It was the accessories that got me hooked. Not the teeny tiny shoes nor the miniature handbags, but the shower that squirted real water and the kitchen that had a fridge that actually opened. Oh, and the finger-nail size books in the bookcase.
I'm talking about Barbie and, sadly, I'm talking about my friend's collection of accessories and furniture rather than my own. I just had the basic Barbie, a few outfits and scraps of material which I tried (unsuccessfully) to fashion into clothes.
But I adored her. I played with her all the time, I took her places with me, I chatted to her, I fed her (although, truth be told, she was not a good eater, mostly because she didn't have an open mouth), I clothed her and I put her to bed at night.
For a time she was my best friend.
And then I grew up and learned that the Barbie I loved so much was not my best friend at all. In fact, I wasn't even meant to like her. Apparently I might have looked at my beloved Barbie and thought that was how I was meant to look. I might have looked at her wardrobe and thought that was how I was meant to dress. I was told that Barbie gives young girls unrealistic expectations of their own bodies and I would have low self-esteem as an adult because of it.
I never really looked at my Barbie's body like that. I never studied her hip to waist ratio or the size of her boobs or her feet. She was just my doll.
I never thought for a minute that she was a miniature adult whose body was like mine should be, just as I never thought that a Baby Love doll was a real baby. I could tell the difference. I still can.
I played with my Barbie like any child plays with a toy -- I used my imagination. Sometimes she was my age, sometimes she was much older, sometimes she was a baby. Her body may have been created by a large corporation but her personality and her character were created by me.
Barbie could fly, she could swim, she could teach, she could be a doctor, she could cook, she could wear gorgeous clothes, she could be a mum, she could do anything I wanted. I was in charge and she was the character who helped me to explore different worlds. She was a conduit for my own creativity.
And in this new ad from Mattel, the makers of Barbie, I think they are expressing exactly what I was feeling way before it became cool to hate on Barbie.
It's not about how we see Barbie as cynical and jaded adults, it's how our kids see her -- and more importantly how they play with her without the pressure from adults telling us what she stands for.
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