Many of my childhood memories involve a not-so-lifelike plastic doll. Nothing big and blow up, merely a collection of almost 12 inch dolls. I loved my Barbie dolls, in fact I collected Barbies for a quite a while and still have a shelf full of brand new dolls, still in boxes that girl-child is only able to look at, drool over and imagine playing with. In actual fact it is clear that I still love my Barbies.
To many she is a totally disproportionate representation of a woman but to me she is a woman who can do anything she chooses. Yes she is totally misrepresents the true body of a woman but she is so elegant and beautiful, not to mention well dressed. She may have a short attention span and change careers even more frequently than I have been known to, but she is accomplished in all of her chosen career paths. Seriously, who else can be a teacher, astronaut, vet and olympian as well as a business woman and socialite with family and friends who clearly love her (and boyfriends with plastic underwear).
Anyway, I loved and still love Barbie. I can remember writing Christmas wish lists when all I wanted was a Barbie. The weeks of anticipation, wondering if I had been good enough for Santa to get me a Barbie, especially when all I wanted was Western Barbie and Dallas her horse. Apparently I was a really good girl that year because not only was Western Barbie and Dallas there waiting for me under the Christmas tree, but Barbie was there in her 4wd jeep and towing a horse trailer. I was over the moon – it was the best Christmas present EVER. (OK, so Loving You Barbie that I received the following year was actually the best Barbie that I ever received but she was also the cause of or at least part of a terrifying series of nightmares but that is another story for another time entirely. Now that I have moved on from the nightmares I can raise her to the status of my favourite Barbie).
I love Barbies so much that I have shared my love for the plastic doll with girl-child. (I have also shared my hatred of other similar sized dolls with oversized heads and skanky clothing with her.) She was given her first Barbie doll when she was 3, the same year that she inherited the huge doll house that dad made for me when I was younger. I really wanted Barbie to have the same significance for her as she does for me. She loves her dolls but unfortunately she doesn’t treasure them the same way as I do. I think that the main reason for this is because she has so many. In the last clean up of her dolls she had more than 20 Barbies as well as dozens of Kelly dolls (that’s Barbie’s little sister), it is no wonder they aren’t so precious to her. Now the dolls are so inexpensive that it isn’t uncommon for her to receive half a dozen or so more than one for a birthday. I have even been guilty of allowing girl-child to give her friends a Barbie for a birthday gift. I even have vague recollections of giving a Barbie just for the hell of it. It is no wonder they are losing their significance.
Now back in my day Barbies were expensive. You didn’t just get a Barbie doll for the hell of it, only for a birthday or for Christmas. In fact a Barbie doll was your main present for Christmas. They were an item wished for and if you were lucky enough to have a Barbie or one of her friends you treasured them and looked after them right up until you were too old and too cool to play with Barbies and then you practiced your hairdressing skills. Not that I ever cut my Barbie doll’s hair, I only played hairdresser with my sister’s dolls! I did manage to amass many Barbies over my childhood and I still have them now, they are at my parents house and I love it when girl-child drags them out to play.
So I have lost the point of this post, the part where I shared my love for the disproportionate doll with my daughter. To cut to the chase, the Forever Barbie Exhibition celebrating 50 years of Barbie beauty is in town so to celebrate a few of us went along to check it out.
We were there the day after the exhibition opened, arriving just after it opened for the day at 10. Already there was a queue to get in but fortunately it moved along quickly and we were inside in only a few minutes. We wandered around looking at all of the dolls. There were some dolls from my childhood there, as well as many dolls that are still on my wish list. My favourite part of the exhibition were the dolls that children had dressed and the captions that were written under them.
Naturally, at the end of the exhibition there was a merchandise area. You should have seen the crowds with huge shopping bundles. Now I know that I have just said that Barbies are inexpensive, I wasn’t referring to these dolls, these dolls were kind of expensive. It wasn’t just the dolls that were expensive the other merchandise was insanely expensive. Tiny tins of mints for $20, carry bags from $60, after that I pretty much ignored the price tags on everything else there. I did give in and purchase girl-child and her friend another doll. I know, another doll but this one was special, girl-child was able to customised it. They had computers set up where you could choose your own doll from a limited selection and then choose the clothes that she would wear. After you printed out the picture of your doll and paid for her she was ‘made’ for you to specification. Once she was made the doll paraded around the catwalk before being boxed up and then delivered. Girl-child was so excited to make her own doll and then have it made for her, it was definitely worth the insane price tag.
It was a great morning sharing my memories of Barbie with girl-child and her friend. If this is what the holidays are going to be like I am looking forward to them.