St Hilaire has found that some collectors get a kick from bringing their dolls into public spaces and watching strangers mistake them for real babies. “It’s like having a secret,” she says.
Recent pop cultural depictions tell a different story. An episode of the HBO series High Maintenance chronicles a woman’s descent into quasi-maternal delusion after buying a silicone reborn she names “Baby Nico” and whose care and companionship become increasingly central to her life (to the chagrin of her baffled, yet supportive, husband). She changes the doll’s diapers, talks to it, takes it out. When the woman and her husband forget Baby Nico’s stroller outside a hardware store, its dollness gets a heartbreaking and very public reveal – and becomes a proxy for the woman’s unspoken loss and regret.

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