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3. When You Collect For-Tourists-Only Souvenir Dolls
I'm not a big acquirer, but I am an admirer of grand sweeping passions. So please believe me when I say that the collection of kooky stuff you have hidden in that cabinet in the guest room is something to be proud of, if not displayed openly in the living room. My friend Karen collects penguins on anything. My husband collects newspaper clippings in tottering piles. My mother—a normally sophisticated, tasteful woman—collects cheap, plastic, for-tourists-only souvenir dolls from every country in the world she's ever visited, without irony: Japanese girls wearing kimonos, French girls with berets. (Many of them date back to the 1970s and have a disturbing yellow tint to their plump smiling faces.) There is usually something larger behind these collections—say, a love of travel (dolls) or historic events (clippings) or Antarctica (penguins). The visitor who can't revere the objects themselves will either see that larger motivation or not—and if they don't, they can do like their mommy taught them and find something nice and vague to say.

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