Today is Barbie’s birthday. She was born on March 9, 1959. That year, I asked for a Barbie doll. When I didn’t get one, I asked again for Christmas. And so it went, with each birthday and holiday, I asked for a Barbie doll, until I resolved that I would never get one of my own.
One of my friends had a Ken doll. Nobody wanted Ken, so he was mine by default. Ken did nothing but sit on the sidelines watching Barbie change her outfits – over and over again. Sometimes, Barbie would ask, “How do you like my outfit, Ken?”
That was my cue and my big chance to interact with Barbie. I would make Ken hop up and down, feigning excitement saying, “Oh Barbie! You look so beautiful!” Then Barbie would dash off to change into something else. That was it for their interaction. Ken and Barbie never went anywhere or did anything together, and other than those words of adoration, Ken never spoke to Barbie. Without a Barbie doll of my own, these play dates were pretty boring.
One day, when I was nine years old, my mother asked me to fold the clean clothes in the laundry basket and put them away in everyone’s dresser drawers. While I was putting my father’s undershirts away, I caught sight of the corner of a magazine peeking out from under his socks. I was stunned, as I sat there on the edge of the bed, flipping through Playboy magazine, gasping from time to time.
Something clicked in my subconscious that day, and the next time my friend invited me over to play with her Barbie and Ken, I came up with some activities that both dolls could enjoy together.
One day when our laughter was a little too boisterous, my friend’s mother came in to see what we were up to. She stood there, her mouth agape, as my friend and I tried to untangle naked Barbie and naked Ken. I was never invited over there again.
I was probably too old to be playing Barbie anyway, at that point. But I have to wonder, on this auspicious occasion of Barbie’s 56th birthday: What if I had been given a Barbie doll for my seventh birthday?
I won’t get too deep here into the psychological effects of a young impressionable child role-playing with a self-absorbed, egotistical, anatomically exaggerated narcissist like Barbie.
Suffice it to say that my mother was more comfortable handing me a knife at that young age, to help her cut apples for a cake, than she was handing me a Barbie doll to play with. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mother and my grandmother learning the art of cooking with real food, while my little friends were pretending with Barbie’s toy kitchen.
Today, I sill love cooking and would prefer being in the kitchen, any day, to the torment of shopping for an outfit for that special occasion. It’s true my fashion sense is severely lacking, and I could use a little guidance. (Can I blame this on not owning a Barbie fashion doll?)
My idea of a nice outfit for the holidays is a colorful apron worn over a black t-shirt with black stretch pants and a comfy pair of crocs. Let’s face it, who really cares what the cook is wearing if the meal is a winner?
I should have paid more attention, when I had the chance, as my friends mixed and matched Barbie’s wardrobe ensembles. Maybe it’s not too late. I’ll call my granddaughter one day to see if we can set up a Barbie play date – without Ken.
“Why, Barbie? Did I do something wrong?”