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I’m a Barbie girl, in the Barbie World

My 26-year old daughter, her girlfriend and I went to see “Barbie.” I am a Women’s and Gender Studies/Sociology professor but cried halfway through when Gloria (America Ferrera) admits she was a life-long Barbie lover and as a working mom was (for of course the assistant to the CEO of Mattel) “struggling to find purpose as her teen daughter grows older, finds herself on a parallel journey of self-discovery with Barbie (Margot Robbie) as the doll journeys outside of Barbie Land into the real world.” (Los Angeles Times July 20, 2023)

All of a sudden in a flash, I saw my childhood and my daughter’s merge around the icon, Barbie. I was born in 1961 and always loved Barbie. I would sneak into my older sister’s room to play with her original Barbie in the black and white bathing suit kept in the original Barbie case on the bottom left floor of her closet. When I was three, I went with my Nana and mother to the Five and Ten to get my first very own Barbie who came with three wigs. Her bathing suit and head piece were shiny gold and white striped with red, dark brown and blond wigs.

My Nana made her clothes: a green print peasant dress, a night gown and robe set, and my most favorite was a black velvet strapless ball gown with appliqued small glittering stars on the bottom to catch the light. (If I ever win an Oscar, that is what I am going to wear.) We would go to the Five and Ten to have lunch at the luncheonette and Missy the pretty waitress would bring me grilled cheese with chocolate milk and then off to the Barbie aisle! My Nana would buy me Barbie clothes, accessories and hangers in hot pink, yellow and orange for my blue Barbie trunk. I would pack my Barbie trunk and spend the best weekends at my Nana and Grandpa’s.

When it was time to start school I had a pale pink, vinyl Barbie lunch box with Barbie on the thermos. Nothing could go wrong in school with Barbie at the lunch table. I made friends with other Barbie lovers. Twist-and-turn Barbie was released and then there was talking Barbie (just pull the string at the back of her neck). My favorite was Stacie with long red hair, Skipper, and the bendable little sister Tutti. Soon there was the Barbie house with a cool living room and bedroom but NO KITCHEN!!! Barbie wore fabulous clothes, owned a beautiful home and had it all going on.

Later in life I read “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan and realized Barbie must have read it, too…When I was in junior high school, I secretly played with Barbie but it faded away as I read, “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” by Judy Blume. The perfect transition into the preteen years.

My daughter was born twenty-six years ago and I went Barbie crazy. When she got her first big girl bed it had Barbie bedding in a Barbie World of a room. She had the Barbie Dream House with a working elevator and Barbie bathing suits, Barbie roller blades, Barbie everything. She played Barbie with her friends.

Yesterday, I sat in the movie theatre and thought about sitting on the floor by my Nana, playing with my Barbies and ached for the innocence of Barbie and my Nana who passed when I was fifteen. I thought about my daughter and her friends playing Barbie and where did the time go?

There are people who criticize Barbie and I was afraid I wrong about Barbie but the then I went to my Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies home and it was filled with Barbies!!! The feminist Barbie!!! Dr. Arlene Scala founded the first Women and Gender Studies Department in New Jersey and she is a force to be reckoned with. I felt my Barbie freedom surge with pride. William Paterson University of New Jersey produced a production of “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler and the theme was International Barbies and the play was fabulous!

In the mid-eighties, I began my career on Wall Street and felt my beautiful suits, high heels and perfectly coordinated accessories were armor and empowering in a male dominated industry. I love clothes, make-up and accessories and I am a single mom with my Donnalynn Dream House with two pooping puppies. My son is working on a Ph.D. and my Barbie raised daughter is halfway through her MSW. When I have a granddaughter I am going to buy her a “My First Barbie.”

It hit a nerve when Americ

a Ferrara admitted she took out her daughter’s Barbies because I have dreams about playing Barbie. She attached her feelings and I believe we all find the little girl in ourselves and wish we were at our Nana’s feet playing Barbies. Most of all, I wish I could pack my Barbie trunk and have one more weekend at Nana and Grandpa’s.

I am going to buy my future granddaughters their first Barbies!




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