when i was 3 years old my uncle dan bought me a barbie. my uncle dan was my dad's best friend in college. he is not really my uncle at all, but he will always be my uncle dan. he was there the night i was born, he held me when i was still gooey. we are bonded together for life.
and when i was 3 years old he bought me my first barbie. she was a blond haired skipper. a blond haired, flat chested skipper. he searched everywhere for the barbie "with no bumps" he didn't want to give me a complex. and i appreciate that, but he is to blame for my love for barbies, tiny waists, big "bumps" and all.
there she is. she is flat chested and flat footed. she had a one piece swimsuit, and hair almost to her feet. i loved her.
i have loved barbies every since the moment that my uncle dan gave me my first one. and i love them to this day. when i am at target i always look down the barbie aisle, i oogle them, and ooh and ahh over all the fancy accessories i never had. i wish i could buy the whole aisle of dolls and clothes and houses and cars and pools and shopping malls and horses and and and... oh my do i love barbies.
i also love baby dolls, but we'll save that for another time. today it is all about the barbie.
saturday night while i was babysitting, we were playing barbies... and i have to tell you a secret. it was very hard for me to play with them. in all my barbie love, and all their barbie beauty, i could almost not stand it. it. pained. me.
they were playing all wrong.
i never did like to play barbies with other people very much. i took immaculate care of my barbies, i kept their hair just right. i brushed it gently, so it would always look like it did when i first took it out of the box. i changed their clothes constantly, making sure they looked stylish and put together. every barbie had her own place, her own home, her own clothes, her own brush, and she did not stray from that. and my so called friends, did not understand this, they always wanted to play wrong.
i am an oldest. my way is not just the best way. my way is the only way.
i would gently get my barbie boxes out of my closet. 4 boxes. 2 for the dolls, 1 for the clothes and accessories, 1 for the furniture and kitchen and surf shop. i would carry my barbie cases into the dining room careful not to tip it. and set them on the ground.
first i would set up their house. i never had one of those fancy shmancy barbie houses, we were poor, i did have a couple pieces of barbie furniture handed over from somebody. i would set up their house under the dining room table. every chair was a different room. under the chair, and in the seat. i would put every tiny plastic bottle and eensy plastic apple into its place and then i would pull out my barbies one by one. i would change each of their outfits, and carefully brush their hair. rollerblade barbie was one of my favorite. her hair always stayed well maintained well with little brushing. i would do this for hours; primping, brushing, dressing; admiring. whispering to her how pretty she was, and how hott ken thought she was.
during this time my little brother would be whining to my mom about how bored he was, and how i wasn't playing with him. "sissy is playing barbies, why don't you play with her?" no no no no no. i do not want to be disturbed while i am playing with my barbies. he always wants to make them fight, and mess up their hair. no please don't make me play barbies with anyone else. they do not understand the holy grail that is barbie-topia. they don't understand that barbie must be put back into her box fully clothed, hair smoothed down their back, and laid gently back into their carrying case. they don't know that red haired trish looks the best in the pink mini skirt and wide necked coca cola sweatshirt. they don't know that the pink brush with the missing bristle is skippers brush. they don't know you have to keep ariel out of reach of the cat, because he likes to eat her firey red hair. they don't know that you can't brush the curly haired barbies, for fear of losing the curls. they don't know that all the barbie clothes have an order and need to be laid nicely in the clothes box. they don't know how to play right.
they will ruin them. and i like to play by myself darn it. just let me play in peace.
do not ruin my perfect barbie-topia.
just look at this barbie. there is no barbie more lovely. i had this barbie, she used to belong to my mother. she is the gem in my barbie collection.
oh my. i love you julia.
mrs howells made me most of my barbie clothes. she and her husband owned the christian bookstore, and they went to our church. she was a wonderful barbie seamstress. i had the loveliest barbie clothes of anyone i knew. i took my barbies to a friends house once. she stole some of my clothes. i never took them anywhere again.
when i was in europe for 6 months in 2004, i left my barbies in my closet at my parents house. in their perfect places, with their perfectly combed hair and fine dresses straight and orderly. the first night i was home i saw my barbies, in a cardboard box, in the family room, naked, hair a hot mess, heads missing, all tangled together in knots. "MOOOOMMMM! what happened to my barbies?" i say, holding a naked disheveled ruined barbie. tears are filling my eyes. "oh, i let the little girls play with them when they were here. they didn't have anything to do." you did what? what? i have been playing with these barbies for 18 years, and in 6 months... 6 months... you let some little girls from church rip my barbies to shreds. i wanted to scream. i wanted to tell her she owed me all new barbies. i wanted to throw up. my perfect barbie-topia. ruined. those barbies i had been treasuring for the last 18 years, destroyed. i just cried. big. ugly. tears. at 21 years old. cried. over barbies. my mother looked at me like i had lost my mind. she just doesn't get it. she never did.
i am still working on forgiving my mother for this horrid sin against me, against barbies, against nature, and against God himself.
when i was playing barbies saturday night with the kids i babysit, it was painful to be a part of. they take care of their barbies like the little girls in my mom's house do. terribly. and i tried to play nice with them, really i did... but it was pretty painful to watch her brush the hair of her curly haired barbies, dress them in unmatching clothes, and throw them into a huge basket haphazardly. she was just playing all wrong. i am an oldest, my way is the only way, you know? but i bit my tongue, clenched my teeth, and played nicely with them most of the night. i played through pain.
we were playing quietly, when i found a barbie that was much to old her to have belonged to her 4 years of age. "was this your mom's barbie?" "hmmm... let me see... yes, that was moms, because her waist is tiny. they aren't that skinny anymore." i stared at all 4 years of her incredible smarts and endless knowledge. "really?" i say. "here, look at my new barbie." and you know what? i'd be darned if she wasn't right. barbies today have thicker waists, smaller boobs, and bigger feet. how curious.
then i remembered the article i read on barbies birthday this year. more importantly i remembered peoples comments on the article i read online. people hate barbie. they blame barbie for girls low self esteem, drug use, and prostitution. i tend to think one little doll couldn't be responsible for all that pain and strife. and i think there was low self esteem, drug use, and prostitution long before barbie.
she is after all, only a doll, a lovely doll, a good friend. barbie is a doctor, and a vet. she is a babysitter, and a lifeguard. she is a mom, and a nurse. she is an artist, and a teacher. she is a dentist, and a pilot. barbie has been an astronaut and model, a car driver and a cheerleader. she has been rock star, a movie star, a cowboy, and a mary kay consultant. she has been everything. and she has done it all in stilettos, with confidence.
and i love her. every single one of her.
but i had a very sad realization the other night playing barbies. i realized, it is possible, when we have kids of our own, that my daughter may not even like barbies. in which case i will promptly send her off to boarding school in the remote jungle. or she may love barbies, and ruin every one she ever plays with. or... maybe... perhaps... God will only bless us with little boys. and i died a little bit inside.
if i never have a little girl who loves barbies i will never a good reason to buy every doll off the shelf, and i will live a sad, lonely, barbie-less existence.
maybe i need to work in a barbie budget. just in case.