My sister is 4 years younger than me. When we were just kids, those 4 years felt more like 40. We were, and remain to this day, total opposites. I’m reserved, she’s outgoing. I play it safe, she takes risks. I like books, she likes being active. I’m girly, she’s a tomboy. But growing up in rural Pennsylvania gave us few options for playmates. We had no choice but to get along or be alone.
Opposites or not, we could always get along long enough to play Barbies.
Our evenings and weekends were devoted to an elaborate Barbie world in our basement filled with furniture, cars, and a wardrobe Carrie Bradshaw would envy. You may have heard a pop song about living in a Barbie world. Yeah, that’s about our basement.
Nine o’clock was such a devastating bedtime for two girls who did their homework each evening solely for the purpose of earning the privilege to live vicariously through plastic dolls with pointy toes and unrealistically happy expressions. If our dolls had been people, we would have been charged with a felony or two for how poorly we treated them. We melted their hair, painted and poked holes in their faces, and made doll clothes out of fabric scraps & duct tape. When their heads fell off, we used duct tape to fix that too. These tattered dolls often portrayed evil people.
Then there was another group of Barbies. Mine were always blonde like me and my sister’s were always brunettes like her. I always chose the name Kate and she would use the name Alexis. These Barbies had cool jobs at the mall, lovesick boyfriends, remarkable singing voices, and they drove Porches. When that remarkable Barbie life didn’t entertain us, Kate and Alexis would time travel and become hunted princesses. These princesses had better looking Barbie clothes than Kate and Alexis, their only job was to agree to a prearranged marriage although they loved another Ken doll, and they drove a pumpkin coach.
Like my sister and I, Barbie has changed these days. If she didn’t look unrealistic 20 years ago, she looks like a gummy bear now with exaggerated and disproportionate facial expressions, trashy clothes, and heavy make-up. If she was real, I would think she was a… never mind that. Ken is looking a little Justin-Beiber-asexual these days too in his skinny jeans and tiny purple t-shirts (Barbie might rather agree to that prearranged marriage).
To this day, my sister and I make reference to the good times we had with Barbie. She was so important to us, that I mentioned Barbie during the speech I gave at my sister’s wedding. By that time, we had plenty of practice with the many weddings we performed in our basement; the ugly duct-taped Barbies always serving as witnesses and never as bridesmaids. The week before my own wedding, my mother gave me some of my Barbies to take away with me to married life. I put a Barbie-sized wedding dress my mother had made when she was a girl on my favorite Barbie to mark my special occasion. Before we discovered the sex of our baby in 2010, I imagined passing the Barbie legacy onto a daughter. But alas, my son will be getting a G.I. Joe legacy from my husband.
Santa even surprised us in rural Pennsylvania this year; my sister and I got new Barbies for Christmas! Blond for me, brunette for my sister, just like always.
I miss Barbie like an old friend and old times that can never be relived. Plastic boobs and all, I can’t imagine my childhood without her. I hope she still enjoys her job at the mall and Ken is still totally in love with her. She may not have the brain to remember us (after all, her head is made of plastic) but we will never forget her.