Poor Barbie

I navigated into the parking space down at my local Piggly Wiggly grocery store, and glanced into the car next to mine. Suspended by her hair from the rear view mirror was a Barbie head. Just the head. The hair was pulled up and tied with a bone. I swear to you that it resembled a shrunken head! Now, you know I couldn’t resist waiting around for the car’s owner to show up so I could ask about that doll head.

A pleasantly plump middle-aged matron waddled out to that car, and I said, “Excuse me, Ma’am, could I ask you why you have Barbie’s head dangling from your rear view mirror?” She smiled a somewhat wicked grin and said, “It’s just my little jab at all the blond bimbos at my job.” With no further explanation, she cackled maniacally as she got in her car and drove away. I tell you what, I was glad I wasn’t on the “wrong” side of that woman. At least she only took out her craziness on Barbie.

Poor Barbie!

People make such fun of that doll. What did she do to deserve it, other than be a blond? Since Mattel introduced her in 1959, it seems that the public has had a love/hate relationship with the plastic princess. Those who favor Barbie say that, because she is a “grown-up” doll, she offers little girls the opportunity to use their imaginations to create complex play situations. They say that “baby” dolls only allow a little girl to practice mothering. Barbie, who has always been a “working girl,” so to speak, allows little girls to dream of bigger possibilities. Her detractors say that Barbie creates unrealistic body image expectations in both young girls and boys. I have to straddle the fence on this one. Maybe y’all can tell me what you think about Barbie. Did you, or anyone you know, have one?

I confess that I was as surprised and disappointed as anybody that I didn’t grow up to be built like Barbie. But, I’ve come to terms with it through the years. Supposedly if real humans were shaped with Barbie’s proportions we would have to crawl on all fours. But, our legs wouldn’t bend, so that could be a problem. At my age, I’m satisfied to do the best I can with what I’ve got.

When I was a little girl, I came home from school talking about the Barbie dolls that my friends had gotten. I chattered on like a jay bird, and it was obvious that I was green with envy. My Daddy decided to rectify the situation for his little darlin’. He decided to surprise me with a doll. Boy, did he ever! My Daddy, bless his heart, didn’t know one doll from another; he came home with a Barbie impostor. I burst into tears. When he realized his mistake, he rushed right back to the store and got the real Barbie. But, I didn’t deserve her.

I didn’t play well with Barbie. You might say that she and Ken got into some “complex play situations.” She did with GI Joe and every other boy doll I could find, despite the fact that she was not anatomically correct. My Barbie was definitely a “working girl.” I don’t know where I got those ideas at such a young age, but I distinctly remember a teenage babysitter (with a very red face) telling me, in no uncertain terms, that those dolls had no business acting like that. She was so mortified that she wouldn’t ever babysit for us again. She never told Momma why, and I wasn’t about to let on. I’m not sure I realized what I had done wrong, but I knew I didn’t want to see my Momma on the warpath.

I was also hell with scissors. Momma had taken me to the beauty shop to get my long pigtail chopped off for the summer. I didn’t like it and cried about it, but Momma assured me it would grow back. I decided Barbie needed a haircut, too. I butchered her hair. She had a buzz before I was done. Imagine my surprise to find out her hair wouldn’t grow back. But, a haircut was the least of the indignities that Barbie suffered at my hands.

My Daddy had been in the Navy in WWII, and had overindulged one night in Hawaii. He woke up the next morning to find that in his revelry he had submitted his body as a canvas for a local tattoo artist. I sure did admire my Daddy, so I took an ink pen and gave Barbie blue tattoos on both arms and on her chest. My rendition of a half-nekkid Hawaiian hula dancer didn’t look any better on Barbie than it looked on my Daddy! It wasn’t until years later that I found out my Daddy was actually ashamed of his tattoos.

I repeat, poor Barbie!

Needless to say, my Barbie didn’t wind up in anybody’s collection of vintage dolls. You won’t find her for sale on e-Bay. I don’t know where she is now, but I suspect she is at the bottom of a heap of garbage waiting. Two thousand years from now, archaeologists will dig up that desecrated doll and use her to try to determine what manner of children lived in the ancient world. I apologize in advance for the suppositions they will make about us.

  15 comments for “Poor Barbie

  1. May 3, 2007 at 5:26 am

    You must have been a firecracker as a kid Shelly. I didn’t discover my inner sassiness until high school!

    I loved playing with my Barbie, and Skipper, and Ken and the dreamhouse, and the pool, and the motorhome, and the… but I do think that they created unrealistic and inappropriate expectations, on so very many levels. On the other hand, I’ll take a fistfull of picture-perfect Barbies over a slutty Bratz doll any day! Blech! Who on earth ever decided that selling sex to young girls was a good idea???

    Actually, Robin, I didn’t talk until I was eighteen, so I’m making up for it now. Who decided to sell sex to young girls? The PR GUYS. I don’t envy you having to deal with the Bratz dolls. I can hardly stand to look at ’em.~skt

  2. May 3, 2007 at 9:10 am

    What fond memories of your childhood and family. I cannot say Barbie had any major role if any with me. I was the oldest girl with many responsibilities while my mom worked or wanted fun time for herself.

    In researching, when Barbie was debuted in 1959 the marketing tagline was, “the original teenage fashion model.” She has now evolved into the “global fashion lifestyle brand for girls.” It’s evident that the creator and marketing geniuses over the years have branded Barbie steadily; pounding the subliminal message, that fashion matters. I’m not sure her career or Ken is significant at this juncture.

    If Barbie’s body were to be translated into a real woman’s body, her dimensions are 39, 23, and 33. Let’s face it…Barbie’s a brick house! Baby’s got back and boobs!

    πŸ˜† And, she makes us wish we had them, too!~skt

  3. Robyn
    May 3, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Polly Pockets gazillion little bits lying around, Bratz Dolls scarey appearances and extras, and all Barbie had were boobs and Ken. Okay a car, a beach house etc…. Have you been to see Barbie on Madison Avenue? I think its at the back of FAO Shwartz. it is an amazing store.

    Haven’t seen Barbie on Madison Avenue. She has all the fun.~skt

  4. Jen
    May 3, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    What a great post – I absolutely ADORE the way you write! πŸ˜€

    We always had tons of Barbies growing up!! When you are over the baby doll phase – and aren’t quite a teenager – what else are you supposed to play with? πŸ˜•

    I agree with you guys about the scary (slutty) dolls they are coming out with now!!! Now that’s unrealistic!!!!

    Thank you, Jen. So, I guess you liked Barbie?~skt

  5. May 3, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Our barbies ‘got around’ too. All of my friends barbies were the same. I just think it was our way of playing pretend. No different than when we’d have our baby dolls and play house.

    We moved around a lot when I was a kid and I don’t have any of my barbies left..which is unfortunate. I remember one Christmas my mom sewed my sister and I each a Christmas orange box full of clothes. That was the best ever!!!

    I did that too for my daughter – she doesn’t take care of things very well and I only have one outfit left and I’m saving it!

    I think there are a lot worse toys kids could be playing with for sure and I agree on the Bratz dolls. Today people are having their 3 yo’s dress like teenagers because that’s what the kids see their dolls wearing. At least my Barbie had respectable clothes even when she was visiting my friends GI Joe to get back at Ken for his sordid affairs. πŸ˜‰

    πŸ˜† Ken and his sordid affairs. you make me giggle. ~skt

  6. May 3, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    I just love your blog! You’re a great writer! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

    Thanks, sandi.~skt

  7. May 3, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    I didn’t grow up with Barbie dolls because my family back then wasn’t that financially capable to buy the doll.

    My younger siblings had the chance to collect Barbie dolls and I have to admit that it’s beautiful. I’m so not into her vital stats because that will just depress me but I think there’s more to her than just being a doll. If there’s one collection I want to have, it’s Barbie.

    That woman you encountered gave me chills. I don’t think I’d want to mess with her. LOL!

    Great post!

    That woman gave me chills, too! That’s what I get for having to talk to strangers!~skt

  8. The Gal Herself
    May 3, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    I read an article years ago in The Village Voice in which women on the streets of New York admitted to girlhood Barbie abuse. I was SHOCKED (and amused) by how widespread this problem is. You weren’t the only one who couldn’t resist taking scissors to your doll’s hair. But it didn’t stop there: Beheadings, laundry marker tattoos, legs ripped off at the hip … Oh, the carnage! Oh, the horror! I was a big fan of Barbie myself. I had a brunette “bubblecut” Barbie. She used to get all dressed up to go out with Paul McCartney. She wore capri blue jeans and a red/white checked blouse for their picnics. The outfit came with a picnic basket and a radio, so Paul could serenade her. Sigh … Barbie and Paul never got as far as your Barbie go with both Ken AND GI Joe, though. Your Barbie sounds like one very fast 11″ fashion doll!

    Well, at least your Barbie got to date Sir Paul. My Barbie was indeed “fast,” and she wasn’t picky πŸ˜† ~skt

  9. Jen
    May 3, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    I ended up with mastectomy Barbie after my dog was finished with her. Her shoes were high maintenance to keep track of.

    I like the idea of you waiting around for the driver to come back. Can only imagine what you wanted to say, but didn’t.

    Now, there’s a case of “poor Barbie!” Yes, those tiny shoes were the devil to find. Can you imagine how sore her feet must be after all these years?~skt

  10. May 3, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    My favorite barbie was actually a Hawaiian barbie. She was just so much more interesting and exotic than the blond ones, though I have to say I did go for the blond Kens. Go figure.

    Oh, Cordia. Hawaiian Barbie wasn’t around in my day, but I probably would have like her better. She still would have gotten tattoos.~skt

  11. May 3, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Did you and I share the same Barbie? The first thing my Barbies got was a haircut. Clothes? Who needs em!

    Thanks for coming by!

    You had a nekkid Barbie, too? ~skt

  12. May 3, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    Could you imagine having to live with that woman??

    Found you through Tea Mouse! Will be back! πŸ˜€

    Can you imagine having to work with her?? Welcome. Please DO come back.~skt

  13. May 4, 2007 at 5:46 am

    The only things I remember about my Barbie days are that I *had* to start every play session with the dolls in bed like they were starting a new day and that I loved the dog, Prince. I think that was his name. Unless I gave it to him during my “Purple Rain” phase. Thanks for the memories πŸ™‚

    I’m glad they were good ones πŸ˜€ ~skt

  14. Alissa
    May 4, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Oh, Barbie. I loved her as a kid. I never thought too deeply about her figure – I just thought she looked womanly and beautiful. Between her and Cinderella and all the other princesses, I desperately wanted to be a blonde. Now I have a beautiful blonde daughter who wants to be a brunette to look like Dora the Explorer! Go figure. At least Dora is a capable appropriately dressed little girl. Speaking of the Bratz series mentioned by other commentors, we were in the returns line at Target the other week when my 5 year old daughter spied a Bratz themed item that some smart mommy had returned. She said, “Oh! A Bratz castle! Mommy, can you buy that for me? Pleeeeeze?!” I was shocked that she even knew who the Bratz girls were. I thought I’d managed to hide that trash from her. Then I said, “Honey, one thing I can promise you is that I will NEVER spend even ONE dime of my money on anything in that line of toys.” (looks much more snarky in type – I actually said it in a somewhat sweet tone.) Every mother who was in line was nodding in agreement. I have no idea how that line of toys is still in business.

    Back to Barbie… My daughter has some Barbie dolls and she thinks it’s fun to dress and re-dress them. Not that she’s terribly nimble at getting those clothes on her. About a year ago, she was struggling with one outfit in particular and she took it to her grandmother to ask her for help. Grandma tried to put it on her and couldn’t get it on her either. Her response was, “Barbie is fat.” Can you believe that?!?!? I was shocked. She didn’t say, “Oh, they made this outfit too small” or “Oh, I can’t quite get it either honey.” but “Barbie is FAT”
    For two solid weeks after that all of my daughter’s Barbie dolls played together leaving one out because she was fat. My daughter was four at the time. It still makes me cranky.

    That may be the first time in history that Barbie was called “fat,” Alissa!! One thing about dressing Barbie, is that it trains the small muscle coordination in your hands! ~skt

  15. May 8, 2007 at 12:20 am

    I so loved my Barbie and as someone else said, the Camper, the townhouse, the swimming pool, the beauty shop, all of the clothes just everything about Barbie was pure joy for me as a little kid. Never gave her body a second thought in relation to mine. I was too busy looking for the newest addition to my already huge Barbie town.

    I spent many, many hours playing with my Barbie dolls and yeah she “got down” with any plastic dude that moved into the hood. πŸ˜› That was totally normal childhood play and nope they didn’t have pregnant Barbie either like they do now, which btw I would never buy for my god daughter.

    I was 13 before I finally gave away all of my Barbie stuff. She was so much fun. Now I just laugh at the crap they have out now for kids.

    Those Bratz dolls come with thongs on *smh* I don’t get that at all.

    Lots of girls did enjoy Barbie. I didn’t play well with any of my dolls. Barbie wasn’t the only one that suffered at my evil hands.~skt

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