Monday, March 02, 2009
Ken's trophy wife Barbie turns 50
Perhaps nothing symbolized the schism between me and the other little girls growing up more than the Barbie doll, which turns 50 this week. When I look back on my childhood, I realize that the moment I turned my nose up at the plasticine chick was the moment I went from regular girl to nerd girl. While my neighbor Jenny coveted her collection of each and every Barbie iteration -- Princess Barbie, Beach Barbie, Cheerleader Barbie, Dyspeptic Barbie, Third-Nipple Barbie, the list goes on -- I simply coveted the times her brother and I would sneak into her Pepto-Bismal pink room, steal a Barbie, decapitate it and replace the head with a Jawa noggin or a Hammerhead cranium (a terrible waste of Star Wars action figures in retrospect), litter the doll's limbs outside her bedroom door and then watch her cry.
I also enjoyed lighting the Barbies on fire, strapping them to the back of the neighborhood alley cat and having a rodeo, and dragging them behind my Big Wheel until they disintegrated. Now, I don't know if I did this because I enjoyed the "attagirls" I got from her brother (whom I harbored a deep and abiding crush on, mostly because he was the only boy in the neighborhood with a rock polisher) or because I genuinely hated the dolls (or Jenny). Either way, though, the desecration of the Barbie became a well-honed hobby of mine from the ages of 6 to 9. And if I'm perfectly honest, I still look back on that destructive time with just a wee bit of pride -- the doll did look pretty hilarious with a hammerhead stacked on her inhumanly thin shoulders.
This is not to say I disliked all dolls. I was a fan of the Cabbage Patch -- I liked their heft and homely faces. And I loved stuffed animals which I would dress in little clothes the same way the Barbie lunatics dressed their little anorexic annies. I'm not sure why I hated Barbie so much. Probably because she always seemed so snootie. She was a tiny, plastic version of those girls I was always afraid of at school, the ones whose clothes matched and who never spilled juice on themselves at snack time or accidentally vomited after spinning too long on the tire swing. I kind of hated them...and so I set their dolls on fire. (Actually, I was afraid of matches, so it was my friend Matt who did the lighting. I just stood by with the bucket of water because nerdy girls are nothing if not safety conscious, even at a young, destructive age. Stop, drop and roll, that's our mantra!)
So happy birthday, Barbie! I'm sorry I enjoyed watching you melt in an apocalypse of flames on the neighbor's driveway, and I hope you have another wonderful 50 years of creating unattainable and inhumane physical expectations for small, impressionable little girls all over the world! I look forward to eating cake and then immediately purging it in your honor. Rock on.
What did you think of Barbie growing up?