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And Then I Met Zoe … Or ... My Doll Story Part Two

Good Morning My Confidants!

Today I want to tell you about a good friend of mine.

One year ago, I met Zoe Matthew Darling, through Facebook, proof once again that you can meet the best of friends online. People that you would never have met circumstantially, on the street, or at a workplace, at a friend's house. This is why I love Social Media!


What a blessing! So many blessings! If not for “online” Mark Hughes would not have seen my Facebook posting where I talked about how much I wanted an Allan doll, and I wouldn’t have gotten him (at least not in the magical way that I did, which included Ken, and clothing—all vintage—all early sixties).


If not for “Online,” the Doll Avalanche would never have happened—and I will tell you what that means next time—because just like Alan Moore and JJ Abrams and Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King, I just love a non-linear story! And my love of a non-linear story today means today I am telling you about how....


I met Zoe Matthew Darling one year ago today.

And what a blessing this man has been in my life!


A mutual Facebook friend of ours suggested that I contact him. She saw my quickly growing interest in dolls and said he was just the guy I needed to talk to. So, heart in my throat (I was still way nervous about my grown-man-collecting-dolls-thing), late one night I sent him this....:


“A friend said I should seek you out here on Facebook. I have fallen in love with Ken dolls and their like, and she said you know lots and lots about Barbie and dolls!”


The very next morning I got this: 

“Hi! I’m a bit of a Barbie FANatic . I have Barbie tattoos (one full sleeve and one half sleeve). I have basically played with Barbies my whole life. This week I’m redoing my barbie shelves. I have more dolls than space, so I rotate once a year. I just checked the Dudes with Dolls group [a Facebook group] to make sure you were a member. You are!  I think I know everything there is to know about Barbies, and when I’m unclear, I have a dozen hard cover reference books to check. In the last 2 years I have learned so much from this group [Dudes withe Dolls]. I have seen photos of so much doll stuff that I’d never seen. Mattel and otherwise. I never thought about it but regionally, but internationally toy assortments have always varied from what was available in the in the Midwest, USA. Growing up we shopped at a Zayre [a chain of discount stores that operated in the eastern half of the United States from 1956 to 1990]. I didn’t know it them, but much of their cheaper toys were from the international market. So, in reference books I see that rare foreign Barbies were toys I had as a kid ... only because they were on clearance at Zayre. ... Anyway, people in that group are all over the world and they know stuff. When I have a question, I post it there and usually have answers in a few hours. Not as quick as Google...but if you’re unsure of something...they will know. Myself included. I chime in when I know stuff.  By all means feel free to reach out with any doll related questions, concerns, or comments."

OMGosh! How amazing! He didn't know me from Allan, and he was immediately so willing to help me out! And he was a grown man who plays with Barbies! Yes! Yes! Yes! I instantly felt less alone. My friend Mark who got me my first Allan doll was the only other grown man I knew who felt this way!

And thus it began. We have spoken nearly every day—through Facebook Messenger—and it has been a delight.


Zoe has Universal encyclopedic knowledge of all things Mattel (and such), and as he said, if he doesn’t know, he has the resources to find out fast. I can’t get over how fast he gets back to me.


Our conversations started as a Longtime Doll Collector helping out a Newbie, and we quickly found a lot to bond about. He totally understood everything I was feeling. He’d felt those things for years.


He came from a totally different place with dolls, having loved them since he was little kid, and having had a wonderful grandmother who had allowed him to play with them. He wasn’t—like me—a man with writer’s block who was finally having his creativity reborn again through dolls. But he got me. Totally.


I began to see that he was a whole lot like a Drag Mother for drag queens! Someone, who in our case, was able to guide and...well, almost train a man in a field that is considered something for women. We discussed it and we decided that he was my Faerie Doll Mother. I loved it. Because with that spelling, Faerie was a slur, but has turned into a powerful reclaimed word for gay men. I wasn’t Zoe drag daughter, but his doll daughter! I love it.

He has been amused over the last year how many things I said I wouldn’t do.

I wouldn’t collect Barbies, only Kens. That changed.

I said I wasn’t at all interested in the reproduction dolls that look like the original dolls because I didn’t really like their original faces. I changed my mind.

I wasn’t interested in vintage Barbies. That changed.

I wasn’t interested in glamor dolls or Bob Mackies. That sure changed. I quickly made exception after exception.


I did a lot of evolving and changing as a collector over the last year. What we came to realize was that I was doing a lifetime’s worth of "collector-evolving" all in one year.

Zoe is an excellent guide, but I was not always listening! I was stubborn when I had an idea and would want instant gratification. I would need that doll/outfit right now!


I am sure part of this is addictive behavior, and still having a lot of agoraphobic issues I am dealing with, I could make these little people, these Other People, come to me.


Often it would be a character I wanted brought to life, right now, and I would hunt through eBay like a mad man, and he would suggest I take it slow, that wonderful dolls that might be super expensive will suddenly show up for good prices. But I didn’t want to wait. Thank God I only had limited money to spend because who knows what might have happened?

For instance, I wanted a vintage Barbie. I don’t know why. I told Zoe I wasn't interested.

I suddenly wanted her, except my collecting was supposed to be about finding dolls that would represent my characters. How was a vintage Barbie going to represent one of my characters? Nevertheless, I wanted one.

Zoe suggested I take my time. Vintage Barbies can be very pricey! Research shows that a vintage Barbie doll can fetch as much as $27,000 on the resale market! *

But I wanted one. Luckily Mark Hughes and his Barbie Museum came through again and I got a good doll for a extraordinary price. Took me three months to pay for her, but I got her and she wasn’t hundreds of dollars. She was shockingly affordable! Of course she was a Barbie #5, and not a #1, but still!

Thank you, Mark! 

But here’s the thing. I could have just waited!

Zoe had found me a wonderful 1963 Fashion Queen Barbie with three different wigs so she could be a blonde, brunette, or redhead. A stunning doll. I had no idea he had gotten her for me! I wanted her to be a big surprise. But when I want something, I can be an idiot. It's a lesson I am trying to learn.


Well, I adore her, Zoe, even if she wasn’t my first vintage Barbie. She holds a very special place in my collection and my heart. And with your approval, I will name her Zoe.


I wasn’t always stubborn though. I came to listen to Zoe more and more, especially after my initial frenzy started to calm down. Although Zoe has said that, “And at least once EVERY month you have told me how you're calming down, getting focused, not buying anything anytime soon, content with what you have.” ... and then I find something else! “It’s cute,” he says.


Here is a huge part of it.


I have always wanted to collect dolls.

I remember being very young and seeing really amazing collector Barbies in glass cases on display at big department stores like Sears and K-Mart. I would stand there amazed at her gorgeous outfits, the fine details, stitching, sequins, earrings, and more. I would stand there, transfixed.

And if my mom caught me, I would be just as horrified as if she had showed up when I was looking at the men’s underwear...growing up, the photos on the underwear packaging was as close as I got to seeing sexy pictures of men.

And then when the Bob Mackie dolls started coming out. OMGosh! Bob Mackie, the American fashion designer and costumier who is known for dressing entertainment icons such as Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Diahann Carroll, Cher, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, and Barbra Streisand, among others started designing dresses for Barbie! I was in my thirties and life on my own...and I would do the same thing. Be totally transfixed by them when I saw them in stores. They were gorgeous.

But why was I so interested in these dolls? Dolls were for girls! What was I going to do with a Barbie Le Papillon with giant spread butterfly wings?

This all started because the dolls were becoming the mouthpieces, the springboards, for the characters that existed in my head. How was a Barbie in a towering gold sequined extravagant costume going to possibly be one of my characters? What was going on with me?


Why did I want these dolls? These glamorous female dolls?

I didn't know. I am not sure to this day why I wanted them and loved them so....


Zoe kept trying to calm me down and thank goodness he was there. I might have gone bankrupt if not for him. See, I would find these great deals—the Law of Attraction is often a friend of mine—and I’d find a hundred-dollar doll selling for "only" sixty and then naughty friends like my dear Linnea would offer to pay half—”You’ll be so mad later if you let her go!”—and we would buy her and there I was with a glamor doll, who couldn’t possibly be one of my characters!


"They have to be characters!" I told Zoe over and over again (to his amusement). "And if they can’t be a character, I don't need them!"


To be fair to myself, when those manifestation powers brought me a Laverne Cox, a real person who couldn’t possibly be one of my characters, I gave her to Zoe. She was on his “wish list” and it was a way for me to start "paying back" all he had done for me.


Because something I haven’t mentioned was that Zoe finds and buys dolls in “lots” and that would mean a bag of Barbies or something like that, and often the lot would include a male doll or two or more.

Zoe collected girl dolls, rarely any of the boys, and he had a bunch of them he was about to take to Goodwill.

You know what he did?

Early in our friendship, within the first month, he sent me a boatload of male dolls!

How incredible is that? He sent clothes and set pieces and shoes and all kinds of things. And he still does.


For Christmas, he gave me several amazing dolls like the 40th Anniversary Ken (and that’s not even counting the 1963 Fashion Queen Barbie).


But what was this frenzy of collecting dolls all about?

I've asked myself that over and over and over!

Again and again and again I see it all came back to the fact that I wasn’t ever allowed to play with dolls.

My parents broke down and let me have a few GI Joes because they weren’t dolls, they were “action figures” (Hasbro made up that term and it was a brilliant PR move that sold millions in male dolls).

And that wound up suiting me pretty good. They were macho men with broad shoulders and sculpted chests and beards (probably part of why I love that about a man to this very day!). But it still took years. GI Joe in 1964 and it was probably 1971 before I was allowed to have one. I loved playing with those dolls, and I did so with the same vim and vigor that I did when I had “directed” the cops and robbers games with the neighborhood kids when I was younger. My GI Joe didn’t go to war. He went to the bottom of the sea or discovered ancient civilization or lost worlds where dinosaurs still roamed.

Yes, he was a part of my life-long story-telling!


And today, as I sit here typing this I am finally, finally, I truly am calming down. It started with RBear making sure I had an office again. Then Noah made sure I had a computer again. And then I was doing my daily “365 Days of Silver” posts throughout 2023, which made me write every day. And now I have this blog. And I am writing instead of watching TV all the time.


And more important of all—I am finally finally pulling out those three or four novels I started and finding that this doll could be Cal, and this doll could be Perry, and they stand by my computer while I am at my keyboard and the novel I couldn’t finish (the title of which I cannot reveal) is suddenly alive again! I look at the dolls and the words start pouring out of me!


A year ago today I had six Ken dolls with one on his way via eBay...

...I bought a 70s Ken doll because I saw that my first two dolls—my Allan and Ken—were forever going to stand tall and proud as central characters to all of this new writing...and I didn’t want them to be a couple. I wanted them, like in my life, to be a throuple!...

...and today I have well over one hundred dolls! OMGosh! How did that happen?

But over the past few months I have only bought a few.


One of the tags that I use here on my blog is “Daily Ramblings” and that surely applies to today’s daily rambling and why it was posted so much later than I have been posting them.

And it is a very non-linear tale. I haven’t even mentioned all the dolls that have been gifted to me because from my readers all over the world...but that is because this post today is mostly about a very good, very kind, very generous friend named Zoe Matthew Darling. Not only has he guided me in dolls and doll collecting, but he has also been a HUGE part of my reawakening to the Ben that I really am.


He is such a positive person, always looking on the bright side. In his life he has had beloved dolls stolen by exes. He has had to sell rare and expensive dolls to help pay the bills and help he and his spouse’s adoptive son. Why just this last year, he was going to the first BIG Doll Show he’d been able to go to in years, and then wasn’t able to go because he and his spouse had to reevaluate their finances and decided to spend that money on “practical” matters when he had been counting down the days—believe me I know—for months.


And he took it all with such grace!


What an example! I might have had a hissy fit. But Zoe, with the way he lives his life, reminded me of who I am. The guy who understands when to put desires aside when something that matters comes into my path.


The Steve Trevor I have been searching for (the one that doesn't have the black hands, they're supposed to be gloves I guess) can wait. The historical Gay Bob doll that I dream of can wait! The African American grandparent dolls I want (they run around #250 on eBay!) so much can wait. Why there is a pair just waiting for me, being carefully directed into my hands because I know—I forgot—that the Universe conspires for my good.


I saw that Zoe had been seeing a selfish, self-absorbed Ben, and that isn’t who I am! I felt a certain shame. Beyond dolls, he encouraged me in so many life matters, including going to a weekly recovery/support group. Reminding me through his example what really matters in life.


One year ago, I met Zoe. And he has been a multitude of blessing in my life.

“The longer you’re interested in Barbies,” Zoe said to me, “and the more you share you joy about them .... more will find their way into your life.”


Hey! That’s the Law of Attraction! That’s “What you think about, and thank about, I bring about!” That is exactly what I believe in and have based my life upon!


So... Thank you, Zoe. Thank you for being my Faerie Doll Mother. I owe you so much more than I can ever repay.


But when I win the lottery of—more possibly—have one of my books made into a movie that makes me rich, one of the first things I am going to do is get you a Barbie #1.


You more than deserve it in so many ways!

And thank you, Zoe, for being my friend.


Hey! Maybe one day I will get Zoe to be a guest here at “Good Morning My Confidants!”


He would be perfect. You all would love him!


Remember my friends to believe. Believe in your dreams. Believe anything can happen. Turn from darkness and negativity and embrace the light. Do good for others. Sometimes—but not always—put others first.

Not always, because as RuPaul says...“If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” That means you gotta love yourself!


BG “Gentle Ben” Thomas

Jan 10, 2024, Entry #010

PS: Below is a small part of Zoe's amazing collection. I love it so much!

* Your Vintage Barbie Doll Could Fetch as Much as $27,000 on the Resale Market, New Research Shows:


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Your journey and meeting Zoe is miraculous. I’m so happy for both of you.

Replying to

Thank you!


I'm so happy that Zoe is on this dollventure with you!

Replying to

Sweet of you to say that!


Ben, you and Zoe are such nice people. I'm happy you found each other to be doll-friends! And I also love the Internet for letting me read about the love of dolls that makes you both so happy. It puts a smile on my face every day!

Replying to

That is so sweet and kind of you to say. ((((HUGS))) you tight!


Thank you, Zoe. You are making such a difference in so many ways. <3

Replying to

He really is!


Because of your friends, you started collecting dolls. Because of you, I'm now collecting them. I lucked out and found the buff Signature Looks Ken I wanted for Ross from my The Last Marine's series, got a knock off GI Joe action figure and did a clothes swap. Here's the result.

I'm pretty happy with how he turned out. Thanks for sending me on this doll journey, Ben.

May you find all the dolls of your dreams.

Namaste and have a wonderful day.

Replying to

Absolutely! I'm trying to be more positive, but some days...yeah, it can be hard.

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