When I was a kid growing up in the 80s, I had tons of Barbie dolls. My mother wasn’t too concerned about that body image crap and neither was I. I just wanted her life, man. She was a teacher (with a really short skirt and a piece of chalk as big as her torso), a ballerina, an astronaut, a rock star (“Barbie and the Rockers” which was not a takeoff of “Jem”, who was truly, truly, truly amazing), a doctor, and even a “office woman” for those kids who didn’t get to see mom because she was working to pay for their toys. Day to Night Barbie had a suit that you could reverse to form a snazzy dress for late night partying! I don’t know where the heck Barbie worked, but if she had energy for partying, it couldn’t have been a very hard job. Then again, she admitted Math was hard (which it is) so I’m guessing she was a Presidential intern or something challenging like that.
She also had a lot of great stuff. A swimming pool (I just used a dishpan), cars (sneakers), and so many clothes! My grandmother was this great seamstress, so I had awesome personalized Barbie designs, you poor loser children. Of course my friends and I were too lazy to dress our Barbies, so we’d just pop their heads off and switch them. Barbie also had billions of spike-heeled shoes that were immediately lost in the carpet as soon as you opened the box. That had to suck for her, since she couldn’t ever put her feet flat, so she had to tip toe around everywhere she went.
I had the three-foot cardboard condo with the little white elevator you pulled with a string. It was cool, because she could stand up in this house. In most houses Barbie couldn’t stand up so she had to walk around hunched over. On tip toe. I felt sorry for Ken, living in the pink house, but looking back he probably liked it just fine. I think Barbie and he were just pals, personally, and Barbie had a thing for G.I. Joe – the doll one, not the action figure. That would have just been weird.
I had an aunt who liked buying me Barbie stuff. I got this way awesome refrigerator one Christmas with a bunch of teeny tiny groceries. My older brother helpfully glued every single thing inside the fridge so I wouldn’t lose it. I was not appreciative of this. How the heck was Barbie supposed to eat now? Then again, looking at her waist, this probably wasn’t that much of a problem for her. I also got this couch that made out into a double bed for when she had sleepovers. She and Ken liked hanging out on the couch bed and watching ballet, since that was the only thing the tiny plastic TV showed on its screen, a ballerina.
One thing my Barbies didn’t have, and that I totally salivated over, was the big, freakin’ Barbie Dream House. This thing was huge! Unlike the townhouse, it was made of sturdy pastel plastic. It came with tons of cool furniture and a wide elevator that her token wheelchair bound pal could ride on, or Barbie since there weren’t any stairs, and really, Barbie’s lazy. There was even this balcony for Barbie to bungee-jump from – if you were inclined to have her do this (and I was). I think my friends and I would have given our least favorite Cabbage Patch Kids as well as our siblings for one of these. But they cost like 150 bucks or something, and our parents didn’t love us enough to pay that much. So we did without. Life was cruel back then.
But one day the most exciting thing ever happened! I got the Barbie Dream House – as an adult. Um, for my daughters. It was only 7 bucks at a garage sale which was an unbelievable bargain. It even had all the freaking furniture. So I lugged this thing home, even though the kids technically already had Fisher-Price dollhouses (hey,
I they liked dollhouses, okay?). But this was no ordinary dollhouse. This was the DREAM HOUSE, people.
My children were not nearly as impressed as they should have been. Thing One was bummed that it was all in pastel colors, because she was so over pink, you know. Thing Two was happy with it, but she just didn’t get the grandness of it all. That’s because they have grandparents, ie my parents who did not buy me the Barbie Dreamhouse, who will buy them almost anything. Life is unfair.
Barbies in my children’s generation have changed too. When I was a kid Barbie still had her giant bosoms. I don’t know why they had to change this. I mean, some women just have big boobs, that’s part of life, kids. But I guess it was hard on her back, especially considering she had to also walk hunched over on tip toes, so she got a reduction. The problem is that now, if your kid happens to be playing with an older Barbie, she can’t fit into her clothes. My daughter has a Barbie (somewhere) that is a Mommy. Barbie’s red headed friend Midge sold out and settled down with some bozo and had kids. She even came with a pregnant tummy that held the new baby. You can pop the baby out and pop it back in again. I find this fascinating but a bit disturbing. I never want my babies popped back in again. Midge Mommy Doll can’t fit into Barbie’s clothes either. I think it’s because she’s a Mommy and no Mommy can fit into her old clothes.
Anyway, the Dream House is still there, and it still gets used, although my kids generally aren’t into playing families so much. Thing One loves fashion, so her Barbies are usually dressed in the latest tissue paper looks. Thing Two likes integrating her stuffed animals into the fun, which has to freak Barbie out a lot to see a penguin bigger than her house. Sometimes the Barbies hang by the neck from the top bunkbed, naked and upside down, tied up in my honor cords from graduation. I don’t ask why. My kids bicker sometimes, but mostly they do have fun playing together, while I play with the Dream House.