April 6, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday, Barbie

April 6, 2010

Dear Barbie,

I missed your birthday.

Someone even told me it was coming, but I guess March 9 is not nearly as memorable as, say, my own birthday. Besides, fifty-one is not nearly so earth-shattering as fifty, which is clickety-clacking toward me like a train on a steep grade.

I would ask what the view is like from the top of the hill, except that I doubt one can see clearly through plastic. (Which, come to think of it, is why I gave up contacts. Twice.) At any rate, your view, however configured, would no doubt differ from mine. You seem to have escaped the indignities suffered by women constructed from more organic materials. No sagging jaw lines, spreading bottoms, or wheezing metabolisms for you, my girl. No wildly inappropriate temperature swings, no doctors who look twelve and whose sentences begin with, “Now, Ms. Simpson, a woman your age…” You can still dress like a teenager and no one, least of all you, bats an eye. On the other hand, no one is much impressed that you can still fit into your wedding dress/skinny jeans/cheerleading uniform, so maybe there are some trade-offs, after all.

Do I sound bitter? Perhaps I am, a little. It does seem a bit unfair that real girls are overtaken by raging hormones at both ends of the childbearing decades, and from where I sit, your life looks pretty easy.

You never had to change schools or leave a beloved house behind – we just took the Barbie Dream House and all your friends with us, from Mendota to Warrington to Luther Drive. You got every job you wanted, zooming right by entry-level to upper management, passing GO every time. Every day may as well have been payday. I bet you never had your electricity turned off because there was a one-day gap between the this-time-we-mean-it notice and the day your paycheck cleared, or that, when you went down to the office the next day to have your power restored, it was the mother of a high-school crush who waited on you so graciously and so completely free of judgment.

I have often been guilty of the sin of envy where you are concerned, until someone pointed out that while Barbie never learned to stand on her own two feet, Barbara did – even if those feet were sometimes in the dark, or awash in ice melt from a leaking soft drink cooler in the goody wagon some kids locked her in during the Salem Days festival.

The friend who reminded me of your birthday asked me how I felt about you. “I can’t tell from your writing,” she said. Fair enough. I guess I would have to say, “It’s complicated.”

I do feel as if I suffer in comparison with you. Ah, but then who, exactly, is doing the comparing?

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