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.
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.