This essay originally appeared in "The 3rd Annual All-Sex Issue" (Feb. 11th, 1999) of The Orange County Weekly.

Even if she had tried to dress as an adult she wouldn't have looked older than sixteen, but she was wearing a blue-and-white polka-dot dress, knee-length white socks, and blue high-heeled slippers; her hair and her eyebrows were dyed blue, and a pair of pigtails hung from the sides of her head, fastened by white shoelaces; two big dots of blue clown make-up highlighted her cheeks. She was Raggedy Ann, but with a different color scheme -- a cousin or a sister of Raggedy Ann -- Raggedy Judy or Raggedy Darcy.

She stood facing the pathway, between a clothing store and a Baja Somethingorother "sports bar" style restaurant, that led into the heart of a shopping mall, but she didn't take the path because she wasn't here to do any shopping. She turned to look one way, then turned to look the other way, and finally turned to face me.

I was sitting on a concrete bench, about ten feet away from her. Our eyes met, so it was too late for me to look away from her and pretend I hadn't been staring. Not without some effort, she managed a smile, and, after one or two seconds' hesitation, she approached me.

She was obviously embarrassed, and, until she spoke, I assumed this was simply because I had been staring at her. She stood before me, and I remained seated, looking up at her, and, after another couple of seconds' hesitation, polka-dotted, blue-cheeked, blue-haired and pigtailed, fourteen-, fifteen-, maybe even sixteen-year-old Raggedy Judy or Raggedy Jane or Raggedy Darcy said, "Do you want a date?"

"A Date with Raggedy Darcy" copyright 1999-2002 by Tom Hartley.