Web surfer beware: Internet doll search leads to shady sites

What’s a nice girl like me doing pulling up porn on the Internet? Looking for a gift for my young granddaughter, that’s what!

It all started when Zoe, newly 6, was given a My Little Girlfriend doll named Jessica the Free Spirit for a birthday present. It took her only a nanosecond to discover that there are FOUR My Little Girlfriend dolls and to decide that possessing the one named Zoe the Outdoor Explorer was absolutely essential to her present and future happiness.

Who knew that finding that doll would be harder than acquiring Tickle Me Elmo? Elmo, if you remember, was a Sesame Street doll so popular a few years ago that mommies and daddies did actual physical damage to one another in the effort to buy him for their kiddies. And, long before Elmo, there was the Cabbage Patch doll — sometimes bald and always ugly — born in a cabbage patch complete with an authentic (who are we kidding?) birth certificate.

At the time of the Cabbage Patch frenzy, I heard a prospective customer ask my friend Don, who then managed a discount store, if he had Cabbage Patch dolls in stock. When he said he did, she inquired about price.

“$35,” he answered.

“What?” she gasped, “At Wal-Mart they’re only $29.99.”

“Then you should buy one there,” he said.

“But they’re OUT of them!”

“Well, there you go,” said Don, “When we’re out of them, they’re only $14.99.”

I thought that when our kids were grown, my days of searching for over-publicized and under-produced toys were finished. I rejoiced that my husband, Ray, and I would no longer embark on fruitless quests for Tiger Joe tanks, Mighty Mo bazookas and bake-your-own Creepy Crawler kits as if those kid-wants were the Holy Grail. Silly me!

As parents, Ray and I went to great lengths to fulfill our sons’ gift wishes — we bought a motorcycle for Ray, Jr., a six-foot Burmese python for Greg — but you won’t believe what we will go through to make our grandchildren happy!

After phoning every department store, discount center, toy and book store in my area code in futile pursuit of Zoe the Outdoor Explorer, I decided to try an Internet search. I innocently typed “My Little Girlfriend” in Google’s search box and found myself staring at pages of porno site options!

I quickly executed a Yahoo! search and was offered more porno sites as well as links to music with offensive lyrics. But Yahoo’s 10th entry happily yielded a Parents Magazine contest in which Zoe the Outdoor Explorer was a prize. A click of the mouse allowed me to see an actual photo of the object of Zoe’s heart’s desire: a cute little doll with gold yarn hair, dressed and accessorized for roughing it.

To be fair, I returned to Google and repeated my search. Imagine my surprise to discover that the third result on the list — which I’d earlier overlooked — referred to the doll in question. However, given the torrid nature of the other options listed on that page, it’s no wonder I missed that one which was labeled “Red-Hot Sweepstakes.” Trust me, by that time there was no way I’d consider accessing any Web site categorized as “red-hot!”

I flashed back to the evening I attempted to use Ray Jr.’s computer to show him a Web site I enjoyed. I typed a name in the address box and up popped photos of naked ladies. There’s not much my oldest son doesn’t know about computers, so he quickly realized my mistake. “The music site you’re looking for will use the word wav, Mom,” he said, “you put an ‘e’ on the end of it.” He further explained, “Lots of times porno sites will change a letter in the address of popular Web pages so that, if you misspell them, you’ll pull up porno stuff.”

Good to know … I guess. Kids, don’t try this at home. (What am I thinking? Any kid whose age is still in single digits can educate me on navigating the Internet).

E-mailing the doll’s manufacturer brought me quick answers from three people, one of whom offered to ship the doll, but by then daughter-in-law Val had located Zoe the Outdoor Explorer in a Missouri toy store. When Val mentioned the store had another My Little Girlfriend doll named Isabella the Ballerina Beauty, I told her to buy that one, too (our Zoe is a fledgling ballerina).

So, was all the trouble worth it? You bet! And if you had seen Zoe’s face when we gave her the dolls, I know you’d agree!

— Marsha Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence. Information about purchasing her new book, “Life Is More Fun When You Live It Jest for Grins,” is available by calling 843-2577 or e-mailing mhgink@netscape.net.