Barbie turns 50 today. What a role model she has been. She has held up magnificently well. She continues to challenge herself by mastering different professions. She has kept her style up to date and makes cutting edge fashions work for her. And, regardless of the public outrage, I think she’s old enough to get a tattoo and put it anywhere she wants. With skin that doesn’t age, why not?
For most girls growing up in the 60s, having a Barbie doll was a rite of passage. My sister Maryann, who is five years older than me, was the first one to get a Barbie, the one with coifed blond hair. Maryann also had Midge, who had red hair and freckles. On a good day, my sister would let me play with her, but Midge was no substitute for Barbie. Everyone knew Midge was the ugly one.
My Barbie was the first bendable Barbie and she came packaged with a neon orange bathing suit. It was not a good look for her. I changed her into a smashing white lace two piece and accessorized with matching wrap, straw hat, beach bag, and high-heeled sandals.
The way I see it, all that controversy about Barbie’s freakishly proportioned body diminishing my worth as a female is just stupid. Everybody knows that Barbie HAD to be built that way otherwise the clothes just wouldn’t have hung right.
I may not have been a particularly astute kid, but I sure as hell knew my body was never meant to look like Barbie’s. She was plastic for heaven’s sake. She had no nipples or body hair or, um, genitalia. With all the other women in my life with real, soft, buxom, warm bodies, why would I ever think that SHE was what I was suppose to look like?
I yearned for her wardrobe, not her boobs.
Barbie was, and always will be, a fashion icon. Playing with her was about dressing up and experimenting with style. Barbie had mini-skirts and maxi-skirts, black cocktail dresses, fur-trimmed ski parkas, go-go boots and fabulous handbags. She always had the latest in fashion and for a kid like me who grew up with three pairs of shoes: brown school shoes, sneakers and black patent leather, and hand-me- down clothes that never fit properly and were horribly out of style, my Barbie doll case was a plastic box full of fashion possibilities.
If we’re going to blame Barbie for something, blame her for the 40 pairs of shoes in my closet, my obsession with wood hangers, a compulsive collection of handbags and scarves, and for the fact that I’m willing to spend an insane amount of time finding the perfect outfit for an important occasion.
So here’s to Barbie and a half-century of teaching girls that, yes, a red velvet clutch with tiny gloves tucked inside can be the ultimate prize. And here’s to all the women who grew up loving Barbie – and their own beautiful bodies.