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Barbie's In Da House

My girls have not gotten hugely into Barbie – she’s never appeared on a cake or taken over our gameroom - but it’s definitely on Cora’s radar. I think the plastic dolls first started coming in the house as the Disney princesses; the actual Barbie first came across Cora’s path as a book, I believe. You know the books – the tons of books-from-the-movies that Barbie “stars” in, like the dancing one and Fairytopia and the Ariel-wanna-be girl, Merliah.

Ok, so we have our fair share of Barbies in the house.

I’ve resisted buying them a lot of “Barbie” stuff, partly because it’s stupidly expensive (what I do buy comes from resale shops), a bit because of the whole feminist issue (though let’s not put all the blame on Barbie for this one, O Mouse House), but mostly because I have a whole trunk of Barbie paraphernalia in the garage.

Cora, bless her precocious heart, learned to read and deciphered the word “Barbie” on my OCD-labled trunk in the garage about a year ago. And ever since then she’s been pestering me to get the trunk down and let her play. I’ve held out for a long time: first, I was hoping she’d skim over the Barbie phase and we wouldn’t need to go down that philosophically slippery slope; and then when it was clear that wasn’t happening, I was waiting for them to frankly grow up a bit and not break all my cool doll stuff.

Yes, I do think Barbies have the potential to do some real damage to our girls as they grow up. And yes, I’m aware of the hypocrisy that exists when I say that I don’t think they’re the best toy while at the same time jealously guarding my trunkful of Blonde Bimbo Cornucopia.

But here’s the thing about how I played with Barbies: it wasn’t about the dates. I never had a Ken doll, and I never thought about what Barbie *should* be doing all day when I stopped playing with her. For me, Barbie was about three things: truly cool clothes that I could never afford; learning how to be creative with what I had; and organizing closets.

Yes, I had OCD at an early age.

I inerited my mom’s Barbie – the original, high-ponytailed, blue-eye-shadowed, white cat’s-eye sunglasses girl. I also inherited a KILLER wardrobe for the swingin’ girl, including a fur stole, silk stockings, a drum majorette costume, tons of great evening gowns, and a wardrobe of sweet high heels.

What I did NOT inherit was a plastic doll house to go with it, or official Barbie furniture sets. Barbie’s clothes hung in a set of four cigar boxes my mom had cut, glued together, and wrapped in wallpaper – and it is KILLER. She took a thread spool and a tin cup, glued them together and painted them white, and voila – she had a sink. Three match boxes taped together became a chest of drawers.

This was a huge blessing for me and my imagination – Barbie’s world was up to me to create. My parents gave me an old plant stand – three levels of shelves – several carpet scraps, a roll of scotch tape, and some of her fabric remnants and told me to come up with Barbie’s house.

And boy, did I.

Over the years I did acquire a few actual pieces of furniture; I got a nice wooden bunkbed set – not built for Barbie, but we made it work and used a couple baby’s washcloths for comforter covers – and a set of wicker chairs and a table that I was able to bend Barbie into. And in one miraculous, joyous, top-ten-favorite-moments-of-my-whole-life moment, I got a Barbie (ok, generic Barbie equivalent) kitchen for Christmas.

Listen, this kitchen was hooked up.

I had bags and bags of paper grocery boxes to put away. Coke bottles, milk bottles, apples, egg trays, you name it. My kitchen was one solid piece with a HUGE (to me) refrigerator that “required” constant re-organizing. I set that kitchen up over and over again, changing how the pots nested in themselves or where the salt and pepper shakers went. Does this have anything to do with how much I enjoyed moving every few months when I was performing, constantly “setting up” a new kitchen and putting all my shoes and clothes away?


Anyway, my best memories of the Barbie play times are of me having free reign over what her house would look like, finding creative ways to make something out of nothing, and leaving Barbie to come home to a beautiful, well-organized closet. Never once did I ponder her dating life or career path or wonder at the fact that she didn’t have a kid.

So did playing with Barbie dolls have an impact on me as an adult? Well, let’s see – I’ve worked off and on as a closet organizer and personal assistant, and I enjoy creating a lovely restful space for my girls to inhabit when they’re out of school.

So yes. But it never in any way influenced my caree path – or lack of career path, either – or made me think twice about what I could or could not do.

I started this whole thing merely as an intro to telling you guys what happened when I got down The Trunk for the girls yesterday. But I see my daughters trying to put a dress on the (real-life) cat so I’ll end this here and say –

Tune in tomorrow for Barbie: The Next Generation.


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