I’m rubbing my hands together fiendishly like Oil Can Harry as he ties Pearl Pureheart to the railroad track. Why? Because I’m excited. I’m going to write about my idol, my role model, my childhood friend. The woman who transported me from the comfortable, cozy walls of my little bedroom in Pasadena, Texas to beautiful, fantastic adventures that only an imagination can ever go. A ten-year old imagination, that is.
I accompanied this friend as she led the cheerleading squad — well, I never was quite sure just where she cheered; I just know she wore a nifty cheer-leading uniform. We tended to the sick at some undisclosed hospital where she was on staff as a registered nurse, complete with the sharp white hat and impressive blue cape. I shopped in Paris with her. I tended her fashionable boutique. I cooked with her in her lavish, ultra-modern house. I sang a solo in the spotlight at some swank club with her. We roamed the friendly skies as airline stewardesses. Of course we did the prom thing. She and I picnicked together, swam together, modeled together, taught school together and yet managed to attend school at the same time.
And, then, unfazed by all this exhausting sprinting around the globe, we still managed to slip into a beautiful pink peignoir — with our hair and makeup still pristine — and retire until the next day.
For the changing interests in today’s girls, she has even ventured into the world of space; she takes modern girls along on her journeys as an astronaut. If I’m not mistaken, I believe she has even dabbled her tiny feet in the swirling waters of politics.
Interestingly yet ironically, she owned a warehouse of wedding dresses, one to keep up with every style-trend imaginable; yet, sadly, I don’t think she ever actually married.
Barbie. I’m talking about Barbie. No last name. Just Barbie. You might think she was an experienced, older woman of the world, considering the limitless activities I just mentioned; but, ah, no. She was merely a teenager.
In fact, when she made her debut in the hearts of girls all over the world in 1959, she was described as: “New for ’59, the BARBIE doll: A shapely teenage fashion Model! Retail price $3.00…” Yes. A teenager.
The funny part? Barbie was designed by Ruth Handler, who supposedly modeled the doll after a smoldering, sort of exotica —well — oh, darn; I’ll just say it — prostitute character from a German comic strip, Bild Lilli. The Germans designed a doll after a sultry semi-porno character, and she bears an extremely remarkable resemblance to Barbie — or rather, Barbie bears an extremely remarkable resemblance to Lilli. (Bild Lilli, alas, came first). Ah. But, whereas the German Lilli is rather a — how can I say it delicately — strumpet, her American twin, Barbie, is the wholesome girl next door — if you ignore her ‘teenage’ 36-26-36 measurements and her sleek, Cleaopatra-type exotic eyeliner. Handler named the American bombshell — who walked into American history wearing nothing but a sexy black-and-white one-piece swimsuit — after her daughter, Barbara.
And let me tell you. Barbie didn’t waste any time getting right down in the trenches with the rest of the girls in the dating department. You would have thought that, with her exquisite looks and her dynamite Marilyn Monroe figure — not to mention her mysterious wealth — she could have had any man she wanted. Oh, no. To this day, no one has really been able to put a finger on why this classy, well-educated (and I can only guess at this, since she did lead a cheer leading squad, she had to have attended school somewhere), beautiful dame never elevated beyond dating a penniless, playboy good-for-nothing, although extremely good looking (if you went with the molded hair type in those early days) gigolo. It was always her house, her car. To my knowledge, this lothario Ken never owned a car. No pride whatsoever. But as long as Barbie tolerated it, who was Ken to — as Paul Simon said — “blow against the wind”? I suppose you can’t blame the plastic Romeo.
No other doll in the magical world of kid-dom has probably been plunked in so many imaginary scenarios. My Barbie (the blonde model) played Jane to a teddy bear Tarzan. She was a movie star. Sometimes she was a housewife; again, faithful teddy bear enacted the role of her husband. I didn’t acquire Ken until later; but, fortunately, Teddy Bear never had any complaints. I’m sure Teddy Bear grasped the old motto, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.”
Curiously, though, my Barbie never played — in my imagination anyway — the role she was created to be: a teenager. She was much too sophisticated, too culturally advanced, to be just a kid.
Ah, yes. Before Carrie Bradshaw, the nubile 11-1/2” Barbie grasped the world of the free-spirited, uninhibited single woman. Sex in the City? Barbie invented sex in the city! Did she sit around moping and writing about dates with loser guys? Nah. She never subjected herself to that; just kept ol’ Rico Suave Ken on a leash, always keeping her own ego on a secure pedestal. Oh, Barbie, my hero.
Barbie was everything every girl wanted her to be. Any career. Any nationality. Any hair color. Barbie just was.
So eat your heart out, Carrie Bradshaw. You could never be half the woman Barbie is. Only in your dreams!
But, then, think about it. Can anyone compete with a beautiful, sexy, talented, sophisticated girl who has been around for 50 years and yet is still … a teenager? Try and beat that, Carrie.