The G.I. Joe Bed in My Bedroom Reminds Me That Kindness and Whimsy Still Exist
Twenty stories of objects and areas in people’s homes that nourish their souls more than their social feeds. Read them all here throughout August.
When faced with the challenge of decorating their home, I doubt most people would think, “Hmmm, you know what would make this space pop? A doll bed.” But I am not most people and the miniature bed that resides in my bedroom is one of my most treasured items in my home.
As a full-time food, travel and lifestyle writer, I rarely go anywhere without my “intern” Joe—the shirtless, muscly G.I. Joe doll that I photograph for Instagram. Before COVID-19, I spent the last two and half years traveling all over the Caribbean, Mexico and the United States writing about luxury resorts and other interesting destinations. I frequently travel alone, so having Joe as my little plastic sidekick has allowed me to capture moments that I might not have otherwise. I have photos of Joe wandering the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown, attending a Día de los Muertos celebration in Puerto Vallarta, sunning himself in Cancún and exploring New York City, a tiny coffee in hand.
Most people don’t expect to see a grown woman photographing a 12-inch tall, half-naked doll, so Joe tends to attract attention wherever we go. (In 2018, he was featured in the New York Times as part of a story about adults who photograph toys.)
Last spring, I was in Cabo San San Lucas covering the opening of the Grand Solmar Rancho San Lucas Resort. I was in the lobby of the hotel photographing Joe when the General Manager, Rodrigo Gutierrez, took notice and came over to say hello. I introduced my pint-sized travel companion and shared some of the photos I’d taken around the property. Not everyone understands my obsession with doll photography, but Gutierrez seemed delighted—turns out, his office is filled to the brim with Harry Potter memorabilia (a kindred spirit!)
Apparently, once I was out of earshot, Gutierrez told another member of the hotel staff, “we need to do something special for this little guy.”
A few nights later, I returned to my room to find Joe tucked into a tiny bed, just over a foot long. The hotel staff built it in their onsite wood shop, and spared no detail. It’s crafted from sturdy pine, with a foam mattress, a cozy blanket, striped sheets and a fluffy pillow. Joe’s name is inscribed at the foot of the bed in a loopy script. Travel writers tend to get their fair share of souvenirs from hotels, but this went above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Traveling frequently for work is equal parts fun, lonely and exhausting. Knowing that a group of strangers took notice of my (albeit bizarre) hobby and spent time crafting something so sweet and lovely was incredibly touching.
I didn’t think twice about proudly displaying the bed when I returned home. I’ve played around with where to put it, and even briefly considered stashing it altogether (you don’t have to point out the obvious—a 39 year old childless woman with a doll bed prominently displayed in her bedroom is anything but cool). But I found it works best atop of a set of cabinets that face my bed.
I’ve paired it with other objects that speak to who I am and where I have been: a set of cacti, a porcelain bust of a monkey (another quirky gift from a hotel), my aroma diffuser, and an art collage my mom made that features my grandparent’s mug shots (the byproduct of a drunken night out in 1956 with their friend, the town sheriff).
Living in uncertain times, I’ve found it incredibly important to surround myself with objects that make me smile. The doll bed reminds me that regardless of what’s happening in the world, kindness and whimsy still exist.
I sent a recent photo of Joe’s bed to a colleague that I met on that same trip to Mexico. She responded, “I can’t believe you kept it!” But when I think of how much comfort and joy this unusual (but adorable) object brings me everyday, I think: how could I not?