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My Life with the Barbie Doll

Barbie helped me play at adulthood, but she was just a doll


My Life with the Barbie Doll
Photo: Ian Waldie/Getty
As soon as the Barbie doll hit the stores, I started my campaign to get one. I had to wait until Christmas, which was eight whole months after she was introduced.

I minded—a lot—that all my friends got their Barbies before me, but in retrospect I was able to play with her in advance, allowing me to make an informed decision about what I wanted for Christmas. It would have been awful to get a Barbie and find out she wasn’t that interesting, but having spent time with my friends’ Barbies I knew I had to have one.

On Christmas morning, I recognized the shape of the Barbie box. Since I already knew what it was, I prolonged the ecstasy by opening the Barbie box last. This may have been my first conscious experiment with delayed gratification.

Barbie was like me—and not
My Barbie doll was everything I hoped she would be—tall like me, blond like me, and she even had my wavy hair that turned to frizz if I brushed too hard. But that’s where the similarity ended. I may have noticed her amazing breasts but they don’t stand out (pardon the pun) in my memories of Barbie. I thought they held up her strapless black and white swimsuit nicely, and perhaps I thought I would look something like her when I grew up. Thank goodness I don’t.

I also remember wondering why she was wearing earrings and heels with a swimsuit. How could she walk on the beach in those shoes? Trading outfits, even temporarily, was a big deal with my friends. We created full, active lives for our Barbies.

Being on the cutting edge has its drawbacks. On the forefront of the Barbie revolution, I missed out on the really cool outfits, accessories, friends, siblings, cousins and boyfriends, because when they arrived I had already moved on. Perhaps for that reason, I don't recall Barbie as the role model of emancipated womanhood that she became for many other girls.

Feminists wonder whether Barbie creates an unrealistic model for young girls as they explore and define their self-images and places in the world. That may be true for some, but for me Barbie was just a toy, a cool activity to share with my friends. A few years after I got my Barbie doll, she and her outfits (many of which had missing pieces) were relegated to the garage. I’m not sure what happened to Barbie after that, but I remember that our time together was fun.

Do you have memories of Barbie that you'd like to share? Send them to seniorliving@aboutguide.com.

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