Barbie

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Out of Your Reach.” Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it.

I was 11. 11 is an awkward age — young woman/little girl. I wanted a Barbie doll. She was still a relatively new phenomenon at that time, 1963, still, she’d been around long enough that “all the other girls” had one.

Barbie horrified my parents. She did not represent the values they wanted me to have — she was superficial and sex-oriented and her life (life?) revolved around boys and clothes. My dad saw her as Madison Avenue marketing at its “best” — a doll that would teach kids to be consumers.

I wore them down and for my 12th birthday I got two presents — one a pretty and grown-up necklace, a pearl set in gold on a thin gold chain. The other, a dark-haired Barbie. At least, my parents thought, I wasn’t going to fall into the Cult of the Blonde. My own hair was red-brown.

Barbie did not turn out as my parents imagined and by the following Christmas they had somewhat different attitudes toward her. Barbie inspired me to design and sew clothes (they weren’t buying any, that’s for sure, no Madison Avenue Bullshit for my dad in that regard) and I spent a lot of time in the basement building houses out of boxes, blocks of wood and pictures from the Sears Catalog. Barbie turned out to be creative inspiration. For Christmas that year my parents gave me square yards of various fabrics, needles and thread — all in my very own sewing box! I made Barbie a brocade evening gown with a matching swing coat with fur trim on the sleeves (no patterns) and lots of other more “ordinary” dresses.

I did play dolls with a frenemy, but what interested me most was the house (cardboard box) I’d designed for Barbie to live in. My frenemy had a store-bought house for her Barbie, but I didn’t want one. Barbie was as far as I was driven to join the Barbie culture. I never wanted Ken — he was weird. I had the belief that dolls should not be male. At a certain point they bought me a friend for Barbie, Midge, and I still have her. She’s cute — with a turned up nose, freckles, red-hair and blue eyes. She’s been wearing Barbie’s homemade evening gown since 1967.

10 thoughts on “Barbie

  1. Congratulations, at least you made the most of barbie. I was never into dolls, never interested me. I once read a very amusing piece by Art Buchwald about his daughter and her Barbie.

    • I liked my Barbie and I had a baby doll when I was a little girl that I really loved — my step-granddaughter has her now. I think my step-daughter-in-law appreciates her more, though. 🙂

  2. I’m just a few years older than you and missed the Barbie craze. We had Ginny dolls and Tony dolls and Madame Alexander doll. There were a few fashion dolls, but most dolls were still little girls. I’m not sorry I missed them. I got to make up for it big time with my granddaughter who must have had 100 of them at one time or another. Our dog, Tinker the Thinker would bit their heads off if she could get to them. Just the heads. Left the bodies alone. Tinker was very deep.

  3. I had a Midge with interchangeable wigs and she seemed exotic and magical to me. I thought Ken was weird too – and Poindexter even worse – and Midge was never paired up with boys in my mind. She was her own person and had a lab coat, stethescope and pink high heels (hmmmmm….I eventually became a nurse….). Midge is still in a box at my Mother’s house with a few other Barbies from the childhoods of 3 of us girls in our family, and have been played with by numerous children since us. Unfortunately I stepped on her one day and inadvertently smashed in one of her boobies. I remember that in my desperation to fix her, I got out the vacuum cleaner hose and tried to suck her smashed boobie back out. Needless to say, she still has a smashed boobie. How cool that you made your own clothes for yours!! Sounds like you used Barbie as a good avenue for creativity where in other little girls it could have been exactly what your parents were concerned about.

    • My parents seem not to have fully understood how well they’d done their job… 😉 I think it’s awesome you went at Midge’s boob like an auto mechanic goes at a dent in a car door!

  4. I must have missed the Barbie era too, because I don’t remember ever having one.

    Instead I had Raggedy Ann and a young-girl doll fashioned after a Canadian radio show of the time that featured this little girl and a Mr. McGarrety. (The doll, named Maggie Muggins, was launched in 1947. Barbie was apparently launched in 1959.)

    Maggie was tall, freckled, and wore her red hair in pigtails. She was dressed in a gingham dress and white pinafore. She was clearly a regular little girl, and she was my all-time favourite doll!

    You were a creative child, for sure; and to be honest, I think your parents did a good thing when they kept you away from the hysteria that was the Barbie doll phenomenon. I always thought they were a bit creepy, myself.

    • My parents thought kids grew up too fast as it was. I had a fashion doll — Jan — who came out before Barbie. She had normal proportions, but I had her before I was old enough to create a world around her so she didn’t interest me very much but she was very pretty. Today there’s so much backlash against Barbie and all the body image stuff — it’s as if no one realizes she was modeled on the “ideal” dress designers used for drawing clothes in the 50s AND actresses of the fifties like Kim Novak and Audrey Hepburn who used waist corset things to make their middles tiny and wore high heels with pointy toes and full skirts. Actually I feel sorry for girls and women who derive the self-image from a doll…THAT’S creepy. She was always meant to be a fashion doll and she sure worked well for me — I thought for a while I wanted to be a fashion designer! But Mattel was doing EXACTLY what my dad said they were, Madison Avenueing us into submission. That’s grotesque.

  5. Barbie….I have a wardrobe full of her ‘stuff’ waiting my daughter to get it all out of the house. At least you made a timeless gown for Barbie, and now Midge, to wear. I don’t get half the dolls kids play with now….

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