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).
EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW IN LIFE I LEARNED FROM MY BARBIE by Coni Jo Rich Her Very Self
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.