I was probably born a feminist. People tease me – often – because I love Barbie dolls, and I’m a feminist; they find it inconsistent. I do not. My barbies were doctors and lawyers, and equestrians and vets and bartenders and Moms and every manner of every woman from every walk of life, black, white, Asian, redheads, Eskimos. Barbie even has a pal with MY REAL NAME. And she has a bratty younger sister with crazy hair. All of whom lived together and shared clothes, so it was kind of like a little women’s commune in the Barbie dream house and adjacent castle and apartment complex. I think two of my Ken dolls were straight (I had a fuckton of Barbies). The rest were gay best friends, which I understood because my Mom had a gay best friend, Patrick, and for years the most magical gay men made my summers of awkward adolescence bearable. So a couple of the men lived together on one floor of the apartment complex. It was probably the longest lasting relationship in Barbieville.
But still, my friends prod, what about body image, and on this topic I have some authority. I cannot speak for other women, but no, when my eating disorder started around 13 or 14, I was not struck by this sense that I was imperfect because I did not look like a doll. Or a supermodel. I think if I had daughters I might have different opinions, but things worked out so well in my Barbie commune, with my endless plot twists, costume changes, work drama, that I didn’t really notice their bodies, I was too obsessed with their stories. Also their shoes which I kept far more neatly than I do now, with my two wine carts spilling over with boots, heels, and ballet flats.
At some point Barbieville got dismantled, moved to the basement, I think my Mom gave most of my Barbies away to my cousin, because my cousin was the only girl in her family, and I was a spoiled brat, so off most of it went. Including my President Barbie and most of my horses. My Mom later regretted it, but this was one of the things she did. Decide we have too much stuff (usually at a point when my sister and I were having a lot of fun and also staying out of her hair, I had to wonder if she understood the consequences of her actions, because she required a lot of alone time), get rid of it, feel terrible, then buy more stuff. So I probably got 50 books from my Mom and some Madonna tapes passed under the door from my Dad.
Still, at some point in my mid-twenties, I started collecting Barbies again. It started with Barbie ornaments for my first on my own Christmas tree. Then my Nana, who never stopped wanting to buy the super fancy Christmas Barbie got in on the act. I try to keep it to a few a year, because mostly they live in a vintage trunk, playing with them at thirty-eight is just kinda not the same.
UNLESS MY SISTER COMES HOME.
Then we bust out the two Barbie villas she found for me at garage sales, pull the fancy Christmas Barbies out of the Christmas box, round up my Alice from Twilight and Cyndi Lauper Barbies from my study, crack open the trunk, organize the clothes, and start story telling. I need to call her and ask for a Barbie play date.
This was the first year in ages I didn’t get a Barbie for myself, because my best friends and I adopted a family with three daughters. I had the oldest daughter. And in addition to the adorable clothes, games, books, and other things she needed, she got a CEO Barbie. It was her favorite present. I hope she knows it means someday she can be a CEO too. While wearing adorable shoes.