Beautiful Barbie

May 16, 2010

When I was a little girl, my dad was a toy and sporting goods buyer for a large chain of stores. He traveled often on buying trips which was exciting for my brother and me because Dad always brought home samples of the next greatest toy. We were the first kids on the block to have a hula hoop, pogo stick, and silly putty. When the rest of the neighborhood finally got their hands on Playdough, we had moved on and were cranking out SNOW CONES with our bitchen new Hasbro SNOW CONE MACHINE! Yay, Daddy for having the most awesome job of all the daddies in the neighborhood! (Except for maybe Dan Blocker, who lived behind us and played Hoss Cartwright in Bonanza, he might have aced my dad out of this title, but only just.)

Well, since this is a Barbie story, you know where this is going. One night dad arrived home late from a gift show, this is circa 1959 and I am maybe 7 years old. I was supposed to be asleep, but instead tried hard to overhear my parent's conversation going on down the hall.

Mom: Did you bring home anything for the kids?

Dad: Well, something for Kristen, but I'm not sure about it. It's a doll, very risque. Ruth at Mattel talked me into buying too many, she says they are going to be huge. Here, take a look.

Mom: Bob! You CANNOT give this doll to Kristen. She's obscene!

That was all I needed to hurl myself down the hall and into the room. I grabbed the doll from my mother and swooned. Her thick, slutty eye-makeup and secretive sideways glance, that blond ponytail and actual doll breasts! RED FINGERNAILS! I was deeply and forever in love with Barbie.

I played with her endlessly and loved her madly. Since it would be months before this doll would be launched to the public and she had no clothes, just her stripey swimsuit, I made clothes out of Kleenex and scotch tape. When the clothes became available, mother also became infatuated (how could you not?) and we bought every garment we could. Her wardrobe back then was not to be believed, with fur and brocade being the norm for this little Barbie doll. I played with my now two Barbies, the angelic blond and the evil brunette, and the hapless Ken for too long, into my teens if I am to be honest. I made clothes for them, knitted blankets, wove tiny rugs, beaded jewelry, these dolls got the very best of my budding 10 year old creative talent.

A few years later, something bad happened. My beloved pristine Barbies Number One with the funny holes in their feet, and the entire wardrobe collection was given away to a little girl I babysat for. After a few months, I had misgivings and tried to get them back. The mother did not agree and said, "You don't want to be an Indian giver, now do you?" Well, actually, yes I did. They moved away, we moved away, I tried a few more times. No success. It makes me very sad when I think about it.

post script: Barbie's face has changed over the years, who's hasn't? I have a few newish Barbie dolls that have been passed down to me as their little 10 year old owners outgrow them. I always say, "When you want her back, she'll be waiting for you!" In the meantime, sometimes I knit for them from this wonderful book.

Check out a dazzled me on Christmas morning, 1959. On the right is the "Commuter Set" and on the left is the "Pink Negligee" with the famous pink felt puppy. Just off camera is our aluminum Christmas tree, from dad of course.

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