Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

My Fondness for Barbie Baffles My Daughters

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

My Fondness for Barbie Baffles My Daughters

Article excerpt

It had occurred to me that the remnants of my past could have any value beyond my childhood memories - like my Barbie stuff, long forgotten and left behind in my mother's house until the day she decided to move. She cleaned out her closets and insisted I take it all. I tossed the lot into a box and shoved it into the corner of my own closet.

A few years later, when I thought my two girls were old enough, I bought them two new Barbies, clad in neon-orange bikinis, and dragged the box from its hiding place.

"And these were my Barbie clothes," I told them proudly.

They weren't impressed.

They examined the box's contents, pulling the clothes out one by one and staring at each garment in disbelief before tossing it aside in favor of the next one.

I watched the pile on the floor grow: the long black sequined evening gown. The turquoise-corduroy poodle jumper. The royal-blue party dress with the flared skirt and white polka dots.

"These are what your Barbies wore?" my girls asked, incredulous.

They looked at each other, sharing something unsaid between them. It was that generation thing. We all felt it.

They were spared the original Barbie doll, whose whereabouts remain unknown. But under all those outdated clothes was her little sister, Skipper, and her boyfriend, Ken. Both turned out to be in less-than-mint condition.

Skipper's tangled tresses may have been salvageable, but there was no hope for Ken. Back in the 1960s, when he was dating our first Barbie, my sister and I had colored over his crewcut with black shoe polish to simulate long hair and sideburns.

"Hey, we wanted him to look cool," I offered as explanation to my girls.

I didn't offer my recollections of the long, cold, New York winters spent indoors dressing those dolls for imagined picnics and dances and dates.

Even in the summer, when we children should have been outside, I'd carry my Barbie case full of dolls and clothes across the street to my best friend's house. We'd spread everything on the floor and entertain ourselves for hours in the coolness of her front porch.

On days when no one else was around, I relented and played with my younger sister. …

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