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Monday, October 6, 2008

Barbies, not Babies



I was not a little girl who wanted to grow up and get married and have babies. I never draped a pillow case over my head and played bride. I never picked clover and made a bouquet as I hummed the wedding march and walked down the sidewalk aisle. I made crowns and intricate necklaces with the white flowered clover that overtook our yard each spring. My childhood friend Katy did the bride schtick all the time, and I rolled my eyes and thought she was a dweeb. I preferred to pucker up to the Shaun Cassidy album cover and dream of a more glamorous life.

Katy had rows and rows of those fancy pants Madame Alexander dolls that we were not allowed to play with. What was the point if I couldn't mix and match the dirndl from the German doll with the flamenco headdress of the Spanish doll? Katy also had a Sasha doll with tawny olive skin like mine and hair that I was sure was real because it smelled exactly like Gee, Your Hair Smells Terriffic. I coveted that doll. Alas, Sasha was also too delicate to be played with, lest her perfect hair become mussed. She stood on a stand atop Katy's dresser beckoning to be cuddled. I'm quite sure I heard her once ask to try on a snazzy new outfit and be rid of the red corduroy jumper and peter pan collar shirt with the pearl buttons just one time.

Katy got those dolls as gifts and would about pee her pants at the mere thought of setting them up for a tea party. You see, Katy's world traveled vixen of a grandmother who wore red lipstick and a tightly pulled bun and a silk kimono everyday, gave her those dolls. She was a strict, fierce creature who provoked a palpable fear in me and conversely catapulted me into wild behavior just to see what she would do. Truth is, Grandmama scared the shit out of me, and I hated when Katy invited me over there. I swear it was a bait and switch. Katy would invite me over to her house (well before the word playdate was in our lexicon) and after a few minutes of flipping through 45s her mom would jingle the keys and tell us to get in the car. Katy's mom thought I knew the plan was to see Grandmama all along, while Katy guiltily looked to the ground and refused my not-again-with-this-Grandmama-business stare. I was 8-years old. What was I supposed to do, throw a fit and refuse to go? Come on, my parents raised me better than that. So off I went, dragging my Buster Browns, giving Katy the stink eye the whole way. I was always relieved to be back home in the comfort of the giant closet in the loft that was my makeshift toy haven (before the words play and room became a compound word).

Back at my house I played with Barbie dolls. Yeah, I know Barbie gives girls a fucked up body image and all that. I don't think people worried as much about that stuff in 1976. I loved my Barbies and will forever be pissed and saddended that my dad let his new wife's daughter break into my old stowed away Barbie trunks and cut off all their hair. I was saving those for my daughters. I guess it's good I have sons. Anyway, I spent hours making clothes for my Barbies and mixing and matching outfits. I put on fashion shows and pretend beauty pageants, all the stuff that makes me cringe today. The sidebar lesson here is that I turned out fine and never battled anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or other such body issues aside from the normal disdain of back fat and touching thighs. Barbie had no real meaningful influence on me whatsoever, aside from a generous boost to my imagination.

I pretended my Barbies were high powered chicks on a mission who could kick G.I. Joe's ass and had pussy whipped Ken into submission. Ken frequently sported an apron tied at his waist and a homemade feather duster I crafted from the shedded pink feathers of ours. Clearly I had issues. I never wanted any of those Barbie babies or Kelly dolls. And Skipper was a total dork. I definitely didn't have room in my high falutin' Barbie world for meek little Skipper who just tagged along Barbie's heels whining that she couldn't keep up. Skipper with her sensible shoes.

And Barbie had no time for babies, not with all that shopping, jet setting, cavorting, and deal making she had to do. If I wanted to play with babies I'd go play with Katy, whose mom acqiesced and bought her a Baby Alive so she could have a doll she could actually touch. Why on earth would I want a doll that ate and peed and pooped? Nothing about that sounded fun, even the name creeped me out. Baaaabbbbbyyy Aliiiive is gonna get cha! Waaaahhh!

This 8-year old was busy bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan, and awaiting sprouting breasts so I could burn a bra or two.

I did not sway from that menacingly unmaternal path into my adult years. I was never the girl who dreamed of cradling a baby. I was not anti-child; I simply did not think about kids in my life. I guess I just did not see the appeal. I did not babysit much, and when I did I hated it. I never knew any babies or little kids because I was always the youngest in the neighborhood. I was simply not wired to be a maternal being. My biological clock was not only not ticking, it was not plugged in.
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4 comments:

RhoRho said...

Ughh.. i played the hell outta some barbies- they even had sex with Ken-doll, but i swore my little girl never would, and here she is with six - but at least they are the disney fairies and not hooker ones- and i havent paid for one of them- they were gifts. Still....ya know?

We never know what the future's gonna bring...

americanuck.net said...

Oh man my Barbie's had issues.. I used small perfume bottles my Mother got in a duty-free purchase to fill with coloured water and called Barbie's liquor cabinet. My Ken and Barbies had sex too. My one Ken he got around. Bunch of slutty drunks Hah.

I remember a friend of mine had the "growing up Skipper" doll where if you turned the arm her boobs grew now that freaked me out! Of course when I stayed flat chested while my friends didn't I would have killed for that ability. ;)

ilinap said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who played wild woman Barbie. I think Barbie's liquor cabinet is the best one yet! Wish I had thought of that.

jenboglass said...

I used to love Barbies. I never wanted to look like them though. I, too, grew up when Barbies were only blonde and had straight hair. I laughed when you said Skipper was a total dork. I mean, what was up with those huge feet of hers? I had a Jamie Sommers doll too (Bionic Woman) She was about 2 inches taller than Barbie and bigger all around. She kind of looked like Barbie's retarded cousin. Ah, this post takes me back! :)