воскресенье, 10 марта 2013 г.

I'm a Barbie Girl

By Debbie Acklin

So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.
~Gaston Bachelard

On my daughter's sixth birthday, she stepped into the magical world of Barbie. Her first doll was a Malibu Barbie. All her guests gave her Barbie presents. Her lucky doll had her own car, several fashionable outfits, and of course, a swimming pool. From that moment on there was no going back.
Each Christmas or birthday she received at least one Barbie doll. Her grandmothers would give her beautifully coiffed versions with stunning designer dresses. They fervently hoped that she would leave them in the boxes, their beauty preserved. My daughter was unable to resist playing with each one. Eventually she boasted a box full of Barbies, who unclothed, were almost indistinguishable, at least to me.

These dolls shared a townhouse full of miniature furniture, and coolest of all, an elevator. There is something about tiny, perfectly replicated items that is mesmerizing. Barbies swam in their own pool and drove their own pink sports car. They were living the good life.

Occasionally, I would pull out my Barbie. I had only one. I had played carefully with her as a child and I had taken meticulous care of her over the years. She was housed in a black patent case, a mini closet with hangers filled with clothes and small drawers full of shoes and accessories. Some of the clothes had been hand sewn by me as a child. One was even crocheted.

Taking out my Barbie was something of an event. Everything had to be carefully handled. Her tiny bracelets and sunglasses were a wonder. The amazing details of her clothes, from the top stitching on her jeans to the tailored lines of her cocktail dress, were marveled over.

My daughter loved these times and I knew she wanted my doll, but I remembered her box of clones, loved but indistinguishable. I knew the time would come when I would entrust my doll to her, but not yet.

After a time, my daughter also put her dolls on the top shelf of her closet. She might take them out on a rainy day and dress them up in their pretty dresses, but for the most part she had other pursuits. She was busy with school and friends. She was growing up.

Years at a time went by without her taking out her dolls. Like mine, they were pushed to the back of a shelf, forgotten. Eventually they were stored in the basement. Room was needed in the closet for my daughter's own clothes and accessories. I don't know if Barbie had been her influence, but she was enamored of lovely clothes, shoes, handbags, and jewelry. This passion increased as each year passed.

Watching TV together, one evening, we heard people who were speaking out against Barbie dolls. They said that little girls were growing up with impossible ideals of body image because of their dolls. My daughter and I were shocked.

"Have you ever thought of Barbie as anything but a pretty toy?" she asked me.

"Not really," I said.

We listened, appalled. You see we did not look anything like a Barbie doll. We both had very dark hair and we were certainly not fashion-model-thin nor did we ever aspire to be. If anything, we were more influenced by her fashions and the possibility that we could be anything… just like Barbie.

"Can you believe that they want to get rid of Barbie?" My daughter was stunned, as was I. "That's just wrong."

I thought about how our Barbies had been a bond between us, a common thread that ran through our lives. It had been a way for us to communicate, a way for her grandmothers to share in her life. We actually felt sad that little girls might grow up without the pleasure of having played with Barbie dolls.

My daughter is a woman now. She has recently begun to collect Barbies again. She is more selective and careful. They are still beautiful and still very affordable. She has them lined up, posed on their stands, on a shelf in her bedroom. In the middle of her collection stands my old Barbie in her black and white striped swimsuit and white sunglasses with the blue lenses. The new dolls are pretty but my original is still the coolest.

My daughter and I are, once again, talking Barbie. It remains one of those special threads between us. Sometimes, when visiting her grandmothers, you will hear them ask, "Do you still have the Barbies I gave you?" I have no doubt that one day, if she has a daughter of her own, or maybe a granddaughter, that thread will remain and her Barbies will be passed down to thrill another generation.

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