Friday, June 19, 2015

~ barbie girl ~

When thinking back on my childhood, I see flashes of swimming pools, birthday parties, Hot Wheels, tree climbing, and playing Oregon Trail (not the computer game) in the front yard with a wagon full of Ritz crackers, bundles of grass clippings (for the oxen), a thermos of hot chocolate, stacks of blankets (for fort-building), and all the things one would need for embarking on a day-long journey through the dangerous terrain of rural north Florida.

But most of all, I think of playing dress up with hand-me-downs that floated through the closets of every single kid in my neighborhood, and concocting elaborate plots, acted out by my vast collection of Barbies and Barbie paraphernalia.

vintage Barbie bookletBarbie and Friends, 1962   Sears catalog  ad detail/edited  I would play with these right now if I could! How much fun to switch the wigs around and stuff. SOOOOOO cool. As a girl I didn’t get into the doll scene so I never played with barbie…except one, wait a minute, two: Growing up skipper whose breasts grew out and she grew taller all with the crank of her arm and Malibu Barbie with her real live tan…! I just HAD to have those.      File Photo

I absolutely grew up in the era of Barbie, let me make that clear.  My friend had a hot pink, kid-sized Barbie jeep and was the envy of all she met/nearly ran over.  I had ten Barbies (four stolen from my sister) and dozens and dozens of outfits for every season and occasion, from summertime at the Malibu beach house, to parachuting out of the second-story window.  It was an exciting life.
I had, and still have, a kick-ass kitchen set - complete with a frying pan that would flip pancakes, an ice maker that had tiny plastic pieces of ice that were just small enough to settle into the carpet and give you a rude awakening when you walked across the room an hour later, an oven that would make a sizzling noise when you put in the fake turkey and ding when it was fully-cooked, and cabinets and drawers FULL of plates, bowls, serving dishes, breakfast cereal, canned goods, cake mixes, drinking glasses, and a vast array of cutlery.  It was 90s-child heaven.

To fuel our obsession, in between the time we spent getting stuck in trees and fantasizing about Chad Michael Murray, my collection of friends and I would spy on my sister and her friends who spent hours choreographing and rehearsing a dance to Barbie Girl (that I still remember to this day and will perform in exchange for a crisp fifty dollar bill).  It wasn't until a decade later that I googled the lyrics and realized that what once flew right over my head was now as clear as day, but c'est la vie!  The damage was already done.

Now, let's be honest here.  My Barbie collection is in a plastic box, either shoved under my bed, or somewhere in my closet.  I'm no longer in love with Barbie or envious of her waist.  I've been made aware of the over-sexualization of young girls, the ridiculous gender stereotypes present in the toy aisle, and my feminist self cringes at the recent onslaught of "girl toys" that, yet again, put the emphasis on outward appearance rather than inward growth.  But even I have to admit; vintage Barbie rocks.

The hair!  The makeup!  The clothes!  The picnic sets!  She makes my heart flutter.

And until someone makes Barbie dolls without funky feet, a wasp waist, and permanent makeup, she'll have to do.


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