April 13, 2010

It's Complicated

I am not a Barbie collector, a Barbie fanatic, or a Barbie abuser. But I read. I hear things. Tales of dolls kidnapped, barbecued, and blown up by brothers little and big. Dolls buried in the sands of backyard Iwo Jimas, dolls as target-practice stand-ins for the Germans of WWII. The most common mistreatment occurs at the hands of the seemingly-fond owners: the shearing of the locks. Almost every woman I know speaks, with a mixture of shame and pride, of cutting her dolls' hair. I never did that.

I never overtly mistreated my dolls; I do have a story, however, in which the child narrator kicks and punches her Barbie Dream House in an attempt to alleviate my -- I mean her -- mortification at having been caught playing with it by the Popular Girls who, although chronologically my age (alright, yes, it was me), were years ahead by maturity's reckoning. I suspect I still haven't caught up.

That event became, through the alchemy of time and perspective, the inspiration for my first adult-written short story, an essay, the title piece of my graduate school thesis, and the name of this blog. Clearly, Barbie holds significance for me,  certainly she shows up in my writing. Perhaps it is easier to bare imperfections under the solidarity of common experiences: a shared spotlight turns glare into glow. As little girls we played with dolls, exploring our selves as we shared wardrobes and dream houses, taking readings from each other: does this dream make me sound crazy? What if I were to do or say this, would you still like me? We tried on attitudes and attributes, rehearsed, repeated, ad-libbed our futures.

Sometimes I wonder when I'll give up writing about Barbie -- it was all so long ago -- and yet I think there's a deeper meaning to be mined and illuminated, real value in providing a reflective surface for others who might see themselves in my memories. Sometimes, as writers, we need to proffer our own moments of darkness, however tiny and seemingly-insignificant, so that what really matters becomes clear in the contrast. Insights, no matter how long, long ago the initial event, can lead to a sort of rebirth, a peeling away of a no-longer-needed armor.


  1. Wow, You have totally encapsulated why you write and why Barbie is such a pivotal figure in your writing. I love the clarity in your work. As you know I love and hate Barbie, but you have given me a totally different perspective on her. There you go again expanding my mind.
    I loved your Barbie Dream House piece from the first draft I saw. And if you ask me you are light years ahead of those girls.

  2. Thanks--I should ask you more often. :>

  3. My first comment didn't post...I think if you asked me what did I like and what will I remember? "Maturity's reckoning," and the relevancy, beauty, poignancy and truth...

  4. "Maturity's reckoning"? I said that? I had to go back and re-read.