Parents & Friends uf Lovers uf Barbie
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! January 7, 1999
                                                                                          christinastarr.ca
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I bought my daughter a Barbie for Christmas. Sure, I could have chosen something else but I tried that last year. I bought her a really nice desk and for the rest of the winter she complained that she didnt get anything for Christmas.
          It
s not her first Barbie. When you consider that the damage is already done, one more isnt so bad. Why is one never enough? Whenever we go near Dufferin Mall we get sucked into Toys R Us like Dorothy getting sucked into Oz. We stand in the Barbie aisle, looking almost healthy from the pink glow off the boxes, and she lingers over every doll as if choosing the right one is her best chance for everlasting happiness.
          I didn
t want her to be a Barbie girl. I didnt want her to like Barbie at all. I disapprove of the lifestyle, the obsession with fashion, the unusual body shape, the strange crowd of friends that all look like each other, and the interest in men. I figured if she never saw her, never heard about her, she wouldnt know what she was missing. But of course she found out. If your childs really inclined that way theres not a lot you can do about it.
          I should have seen it coming. Since she
s been able to walk shes chosen to be in dresses – preferably with crinolines – and loved to have things covered in flower or heart patterns, or pictures of happy little kittens. She owned a black patent purse and matching dress shoes for a while, even though the daycare dress code didnt require it.
          Her tastes unnerved me but I considered them a harmless personality quirk until Barbie came along, then I couldn
t stop myself from voicing some objection. That was probably a mistake. If I hadnt said anything about the weird feet, the unusual clothes and the lust for material goods, it might not have become such a big interest. Her first crush would have dwindled and faded as a normal part of growing up. Many child-rearing experts say its natural for children to experiment with a number of likes and dislikes before they develop into healthy adults. 
          But no. I had to point out that women can
t walk with feet like that. I had to say that the flouncy dresses and spaghetti-strap tops dont make Barbie look strong. I had to ask why Barbie is always white. The answer to every question was always eagerly defended. Look at those fancy women, mommy. They look strong! Look mommy! These are running shoes. She can run in them! She settled the last question by finding Barbies that arent white, which meant adding to the collection of course.
          Or maybe it wouldn
t even have come up if shed had better parenting models, a normal mother figure. Maybe if Id been more interested in vacuuming, had more matching outfits or a vacation mini-van parked outside, she wouldnt have gone looking for it in the Barbie aisle. Maybe I should have nursed her longer.
          It can
t be normal for a girl to like Barbie, everything about her is so unnatural. There must be some explanation, something I could have done better.
          But that
s in the past and now Im trying to make amends. Im trying to accept it, pretend its nothing serious and hope its a phase shell outgrow. Ive indulged her desire for Barbie and Barbie accessories. We have teacher Barbie, veterinarian Barbie, camping Barbie, big sister Barbie (and little sister Kelly) and an assortment of Barbie friends. And, yes, we have Ken, and a guy named Allan we picked up for cheap on his way to the beach.
          We have Barbie
s jeep, her castle, her horse, her veterinarian office complete with a dog and cat, though its the bed that barks and meows (I told you it wasnt normal). We have full camping equipment including fire, hot dog skewers and a fake log and tree stump that are both bright yellow. We have a teachers classroom with desk, blackboard, clock, lockers, an alarming battery-operated school bell and four scrubbed students, and endless numbers of blouses, t-shirts, boob tops, pants, skirts, dresses, leggings, swimsuits, footwear, hair accessories (including pastel-coloured bows for the horse) and a zillion little toys, tools and utensils that you can barely see with the naked eye. Who knows how many weve swallowed.
          And new this Christmas, a Special Edition Collector
s Barbie in a gown thats way over-the-top unless, of course, she puts it on Ken. I want to make her happy but, like any normal parent, Im also hoping this unnatural interest will wear out if its satisfied, and next year shes ask for something normal, like Xena.
          Heaven knows, I don
t look forward to coming out as the parent of a Barbie girl or to publicly embracing my daughters preference in that support group some eager mother set up – Parents and Friends uf Lovers Uf Barbie, or PFLUB. I just want to have a normal, happy girl, to watch her grow up to become an electrician or a carpenter or the first woman to win the indy race car circuit. I want to see her settle down in a co-operative household with two or three live-in lovers and any number of others. I dont want her to be limited by choosing the wrong lifestyle.
          One day, perhaps, she
ll see it my way.

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New this Christmas: a Special Edition Collector's Barbie in a gown that's way over the top, unless of course she puts it on Ken.