Mutilating Barbie

Performed at San Diego Writers, Ink “First Friday” Open Mic Prose Reading at The Grove, February 3, 2006 (I rocked the house)

December 20, 2005 .  Jill Lawless.  ASSOCIATED PRESS LONDON
Barbie, beware.  The iconic plastic doll is often mutilated at the hands of young girls, according to research published yesterday by British academics.

“The girls we spoke to see Barbie torture as a legitimate play activity…” said Agnes Nairn, one of the researchers. “The types of mutilation are varied and creative, and range from removing the hair to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving.”

Nairn said many girls saw Barbie as an inanimate object rather than a treasured toy.
“Whilst for an adult the delight the child felt in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls is deeply disturbing, from the child’s point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling,” she said.

I LOVED Barbie as a kid. Really Really. I loved the silky slick hair, the pert nose, the feet made for high-heels and even the sweet smell of the slightly gummy plastic of her bendable legs.  Blond Barbie, Malibu Barbie, Brunette Barbie with her shoulder length hair that flipped up a la Marlo Thomas in “That Girl”, Midge, Francie, Skipper….

I had one– a hand-me-down from my sister. A stiff-legged Barbie with turquoise blue eyeshadow and blond hair. She looked old. She smelled funny. I would name her Madge, and assign her the role of mean lady who ran the boarding house where the Barbie girls lived.

My favorite was Stacie, with her shiny red hair in a pony tail that reached to the middle of her back. My one Ken doll provided ALL the drama.  His arm came out of the socket, the result of some adventure like skiing or mountain climbing so he wore a rubber band “sling”. He was dashing with his molded brown hair and perfect pecs. All the Barbie’s would fight over his affections.  

I would develop story lines and play them out for days, like a Made-For-TV mini series— on Lifetime network. I hated having to put my Barbies away….
Then at some point I hated Barbie…. hated the idea of Barbie. The impossible ideal of Barbie. The skinny bitch Barbie. The skinny bitch with her perfectly formed perky boobs, and her disproportionately diminutive waist. She even had perfect legs. If you consider thighs that are no wider than her arms perfect… Barbie wasn’t knock kneed. Barbie didn’t wear braces. Barbie didn’t wear Levis with a 36″ waist. Barbie never had a pimple. Barbie had a perfect boyfriend (even if he DID always have to wear a sling).

But I never hated her enough to mutilate her!

Recently I found myself nostalgic for Barbie, nostalgic for loving Barbie. Or maybe for the stories I created, I don’t know. And when some neighbor girls were selling some of their old toys to raise money–   for something–   I couldn’t resist. There, in a bright orange felt suit, a Stacie doll with her lovely auburn ponytail.   I bought her for a dollar, and now she sits on my bookshelf. Right next to Janet Burroway’s book Writing Fiction.