Saturday, August 7, 2010

Barbie and Why I Love Her

I was raised without a hint of cynicism for Barbie. There were no philosophical questions about whether her proportions gave girls a bad body image, or whether we were getting brainwashed by Mattel, or whether Barbie was too privileged or too happy or too unrealistic or favored pink too much. There was only me, my myriad dolls, and my mother, who still holds a little bit of bitterness toward the time her mother got rid of all her Barbie dolls without asking her. My mother, who still has shelves and boxes full of collectible Barbies. My mother, who had a subscription to Barbie Bazaar for a long, long time, and still has a bunch of back issues lurking about the house somewhere. My mother, who tended to pass on the next issue of the Barbie catalog after she was done with it, having marked the pages with dolls she found especially beautiful, interesting, or ridiculous. I think at least half the reason I love Barbie is entirely my mother's doing.

When I moved here, my mother was very intent on finding me friends in the neighborhood, and somehow got me together with a girl my age named Allison. On our first day of acquaintance, we were sitting on my floor in a long, shy silence, when one of us finally asked the other, "Do you like Barbies?"

Why, yes.

I pulled down an enormous plastic box full of Barbies and Barbie accessories, and from that point, friendship occurred. She had a more creative mind than I, it seemed, for where my doll world was stuck in the few rooms of a hot pink Mattel house, hers was able to spread wherever she pleased. She showed me how to create rooms just by arranging furniture in a square, and how to create furniture out of other items. Handmade televisions, desks, beds, and trunks were easy, especially if you had a lot of small boxes, and they added an awful lot of character to a doll's room. My dad put two very low shelves in my closet, so I could build a two-story Barbie mansion out of sight of everyone else. Allison's Barbie house spread out over her bedroom floor. And boy, did our dolls have character.

I don't remember much now, except that our dolls' stories were fraught with a high level of soap-opera-esque drama and a little bit of magic. Two of the dolls I used most were a Hollywood Hair Barbie as Serena (i.e. Sailor Moon), and a Ken whose hair I'd Sharpied black as Darien (i.e. Tuxedo Mask). For some reason, my version of Serena was an extremely responsible and grown-up woman, which should crack you up if you know anything about the original version. As for Allison, I'm pretty sure her dolls were all original characters. And, of course, all of our dolls were absurdly stylish - even the maid and butler. Yes, there was a maid and butler. The butler's name was Drake.

So I was brought up loving Barbie, and kept right on playing with Barbie for a few years after other girls my age had decided it was lame, probably because they hadn't taken the same approach to the dolls as we had. I do so love Barbie's versatility. I love how she adapts to and encourages creativity. I love her elegance, which has lasted almost without pause since her inception. I love her history. I think that most of anything, I love how she can bring people together. Mock her, parody her, and say what you will - I do adore Barbie.

1 comment:

thedavemyster said...

Aww, Sparks, this is cool; it brought back memories of my Sis, who had tons of Barbie stuff growing up. =D