Of Cabbages and Kings

December 29, 2008

The Original Blonde

Filed under: Across the Universe, Personal, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 12:03 am

My mother refused to buy me a Barbie when I was little – she had ideological issues with it. American cartoons had however taught me to idealise blonde hair and blue eyes and despite my mother’s efforts to protect me from stereotypes, I craved the doll.

All my friends had two or three Barbies and when we sat around re-doing the dolls’ hair or making up stories through which we walked our respective dolls, I always had a borrowed Barbie (since my other dolls were too large and clumsy to fit into a Barbie-game).  So when my cousin gave me her Barbie (as my mother watched in helplessly), I was delighted.

I lavished more attention on this doll than on all the others in my closet and was very particular about her grooming. So if it took my other dolls over three weeks to acquire bald heads, Barbie received her first haircut within days of being in my custody. With all my toddler-energy to expend, and my reluctance to part with the doll, my favourite game involved tossing Barbie up in the air repeatedly. The inevitable landing-mishap happened and Barbie lost a leg. Tears were shed and Mona, a petite dark-haired doll, was offered to me as consolation for Barbie’s missing leg (and I suspect in an effort to wean me away from Barbie). Mona was made welcome but regular attempts were made to fix poor Barbie’s leg, and I continued to live in her thrall until I learned to roller skate. 

What is it about Barbie? I know that for me it was a combination of reasons – all my friends had Barbies and obsessed with them endlessly; the doll was better made than all my dolls (with hinges for its limbs and suchlike); and it looked like all the fairy princesses in the cartoons I watched and the stories I read. The fact that Barbie was more anatomically accurate than my other dolls also appealed to me though I was innocent of the world’s obsession with the hour-glass figure until I went to college. 

Barbie turns 50 next year. Here’s a little debate on the pros and cons of the doll that most little girls want.


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