Friday, October 1, 2010

Viva la Barbie

I was born in 1958. Barbie was introduced to the world by Mattel in 1959. Although her extreme beauty and fantastic proportions introduced girls early on to the insecurity of setting standards of beauty no girl could possibly achieve growing up, Barbie became an immediate sensation. My Barbie dolls from the '60s and '70s aren't worthy as collector's items - they have been far too active, having lived lives full of adventure. My Barbies lived hard, surviving as many adventures as the Perils of Pauline. Their hair being shorn is the least of their problems, though I noticed every single one has a bad haircut. They've been run over, kidnapped, drowned, dragged behind runaway horses, buried in avalanches, shot out of rockets; one poor girl parachuted from the sky into an active volcano.

Ken was always just her sidekick. Too effeminate to be taken seriously as a boyfriend, my girls were always attracted to G.I. Joe; real men, who managed to rescue her from pygmies or a failed space-station, or would be her covert-op during one of her many spy adventures. (I was spy-obsessed, never missing an episode of I SPY, Get Smart, The Avengers, Man from U.N.C.L.E., or a James Bond movie. I loved playing a spy, and resuscitated an old brief case of dad's for my attache case full of the latest weaponry).

If Barbie were life-size, she would be 5'6" and weigh 110 pounds. So far so good. However, her measurements would be 39-18-33. Yikes. I'm 5'8" -- the last time I weighed 110 lbs I was 33 years old. My waist was 18 only when I was 15 yrs old. But, I choose to focus on the positives of emulating Barbie. She was my one-and-only 'adult' doll, and taught me that using your head (as long as it didn't pop out of your neck for a quick replacement), along with feminine wiles, could be a powerful combination. (All you feminists can recoil in horror now).

My Barbie was always as smart as a rocket scientist (hey, a girl can dream). And even though she was a tomboy like me, she sported a fabulous wardrobe. (In fact, Barbie has 20 million dresses, many by big-name designers, making Mattel the world's largest fashion manufacturer). Some of my favorite clothes were handmade by my grand moms, though.

Barbie began her many careers as a model, but by the '60s she had become an astronaut, a flight attendant (this seems quite a come-down from astronaut), travel agency owner, doctor. Rock star, TV personality, Olympic finalist, and in '86, an astronaut again. What I liked best about Barbie was the effortless way she incorporated the fantasies and dreams of her owners, who had far more varied professions for her than that. (Equestrian high jumper, anyone?)

Barbie has always had fabulous homes -- penthouses, vacation homes, 'dream' houses. She has owned a Ferrari (cherry red), Corvette (pink), Jeep (white, I think), as well as other cars, and a Vespa.

Her best friend is Midge (always hated that name), she remains close with her little sister, Skipper, and she's always been an animal lover. She's had five horses, a poodle, afghan hound, two puppies, a cat, and a parrot. She even befriended a giraffe while on a safari in 1989.

Barbie remains ageless, 18 forever, unlike her many admirers. My childish dreams where she was the heroine and catalyst of many fantasies helped shape my dreams. Maybe certain feminists disagree, but I say long live Barbie. She was always a fun girlfriend. And despite her voluptuous proportions, she looks healthier than those slightly anemic-looking Bratz dolls, who remind me uncomfortably of the big sad-eyed children in the pictures that were so popular in the '70s.

16 comments:

Jayne Martin said...

I was about 10 years ahead of you and just missed the Barbie thing. I had Jill, Jan and Ginny, their younger sister. By '64 I was starting high school and dolls were far behind. I love your recap of the Barbies in your life. If I was a little girl now, I'd want all the Breyer stuff. They actually do have a doll that's a jumper rider. (And Grand Prix was my fantasy, too)

e said...

I was from the first a Barbie fan...I had a whole small satchel of Barbie friends, clothing, a house and a red two-seat Convertible...

They all fell from favour when I discovered horses, preferring to spend my after school hours with curry comb in hand, but we had some mad times. My Barbie collection was in the same condition as yours by the time other interests emerged.

I hope you and Excy are improving?

Cheeseboy said...

Ken was effeminite? I always just pictured him as "manly but emotional".

She is ageless. Fortunately, I don't have any girls for them to not age with.

Great post!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

The last time I weighed 110 lbs, I think I was in high school. And I'm not even 5'8".

I had Barbies growing up and I even made very poor attempts at making clothes for them. They were hideous. I wish I still had them so I could show them how hideous they are.

Do you really still have yours? I'd love to have seen what a run-over, dragged through the mud, kidnapped, rode hard and put away wet one looks like after all these years.

:)

Matty said...

I had many girl cousins about my age. Growing up, they always wanted to play with their Barbie dolls. So I always wound up with the Ken doll. It was considered "okay" for me to play with the doll because he was a guy.

Traci said...

I think it's so wonderful all the adventures that your barbies had. It's amazing that how we played with our Barbies was a picture of who we were. My barbie spent lot's of time waiting for me while I spent lot's of time hunting for the perfect things to decorate the her house with. I would find extraordinary uses for ordinary things. Using my imagination now to make furniture out of something I see.Right now on my desk I spot a small sugar container and a C.D. BAM it's a table.

Although now days I am held back financially from designing my dream house, I can see how all adventure in my life, waits upon things being in order first.

This is a wonderful post, thanks for bringing back the memories.

ReformingGeek said...

What a fun post! I liked to pretend I was a spy, too. I still do! ;-)

As for that 18-inch waist, I'm thin but I never had that kind of waistline.

Pennie said...

Fun, fun, fun! I loved Barbie! Alas, my daughter NEVER touched a doll in her life. I caught her one day trapsing over a naked Barbie with plastic animals, trampling the poor girl! I was horrified! She was three. This was the extent of her doll playing. Sigh. At the age of five she asked when I would remove the doll collection from her bedroom shelves. (I had such high hopes!) Sigh (again). Oh, well...

Chris said...

I think it was the tomboys' Barbies who had all the fun. My sisters all had short hair and crazy adventures like yours. I know other girls who only dressed them up and then put them back in the box.

Seizing My Day said...

my Barbies were tomboys ~ adventurers ~ they visited many far off crazy wild places with many unfortunate things happening to them... getting stuck in the vines of a jungle, eaten by tigers or alligators... they had a car (slippers) and a house (cardboard boxes) and many fancy clothes sewed by their fashion designers - mom & grandma! After a long day in the jungle they would come home and get married. LOL =) My little girl... she loves animals... =)

wendy said...

I loved my Barbie doll and Ken. It is kinda of a relic by now. Very Old.
I am 5'4" and I think the only 18 inch anything is my neck.

My mom made all my barbie cloths and my dad made me barbie furniture.

Lindsay-ann said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving me a comment. Glad you enjoyed looking at the churches. You will love WICKED. We have seen it twice and are going again in less than 3 weeks. I enjoyed hearing about your 'Barbie' memories. In England we had 'Sindy' who was very similar to Barbie. I collect Sindys and accessories from the 1970's and 80's. It sounds like your Barbies were well loved! Your horses are beautiful. I loved hearing how you rescued them and care for them now.
Hope you are having a great weekend.
Lindsay

cornflakegirl74 said...

I also loved my Barbie doll growing up. She came along with me everywhere, we drank coffee together, discussed life and boys and things that were of the utmost importance during my childhood years, and we played together for hours. I don't even know if children still play with Barbies any longer, but I've seen those Bratz dolls and yes--they totally freak me out. I think it's because their heads are three times the size of their bodies? Bizarre.

Anyway, thanks for a wonderfully nostalgic trip down memory lane :) Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

Linda Medrano said...

Since I was born in 1946, I was a bit old for Barbie. My younger sisters all loved her as did my daughter and all 5 of my grand daughters. I always thought I missed out because she was quite the life of the party no matter what anybody else says!

Thanks for visiting my blog. It gave me the chance to find yours. But now I need to come back and catch up. This is really a lovely piece! I adore your style!

Kristina P. said...

My Barbie was sort of a slut. She liked to sleep with Ken *and* G.I. Joe.

Mr Monkey said...

New follower, hope you follow back. Thanks for the comment..... I always that that Barbie could be what she wanted - thats want playing is. Good post!
Mr Monkey