Russian Dolls

Dostoyevsky’s Russian Dolls: Calendar Girls

As I turned the channel to Lifetime’s Russian Dolls Thursday at 11:30 PM, the ghost of Dostoyevsky entered my body. As his designated spiritual medium, I transcribed his impressions of the show. These are his words.

What are women if not easily quantified by months in the year? This is the question posed in last night’s episode entitled “Calendar Girls.” But alas, life is a fickle mistress full of questions and void of answers. We are left to decide for ourselves how many layers we must peel away to fit the mold of an April or a November. Is it that one only gets 12 chances in a year or, in fact, only 12 chances in life? How is that even possible when one has 4 or 5 dolls maximum inside oneself? One can only guess, can’t one?

“Just because I didn’t open up a modeling school doesn’t mean I don’t know how to pose.”

Says buxom blonde Diana, as she gets her dolls in a row for the Brighton Beach Calendar Girl competition. When pressed for the importance of what seems a simple dress-up show of lies, Diana points out that many women meet their future husbands through this pageantry. A Russian woman must carry currency in the form of her physicality – a face rich in beauty is a ticket to a rich life. We must recognize superficiality as a great equalizer. Much like Diana has had the privilege of launching a modeling school, she may also not have had the privilege of disposable income. But given the chance, she knows how to pose.

Which for a Russian Doll is completely still.

“I know this varicose veins, it’s not the most beautiful thing about me.”

Acknowledges poor Renata. After heralding her “hotter than a 17-year old,” which this author can only presume refers to the assets on her surface and not the body temperature beneath it, Renata’s husband Boris notices her varicose veins with horror and insists she sees a doctor. She has already procured her ticket to a rich life with her rich looks, but her exposed varicose veins expose the precarious instability of her social position. To keep her husband, she cannot keep her dirty, blue, protruding secret any longer.

For a Russian Doll, this is nothing a quick paint job can’t fix.

“I’m not gonna embarrass myself.”

Says princess Anastasia, as she embarrasses herself. Trapped in a beauty salon, subjecting herself to the tortures of the hot iron and scissor blades for a contest she can’t win, the only thing left for Anastasia to do is lay her turmoil at the feet of everyone around her. Or, rather, the flat, circular surface on a Matryoshka doll where feet normally would be. Each week sees Anastasia fly into some kind of a consumptive fever of emotions, undoubtedly a sign of her internal struggle to escape from the good and evil trapping her inside of herself. She must open herself up to free her demons.

Which for a Russian Doll should be as simple as a quick untwisting.

“Girls, everybody has five minutes.”

What a dark statement from the lips of the abused salon owner. Having sustained verbal blow after blow from our tormented Anastasia, the Russian salon owner cannot help but have a bleak outlook of the world. We may have more than 300 seconds, but our time left is short. We can put make up on and take pretty pictures, but we must accept the end is nigh from the moment we are born.
Or in the case of the Russian Doll, from the moment we are first assembled.

“We’re looking for the total package.”

Explains Marina, one of the richest Russian Dolls of all and judge for the Brighton Beach Calendar Girl competition. Quite simply, they’re looking for the full year- not a February/March, not an October – December. The judges want a 365-day girl. But just as we are destined for failure in the eyes of God above, so too are these Russian Dolls attempting to scoot down a makeshift runway. Expectation is inevitable but perfection is unattainable.

Except for a Russian Doll. Who is manufactured.

But isn’t life, as we know it, manufactured? Just look at a calendar.

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