacher (wearing a Colombo-esque trench coat) stands up.

With theatrical flair and to the amusement of everyone, he vocalizes his ethical dilemma about “poaching” the soap-on-a-rope from Etta. 

After the crescendo of his inner debate is made public, the future Fulbright scholar approaches the gift table and unwraps the Professor Henry Higgins Ken doll. 

“Just what I was hoping for,” he declares.

I can’t read his level of sarcasm.

But I know I want the Ken doll.

In just three turns, it will be mine. 

I can already envision the delight on Bob’s face when he unwraps it on Christmas day.


3:50 pm – Happy

The moment arrives.

“Who is number 15?”

I stand and clear my throat.

Silently, I approach Al, take the Ken doll from his hands, and confidently sit down, reveling in victory.


3:55 pm – Distraught

Number 18 is Erin, the Asian American college guidance counselor who, IMHO, pushes four-year academic colleges for kids, even when a trade school might be a better fit. 

She flits around the room, inspecting ten previously-opened gifts.

“This isn’t QVC,” someone shouts for a laugh, “Get a move on.”

Inwardly, I plead for her not to come my way, but she disobeys and approaches.

“Rabbi?” she says.
“College Counselor,” I reply.

My inner thoughts scream for her not to take this from me, yet she defies me and steals Bob’s gift from my hands.


This narrative paints a vivid picture of the cycle of attachment.

We get enamored with objects and ideas, and then, astonishingly and swiftly, hold on to them tightly.

And get so angry when we must part.


Did I mention that Emmett is almost 17-years old and away for a week?
I miss him.

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