On March 10, 2104, Barbie celebrated her 55th birthday. And what a year she had. The Barbie doll has been a controversial figure of late, particularly in the way she may be negatively affecting the self-esteem of children. Recently, The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and The Center for a New American Dream initiated a petition drive to persuade The Girl Scouts of USA to end their partnership with Mattel. Why? They do not believe Barbie is a proper role-model for girls.
With all of this talk about Barbie, memories of my time with Barbie have been surfacing, and most of these memories are fond. I am much of who I am today because of my years playing with Barbie. Barbie was not just another toy to me; I could always turn to Barbie whether she was the center of play time when I had friends over, or I was in the mood for solitude and preferred to sit and comb a doll’s hair. In honor of Barbie’s birthday, I would like to remember the large role she has played in my life and thank her for always being there for me as I grew from little girl to adolescent. I owe the following to Barbie:
Playing Barbie sparked my writer’s imagination. So many scenarios were invented and played out in my Barbie world, especially when I played alone. With a couple of Kens, Barbie “friends” and their babies, and Skippers, I could imagine any dynamic. Barbie could be Skipper’s mentor. What could she teach her? Barbie was mad at Ken! Why? It was a safe atmosphere where I could explore relationships, including romantic ones. I could indulge any fantasy. I loved making Ken fall in love with Skipper, even though she was supposed to be aesthetically inferior.
I Learned Hair. Remember brushing out Barbie’s hair when it was unbelievably tangled in those teeny tiny rubber bands? The skill we learned! Ever try to cut Skipper’s bangs? If you do, the hair sticks up in a Mohawk style…forever! I have two boys, but as a day care worker, I need to put pony tails in the hair of little girls. I can do this. Why? Barbie.
I Developed Vocabulary. I was five years old in 1980, and from about 1980 to 1985, my main activity with other girls was playing Barbie. The house I visited was that of a large family comprised of seven girls. There was no furniture in the family room. The whole room was devoted to mainly Barbie and Fisher-Price doll house paraphernalia: a little girl’s fantasy come true. We played so many roles: I will be your mommy, your sister, your friend. It was so much more than Barbie’s outfits and her body. Relationships and vocabulary for our feelings were explored and developed.
I Bonded with other Girls. Barbie was our commonality at the time. We shared clothes, dresses, furniture. We gave each other’s dolls haircuts. On hot summer days, one of us brought over the Barbie swimming pool. There were arguments over who would play with which doll, but we learned to work out our differences.