Major Barbie news out of Mattel this week–after decades of world domination, the Aryan goddess with the 16 inch waist will finally share her Dream House with buddies who are short, tall, curvy and ethnically diverse. This is awesome. Little girls should be able to play with dolls who look like themselves, or at least themselves in 10 years.
Like many of us, I grew up dressing Barbies in glamorous gowns, cutting Barbie’s non-regrowable hair, and hosting naked orgiastic pool parties between my many Barbies and one Ken doll during bathtime. What, you didn’t do that? And though I loved Barbie, I also hated her. She was perfect in every way, whereas I was a late bloomer with mousy hair. I thought maybe after puberty I’d get that hourglass figure she promised me. I’m still waiting.
I can’t blame Barbie for all my body image issues. There was also a drawing book that scarred me for life. I was a decent sketch artist growing up and had tons of “how to draw” books, covering everything from cartooning to cats. My favorite figure drawing book had a page that showed three supposedly typical girls, ages 5, 12 and 15, so that an artist could understand how female proportions change during childhood. This page was my obsession.
See, the 12-year-old example had what they used to call bee sting boobs–little buds on their way to blossoming. The 15-year-old had a rack like Marilyn Monroe. And while I know that is true for plenty of girls, it was not true for me. By the time I left for college, I was a passable 12-year-old, at least according to my drawing book.
Between Barbie and the book, I spent a great deal of time staring into the mirror and moping. If I could send a Barbie back in time to my tween self, I’d design”Built like a boy” Barbie. Or maybe we could call her “No curves but you can always wear a belt” Barbie? I think I just needed some reassurance that how I looked was okay. And it was okay–I just didn’t know it yet.
Because what no one told me is that most girls don’t develop into perfect hourglasses. That’s why the Playboy centerfold is such an attraction–it’s like a zoo where they keep a rare species. Or it was (RIP, Playboy centerfold). The other thing no one told me is that when I grew up, the guys I liked wouldn’t care about my body type. Guys are really happy to have a woman smiling at them. Especially a naked one. Short, tall, curvy or straight up and down. And besides, from what I hear, a real live Barbie is usually pretty high maintenance.
The irony is that decades later, I’m finally curvy. That’s what making two babies will do to you. Seriously, “Middle-aged nursing Barbie” would be a hot seller. Get on it, Mattel.
I hope when they are old enough, my girls go through a Barbie phase, because Barbie is fun. She likes tennis and fast cars and looks stylish whether she’s a veterinarian or President of the United States. Maybe with more variety amongst the dolls, my girls won’t fixate on comparing themselves. Or maybe they will get boobs a lot earlier than I did. And then God help us all.