Mar 9, 2009


Dear Barbie:
I can't believe that today is your 50th birthday! Seems like just yesterday we were excited about turning 6 together. What happened?! On your special day, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all of the important life lessons that you taught me. I'm not sure that I would be the woman that I am today without your influence, Barbie, so please know that I owe it all to you (and my parents, of course).
Coni Jo


Barbie taught me the finer points of interior design. At first, our home was the corner of a cardboard box, draped with a dish towel to soften the rough edges. We even had a hand-made rug underfoot, and I seem to recall a tissue box that doubled as a bed. Eventually, we moved into a spacious and quite contemporary Barbie Dream House that came with a fine selection of furnishings (backgrounds painted on walls for efficiency as well as effect). By spending hours upon hours moving the couch around, I am certain that I learned everything there was to know about feng shui and space planning. I also learned not to be afraid to mix and match colors, textures, designs, time periods, or styles. After all, one's home must reflect one's personality and sense of style, no?

Driving was something that came easily, especially after we learned not to terrorize the dog or crash into the coffee table with our little battery-powered Barbie Corvette. Although the steering wheel was rather pointless since the tires wouldn't turn, we did look pretty spiffy racing through the kitchen en route to our next adventure. Over the years we also learned to operate several other means of transportation: a plane, a boat, a camper (with pop-out tent!), a dune buggy, a Jeep, an RV, and even a motorcycle. I am proud to report that we've never been cited with a ticket, nor have we ever caused a fatality.

What can I say about fashion? In recent years, Carrie Bradshaw has gotten all of the attention in the wardrobe world, but Barbie was definitely my arbiter of good taste. I learned that it was important to have a selection of clothing for every possible situation (like rock climbing in the morning and then accepting an Academy Award in the evening), and that, when in doubt, a smart looking skirt and cute top would always look fabulous. I also learned that it was perfectly acceptable to wear four-inch pink stilettos. With everything. More important than the actual outfit, however, was the absolute necessity to ACCESSORIZE! Mom used swear words I'd never heard before whenever she had to dig through the vacuum cleaner bag to retrieve a lost Barbie shoe, but it was all worth it in the end, and the resulting awards from Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Mr. Blackwell prove it.

Hair and makeup application were important to us, but it wasn't something that we would waste an entire day on. On most occasions, I was able to configure a pony tail that looked good with both bathing suit and ball gown. And I learned that permanent makeup is a good thing (when applied correctly) and if you don't have eyelids, you can get away with blue eyeshadow most of your life. I also learned that it is NEVER a good idea to let your little sister trim your bangs, but that the damage can usually be hidden with a lovely scarf.

Barbie taught me that independence is a wonderful thing, and that learning to be completely self-sufficient will take you a long way. She taught me that it's OK to play alone, and that the often heard answer to "I'm bored" was "Go play with your Barbies".

Relationships can be hard for anybody, but Barbie taught me the wisdom of having pets (she had over 50 of them throughout the years), a long term boyfriend (43 years with Ken should have earned her a medal), and a pesky side-kick or two just to keep us on our toes (I especially liked the fact that Skipper couldn't fit into Barbie's clothes, and despite Mom grumbling that it was a marketing ploy to make us buy more outfits, I was satisfied to let Skipper wear the same damn thing day after day so that Barbie could shop for skinny pants and a new jacket at least twice a week).

Despite being a chunky kid, I never suffered from self esteem issues, because Barbie accepted me just the way I was, and I pretended not to notice the Mattel logo stamped on her heiney. Even though Barbie had perky plastic boobs that never needed a bra, she wore one in solidarity with me when it was finally time for me to be a "young lady". She bravely faced boys at school and never lamented the fact that neither her knees nor elbows had movable joints that would allow her to sit in a chair properly. She just forged ahead with whatever the day had to throw at her, and she did it with that famous smile. (And the blue eye shadow, of course).

I think that the most important thing Barbie taught me was that it was absolutely crucial to dream. I know a few girls who weren't allowed to play with Barbie because their mothers thought them sexist and a throw back to 1950's sexual politics, but Barbie taught me that you can be absolutely anything you want to be. And you can, in fact, be a lawyer in the morning, an airline pilot in the afternoon, and a Princess in the evening. There were a few costume changes required, but Barbie never allowed me to NOT do something because it looked hard, or like it would be too much work. She worked in a hospital as the Chief of Neurosurgery, as a vet, an astronaut, for the United Nations, and even as Secretary of State when I hadn't a clue what that was. Somedays she even stayed at home and made beautiful curtains for the kitchen and a wonderful beef stew for a late supper with Ken. Barbie was smart, and funny, and hard working, and she taught me that nobody would ever get in the way of my dreams or aspirations if I stood firm in my convictions.

So, happy birthday to you, Ms. Barbara Millicent Roberts. From one Spinster to another, I say BRAVA for all that you've done for us these last 50 years! My wish for you is that you will continue to spread your magic to girls (and boys) everywhere, and that you'll know how much you've meant to us. Don't ever change, Barbie!

Pass the cake, please.


  1. AMEN!

    Oh what wonderful memories of the endless days, nights and weekends playing in the basement.....

    Happy 50th Barbie!

  2. We loved Barbie(s), and so did my girls. When we were young, my mom handmade Barbie clothes like evening dresses and twist blouses (a blouse with ruffles down the front from the 60's). They were absolutely fabulous. You're swell, Coni, for remembering Barbie.

  3. Coni--this is fabulous! Thank you.
    Have you seen the picture of Chef Gordon Ramsey in People this week....yummy!

  4. I played with Barbie with my best friend until we were in high school!! I still have my Barbies. I was blessed with 2 sons so haven't played with them in a long time. I will have to wait for granddaughters to play again. Thanks for the memory.

  5. Happy Birthday to Barbie!
    Some of those early Barbies are worth a fortune now.

    Oh by the way I have been with my 'Ken' (yes he really is Ken) for 43 years too!

  6. LOL! You need to send that to Mattel :)

    I am proud to say, Saturday in Walmart, they had a birthday cake and punch for Barbie's big day and Ellie, was proud to down a piece and go ask for more!
    Happy Birthday Barbie, I played with you until my Mom told asked me, "don't you think you're too old to play with Barbie now?" I was 14...I put her away...but dreamed of the evenings I'd babysit so I could play with her some more ;)!!!

  7. What a fabulous post! Thank you!!!! Some of my best memories from childhood are the hours and hours I spent playing with my Barbies, both alone and with the neighbor girls.

    I don't have any children of my own yet, so when my niece was born, I was so excited to think that someday I'd get to play Barbies with her. Imagine my horror when my SIL announced that she held the same narrowminded views about Barbie being bad for self esteem that some of your friends mother's had. I could have cried - no little girl should have a Barbie free childhood.

    Thank you for posting such a wonderful tribute to one of my most beloved toys.

  8. My Barbie had washcloths for bedspreads, shoe boxes for cars, and cardboard boxes with cut-outs for doors and windows, but don't feel sorry for her. At least her legs bent at the knees!

  9. What a walk down memory lane. I had that same Dream House and played with it for hours on end either with the friends or alone. My sister is 10 years older and she had her bobby sock but not a Barbie! I remember having a Barbie Birthday party for my daughters and their friends years ago and it was such fun. Thanks for the smiles.....Oh, and I had forgotten her real name, Barbara Millicent Roberts! Good memory.

  10. great post...nailed it...every girl had the "dream" when she played with Barbie...and she could be anything she wanted....i know I did.....

  11. Oh I loved my Barbie..Thanks for the memories..What fun I had playing with her and Midge and Skipper..I had an Aunt that made me doll clothes all the time..So I have some original clothes..I think I'm going to have to go and get my dolls out and have a look at them..its been awhile since they have seen daylight..

  12. Happy birthday, Barbie. I got my first Barbie about 10 years ago - I bought a limited edition Christmas Barbie - I never had one as a child - I had a "Sindy" doll - she was English, and more "wholesome" than Barbie LOL

  13. I still miss playing with my Barbies and I have always regretted giving them away. And I'm still a little upset that I never did get the Barbie Dream House. I had the cottage, but not the house! LOL! :)

  14. Bravo! Barbie was the first Wonder Woman!

  15. I obviously never gave Barbie enough of a chance. All she ever taught me was that I should NOT pursue a career in hair cutting. ;)

  16. I wonder if kids today will have the kind of memories that Barbie has given so many of us? Playing by ourselves hour after hour. I always preferred Midge and Scooter to Barbie and Skipper. Maybe because I wasn't a blond and my boobies never quite perked the way Barbies did. Do you remember the Skipper doll with the arm that went around in a circle enlarging her breasts? My granddaughter has my Barbies now. What is left of them anyway- her Mommy loved to cut hair and re do the make-up. Unfortunately Sharpies didn't come in that many colors when my daughter was younger, so she was limited in her creativity. Happy Birthday Barbie.

  17. I'm a few years older than you are so I did not have Barbie, but I had GINNIE DOLLS. In fact I still have my original 8" Ginnie from 1954 and her little sister, Ginnette a rubber baby doll.
    My mom made clothes for them too and I still have some of them. I also have a later version from sometime in the 70's.
    I too spent many hours alone with my Ginnie or with friends and their Ginnies. It's funny how of the many dolls I had as a child, Ginnie is the only one I saved.
    I also agree that you should send a version of your post to Mattell. I think I heard somewhere that they were thinking of eliminating her from their line of toys, and that would be a shame for little girls today.

  18. LOL! I never played with Barbie but my younger sister and my daughter did. I remember 1 Christmas when I got a Barbie's love McDonalds for my DD and fighting to put it together to put under the tree. Years later when my DD was a teenager; she bought herself a Tshirt that said "I want to be like Barbie - that bitch has everyting!"

  19. I guess you didn't have that Barbie style head--the one where you could apply make up. I wouldn't know how to put it on except that i played for hours with that thing!

    I had Barbies (and a Dream House) and still turned out feminist. I am pretty sure that toys do not make the woman!