Saturday, November 6, 2010

My Girl: Barbie

When I was growing up, I loved Barbie.

I know, I know, this is SO not politically correct. Barbie is not anatomically accurate. Her waist is too thin and her boobs are too big and her clothes are too fabulous. She sends a nefarious, subconscious message to our girls and gives them all Cinderella complexes and eating disorders. She corrupts their values so they are hell bent on living materialistic lives and working solely to obtain wonderful wardrobes and fun sports cars.

Barbie is perfectly positioned to ruin a girl’s self image. Barbie is the great destroyer of everything we want our smart, healthy girls to be.

Now, back to why I loved her …

I played for hours with Barbie, and her friend, Midge, who, in retrospect, I believe was of mixed race origins. Midge had coffee-colored skin, freckles, and brown/red hair. I don’t know how I ended up with Midge in my collection, because she quickly became a “discontinued” doll. I suspect my Hispanic mother slipped her into my box of Barbie stuff, no comment required, and I loved her as much as I loved the pale, blond dolls.

I was a girl who heard, daily, that I was smart and going places. I would be the first in my family to go to college. I would have a career, and help make the world a better place. My mother filled my head with these messages as she simultaneously bought me Barbies and filled my case with the tiny, little-bound-feet stiletto Barbie shoes. The impossibly tiny belts. The glittery body sheaths.

Here’s what I never played with: baby dolls. I abhorred those fat, pink, bald plastic babies that you pretended to change and feed. I mean, please. Boring.

Barbie, on the other hand, had a job. She and her girlfriends got up every morning, put on their swell outfits, jumped into their fast car, and zipped off to work in Manhattan. They didn’t have any kitchen supplies: they ate out at exotic restaurants every night. They danced until dawn on the weekends, and their conversations revolved around the fascinating people they met: not burping, teething, or strolling. Barbie was not a mother; she was a professional. And for the record, my Barbie did not date a sugar stick like Ken.

She dated G.I. Joe.

Now, she didn’t live with Joe. Oh, no. The “guys” (owned by my brother) lived in their jeep on the couch, while Barbie and girls set up camp under the coffee table. You see, Barbie liked guys, a lot, but didn’t need a man to complete her. She was perfectly happy picnicking with Joe and the Dudes every once in a while, but please, boys: stay on the couch. Us girls are having way too much fun right now.

What can I say? Long after I put Barbie aside, I went to college, worked at a bunch of interesting jobs, married (someone who is neither a male model nor a Green Beret) , became a mother (and discovered that while changing and burping is NEVER interesting, loving a child is extraordinary) and continue to develop my career. I doubt Barbie had much to do with my life choices, but having a strong mother sure did.

Author Tanya Lee Stone’s new book, The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie, has just been released and I can’t wait to read it. It’s gotten great reviews, and I look forward to seeing what others have to say about my girl, both the good and the bad. For more info, visit the author's website at:

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