My daughter Elspeth got some Barbie dolls for her birthday recently, and everywhere we go, she brings her Barbies. Elspeth happily told me, “Mommy, you are not like Barbie.” I made the mistake of asking her why.
1. I’m No Princess
First, she informed me that I am not a princess like Barbie. I will accept the princess thing. I am not a princess, but if I was, I would be the Princess of Laundry Land. All the people who live in Laundry Land would stop by and throw their clothes at me. And, like magic, when I tossed their clothes back to them, the clothes would be magically clean and fresh, except for the items that were left in the kingdom’s washer overnight and smell a bit musty. Barbie, on the other hand, must be a princess. Her mansion, townhouse and beachhouse are located in our playroom, and amazingly enough (given all the clothes she has), neither house has a laundry room.
2. Lame Transportation
I don’t have a sweet set of wheels like Barbie. She has a bus, a convertible and a VW Beetle. I want to see Barbie with a mini-van that has toys falling out whenever a door is opened. I want to see her expression when she sees how much it costs to fill it up with enough gas to taxi the children everywhere. I bet that Barbie would suddenly get a few worry lines around her mouth.
3. Aesthetic Differences
And then there is the most obvious difference that Elspeth pointed out: I don’t look like Barbie. I don’t have pretty yellow hair like Barbie. “Mommy, you have flat brown hair,” Elspeth says. She has a Midge doll that is pregnant (she came that way; it didn’t happen in my house). When Midge has the baby, her belly simply slips off her body and she is thin again. No stretch marks are on her stomach; her legs are tan and beautiful and not marked by varicose veins; her breasts haven’t changed a bit. Elspeth was kind enough to show me that Midge’s stomach is hard while mine is squishy. “Want to feel?” she asked me, not knowing that deep down, I am not liking that Barbie for her flat, plastic stomach.
If my daughter wants to dream that she can be a princess, have a house without a laundry room, drive different vehicles without any payments and always walk around with a perfect tan and a smile on her face, that’s OK. That is why we call it a dream.
Do the dreams we have with Barbie as little girls damage us as adults? Probably not. After all, I played with Barbies as a little girl, and as I grew up, I learned that I wasn’t a princess, Ken wouldn’t always be there and that even without a flat stomach, I could still be happy — really happy.