Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Remembering Barbie

When I was little, my favorite toys were my Barbies. I had the three-story Barbie townhouse with the elevator and a pink convertible sports car. My best friend Jenny and I would play with them for hours, when we weren't playing in her mom's high heels. She come home from a summer visit with her dad once and brought a new Barbie which I then coveted until I got one of my own for my birthday. It was the Beauty Secrets Barbie and she had the longest, most beautiful hair we'd ever seen. We loved her long pink gown and braided her hair in as many ways we could think of.

What I loved about Barbie was her tiny little shoes and how you could buy them in any color to match her many outfits. I could spend hours in the Barbie aisle at Toys R' Us looking at all of the clothes and accessories and furniture and jewelry that were available for her. I'd dress her and undress her and brush her hair until she looked perfect. Sometimes I'd make furniture for her out of shoe boxes or blankets out of scraps of material.

My stepbrother visited every summer and added a very dangerous and dark element to Barbie's life. His GI Joe was well-known as a Barbie rapist and assaulted her on a regular basis. Mostly it was date rape. But aside from that, Barbie had a pretty nice life in Southern California. However, this is probably the reason that there was never a Ken in my small collection. My Barbie remained single.

D's first Barbie was actually Mulan and was a reward for potty training. She was two and a half. After that she wanted every Barbie known to man - shopping Barbie, Glinda the Good Witch, Belle, Barbie's sister, whatever was on the shelf in every season. She actually horrified me with her poor care of them. Cutting their hair, throwing them in piles in her toy box, leaving them half-naked everywhere. She loved them, but she didn't care for them the way I did.

As an adult I learned how "unhealthy" Barbie is for little girls' self-esteem. How if she were real, she'd be an Amazon and severely deformed. That she is an  unrealistic role model for girls everywhere. But here's the thing. Barbie is a doll. We all knew that. She's a doll and we got to say what she wore and we got to decide what kind of life she had and we decided how she should wear her hair. We used our imaginations to create scenarios for her when we played with her. It was play and it was fun and we sadly outgrew her over the years.

Barbie wasn't real the way "role models" today are. Little girls are now exposed to the Nicki Minaj's and Snookis and Honey Boo Boos of the world. Sexuality is forced on them at too-early ages and the idea of what they "should be" is continuously dumbed down. What must little girls think life is meant to be with all of these images constantly thrust at them? Not to mention the whole phenomenon of Twilight, where a lonely girl changes who she is physically just so she can be with a boy whose family member wants to kill her.

I played quietly with Barbie in my room. She could be a doctor or a mom or as glamorous or plain as I wanted. It was up to me. I made my own choices. It's harder for girls today to make their own choices with all of the surrounding noise and images of women who behave wildly just for the attention.

All of this makes Barbie look as innocent as she is. After all, she was invented as a playmate by a mother for her daughter. As a way for her daughter to act out her own dreams and her own future.

I'd take Barbie over Bella any day.


The Martini Chronicles. Design by Exotic Mommie. Illustraion By DaPino