Some things are just impossible to put into words.
How, for example, can I possibly explain my state of confusion when my BFF texted me, “Emergency! Do you have Ryan in the quilt?” Or my speechless joy when we finally sorted out that, in fact, it was a kilt Ryan was wearing, and she had found him in the wild, at a K-Mart in Virginia?
Words fail me.
But yes indeed, my BFF had found the doll I’d been looking for. That same doll that I could not believe existed when I first found it online, for which I hunted in every WDW gift shop and my neighborhood big box retail establishments. And yes, I could have bought it online (using my own Amazon store, no less), but it would not have been the same….it had to be an authentic sighting in an old fashioned brick-and-mortar. And there he was.
Of course, I couldn’t keep news like this to myself, and I wanted to keep it a secret from my son until the package arrived in the mail, so I sent mail to a friend and fellow queer High School Musical addict, who asked the truly important question: What do his legs look like? Now, this would have seemed like an odd question, did I not know that some speculate this unexpected kilt-wearing Ryan doll is in fact just leftover schoolgirl dolls recast into our effeminate friend. But no, I’d say the record suggests that this doll was, in fact, originally conceived of as male. Which still leaves open the mystery of how on earth this doll came to pass, and whether there was some alternate “everybody’s Scottish!” ending that will someday show up in the bonus features section of an HSM multi-disc compilation.
I can’t bring myself to open the box and see whether Ryan’s class ring might fit me. And usually I’m not one of those collectors…none of my Beanie Babies have tags, thank you very much. But this time, the packaging is as much of a thrill as the product itself. Without the packaging, one might just think I myself cross-dressed a Ken doll, and where’s the subversive thrill in that? Plus, who knows, maybe Ryan in the Kilt will be the future Growing Up Skipper?
Actually, another friend has reminded me that Ryan in the Kilt does indeed have spiritual kin in our historic Barbie lore. I speak here of Earring Magic Ken, perhaps the gayest doll of all time. The Man Behind the Doll tells us more:
…Ken’s entire Earring Magic outfit looks like three-year old rave wear. A Gaultier purple faux-leather vest, a straight-out-of-International-Male purple mesh shirt, black jeans and shoes. It would seem Mattel’s crack Ken redesign team spent a weekend in LA or NY, dashing from rave to rave, taking notes and polaroids.
That same page tells us that Earring Magic Ken was apparently a huge hit with the gay community:
Originally priced at $11, Earring Magic Ken now sells NRFB for around $47 on the secondary market. By Christmas time in 1993 most stores were completely sold out of Kens, largely due to the Gay community’s interest. Earring Magic Barbie and Midge were left on the shelves without a partner. Earring Magic Barbie was also available at Radio Shack that included software.
Hello, Earring Magic Barbie and Midge left without partners?
I’d love to think that kilted Ryan dolls have simply been scooped up out of stores by savvier shoppers than I, but an eBay search for “ryan hsm3” turns up nada.
And no, I am not particularly ashamed that I have now written three entire columns about this doll, and that I’ll be talking about it again on an upcoming episode of Those Darn Cats. So there.