Monday, February 14, 2011

The Battle for Barbie

Barbie, Americas iconic supermodel, working woman and veterinarian was born in February 1959, same as me. Unlike me however, Barbie had sprung to life fully formed, blonde and perfect like a plastic Venus. By the mid 1960's Barbie was enjoying the spotlight as a high fashion modern woman with an ever expanding wardrobe of clothes and accessories. Naturally like all girls my age I wanted a piece of the action. My Mother on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with Barbie, her friends or the company that produced them. No matter how much I whined and asked ‘but why?’ she wouldn't give in. "Their shoes fall off and get lost". “Their heads pop off". "They have unrealistic bodies". Christmas was the worst; we were bombarded by advertising depicting happy, well dressed girls bonding in the Barbie sisterhood. Winter was boring; I never was much for playing in snow even as a child.
Like most obsessions, my designs on Barbie gradually simmered and as summer rolled in games of "ghost in the graveyard", kickball and riding bikes perilously through the neighbors’ yards kept me pretty well occupied.
One day, my best friend and I were wandering around the block looking for something to do and we came across a rummage sale, tables of cheesy colorful treasures and oddities and...Barbie. There she was lying stiffly on her back, her ridiculously pointed feet sans shoes, her breasts like holy pyramids piercing the summer sky. She had a red sheath cocktail dress, something satiny. The dresses had real zippers in those days, which generally snagged on the stitching. But nothing could deter me. She was available for the low cost of one quarter, which I just happened to have from allowance.
I remember strutting into the kitchen Barbie in hand, the flimsy screen door slamming behind me in a Declaration of my Independence.

My mother looked baffled “where did you get that?” she wasn’t angry, just puzzled

I explained that I had taken matters into my own hands and since I had spent my own money I felt it was only fair that I should be able to keep her. There was no way this woman, raised with a Yankee work ethic could disagree “Well I suppose so,” she sighed “but don’t be surprised when her head pops off”.

The next few days were spent indulging Barbie in bubble baths, hair styles and my attempts to create some sort of alternate wardrobe out of fabric scraps, ribbon and various other household items, including electricians tape. Pretty soon it was becoming evident that without her entourage, multiple accessories and costume changes, Barbie was like many other Socialites, just another girl with lots of clothes and big boobs. I began to crave the accoutrements, the plastic coat hangers, the costume changes, the tiny shoes. Barbie is like cocaine, a little bit leads to more...and more. Like many addicts, I turned to crime to feed my craving. I stole a brush set from a girl down the street, rationalizing, as all good criminals do, that she had more money and more toys and therefore it wouldn’t be missed. The set was white, swirly plastic no doubt intended to resemble mother of pearl. It came with a little hand mirror, which I tried in vain to have Barbie hold in her hand gazing in appreciation as I styled her hair.

Maybe it was karma; after all I had stolen the brush set. Maybe it was simply a case of mother is always right which really just another form of karma; but as I was combing her fossilized perm I hit a snag. Then it happened. I gazed in horror at the comb with Barbies head dangling by a few stubborn hairs. In my other hand her body, still awkwardly holding the mirror, reflecting back the mayhem that had just befallen the teen queen.

Shit. I prayed silently that my mother wouldn’t make a surprise visit to my room as I desperately twisted, pushed and cajoled her head back on the stub of her neck. First I pushed too hard, leaving her lower jaw scrunched her face puffy and jowly. One I did get things positioned correctly; I discovered that true to my mother’s words, her head didn’t quite fit the same as before, it was a little looser and more wobbly.

My mother had enough kindness and discretion to not say “I told you so” and eventually the lure of Barbie faded in favor of Trolls or Creepy Crawlers.

Barbie was finally put to rest in the California street rain sewer, duct taped to her lover GI Joe in a rather unladylike manner.

She is survived by pink haired troll and several rubbery centipedes.

© 2011 Jennifer Hazard