Barbie. I try really hard to hate her, always looking at me with those perfectly painted blue eyes and that molded plastic smile—I just know she’s judging my non-coordinated outfit and my fully jointed limbs. But then I see her deformed little feet and I just can’t be angry at her. Especially when Mattel makes so many adorable little pairs of shoes for her misshapen feet.
Yes, that old broad takes a lot of flak, but I played with Barbie as a kid and still managed not to develop an addiction to blue eye shadow so I feel confident in letting my daughter play with her now. Just like me, my daughter’s eyes go wide when she sees a new Barbie in a pink, frilly gown with a ring shoved strategically right through her hand. Magic, simply magic.
You can imagine the wave of excitement that ran through our house the day my daughter got invited to her friend’s Barbie-themed birthday party. There was Barbie’s face right there on the invitation, beckoning my daughter to eat cake and be fabulous. My daughter was breathless with anticipation as she read the invitation and I said a quick prayer of thanks that the party wasn’t being held at Chuck E. Cheese.
“Mommy, what does this part say?” she asked while shoving the invitation in my face.
“Come dressed as your favorite Barbie,” I read aloud.
“Come dressed as your favorite Barbie?!” my daughter and I repeated in unison.
Panic quickly replaced the excitement that had just pulsed through our veins as we thought about what Barbies my daughter owned that were viable options to pattern a child after for this party. I’m pretty sure that all of my daughter’s Barbies once had a fantastically engineered identity complete with lavish, theme-appropriate attire, but they fade quickly in my daughter’s hands and each Barbie ends up with a new identity, like:
Head Injury Barbie: this Barbie is what happens when played with by the daughter of a doctor. This Barbie was a thrill-seeker who scaled to the top of the Dream House then, thanks to a slippery stiletto, plummeted three floors to the carpet below. She has undergone many groundbreaking surgeries and has recovered quite well, the only lingering after-effects are her propensity toward not wearing pants and using skirts as hats. A real triumph of the plastic spirit, but I can’t send my daughter to a party with no pants and a skirt hat.
Barbie Who Only Wears Clothes Made Out of Kleenex: this Barbie has shunned popular fashion trends in favor of a more simplistic style—tissue. She can go from day to evening in a single Kleenex, but the wardrobe malfunctions abound with this flimsy material, especially in the presence of water. Luckily, this Barbie isn’t shy and makes no excuses when a tissue dress drops to her ankles at a tea party. Barbie can take that chance, but not my daughter.
Brothel Barbie: It’s the oldest profession in the world and this Barbie looks the part. She’s wearing a skirt that barely covers her tushy, Ariel’s seashell bikini top, and seven-inch platform heels that lace all the way up to her knees. Of course, my daughter put this outfit together based solely on the bright colors, but there are still rumors floating around as to how this Barbie really affords all those fake furs and a Corvette. Clearly, I’m not letting my daughter dress like this for any party. Ever.
Bad Hair Day Barbie: This poor Barbie never had a chance—her hair became a matted clump of blondness ten minutes after leaving the sanctity of her box. Her hair sticks straight up and no brush can tame it and no rubber band can confine it. Because of her obvious hair woes, she never gets the really cool outfits and usually ends up wearing a mud-stained dress and a pair of Ken’s old pants. It’s not fair, but if life were to magically become fair, it wouldn’t be in the Dream House. I can’t even imagine the amounts of hairspray I would need to use to get my daughter’s hair to do that. Nope, not this one either.
After rejecting each Barbie my daughter owns as a possible costume inspiration, my daughter opened her closet, rummaged through a few things, then emerged with the perfect party outfit—a tattered blue tutu, an orange tee shirt with a heart on it, hot pink tights, and an assortment of plastic jewelry. It was certainly fabulous, but I secretly wondered if it was fabulous enough for a Barbie party.
I dropped my daughter off at the party and saw a dozen seven-year-old girls, all wearing old skirts, flashy tee shirts, and cheap, plastic jewelry in honor of their favorite 11.5 inch doll—Barbie. Those girls giggled and danced, never giving a second thought to what they were wearing, just happy to be surrounded by the color pink and celebrating their friend’s birthday.
It’s no wonder I can’t hate Barbie.