Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Celebrating Barbie and Ken

Alexas Fotos via Pixabay
Last Saturday, Barbie turned 60.

Sixty. Six-oh.


Over the past six decades, Barbie has had a multitude of identities and has had numerous accusations leveled against her but, I must confess, I have only warm memories of Barbie and I don't recall ever actually aspiring to look like her.

When I was young, my aunt had a Midge doll whose only outfit was a black, sparkly (form-fitting, of course) evening gown. Midge had a sprinkling of freckles across her nose and legs that didn't bend and, although she and Barbie could share clothes, Midge's plastic body made it much easier to slide the evening gown on, meaning she didn't often share that gown with Barbie. I remember how excited I was when I was finally allowed to play with Midge. I don't know whether I actually achieved an age where I could be trusted, or simply wore my mother and grandmother down.

I had my own collection of Barbies when I was growing up, but few were as memorable as the forbidden Midge and her sparkly evening gown. I also had a Francie doll and, although Francie had a pretty, filmy negligee in her own clothing collection, Barbie's clothes didn't fit what I now understand was her less sexy body. All I knew was that it was harder to dress Francie than any of my other dolls.

My favorite Barbie accessory was the Barbie camper, which folded up tidily into itself and could be rolled into my closet. For several years when I was in elementary school, Barbie-themed toys and clothes were a staple on my Christmas list and under the Christmas tree.

By the time my daughter came along, the Barbie phase both started and ended sooner. In Leah's preschool and early elementary years, we took Barbie on many adventures across the playroom floor but, by the middle of my daughter's elementary school years, those adventures and Barbie herself were no longer "cool."

To this day, we have a fairly substantial collection of Barbie stuff, though I think many of the dolls themselves have gone on to new homes. From a feminist perspective, Barbie is flawed, but she nevertheless inspired many characters and story lines, all drawn from first my, then my daughter's imagination. Barbie and friends, their wardrobe and their three story house with its various furnishings provided plenty of fuel for playing out the intricacies of relationships, careers and lifestyles.

Today is Ken Day -- the day Barbie's longtime significant other came on the scene. Maybe Barbie will take him somewhere nice to celebrate.

She certainly has the wardrobe for it.

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