Jeaninne is an award-winning fiction and essay writer who is the author of "Manuel's Murals."
The Barbie Years Part Two
The moment I tore Barbie out of her cellophane covered box, I think I grew up just a little bit. I spent that Christmas day cutting up old boxes and finding magazine pictures for wallpaper to make Barbie a temporary home. Mom promised me a trip to Vicky’s Toy Town to pick out a case with my Christmas money during my last week of vacation. I knew that I would cherish this doll for a very, very long time. I needed to keep her in top-notch condition in her own secure place when we weren’t together.
Mom and I spent hours conjuring up Barbie’s new life as an independent woman. And it was then that I began to fantasize what my life might be someday. When we couldn’t afford outfits, my mother made Barbie outfits for various jobs and social events. And it was then that I began to ask my mother grown up questions.
“Mom, what if I don’t want to get married and have children until after I go to college and work on my own?”
“Sweetheart, if that’s what you want, then that’s what you should do.”
“How come you got married so young?”
“Well, your father and I fell in love and were ready to start our own lives. And, if we hadn’t you and Steve wouldn’t be here now.”
“I know you love us, but I’m not so sure I want so much responsibility so young.”
Barbie consumed my life that year. My mother had a Blue Birds Barbie fashion show. As a den mother, she arranged for all of us to bring our Barbies and parade them to music at one of our rainy-day meetings. What fun we had swapping clothes and sharing our Barbie dolls’ secret lives.
My friends and I played with our dolls after school and on weekends. Some of my favorite memories are of the times when mom took me to get a new Barbie outfit with the allowance I earned for chores around the house. The following Christmas, I even got the bubble-hair Barbie. I have kept both dolls and every single one of those outfits. I even take them out from time to time, remembering the beginning of the adult dreams I actually created in my adult life.
I was nine when my father left us for another family. My Barbies and I began a new relationship. They became my confidantes. I vowed to them that I would never allow a man control my finances. My Barbies kept all my secrets, just as I kept my one vow to them. I grew up to be an independent, self-made educator who traveled the world. And, I have never let a man control my life.
My Barbies taught me how to prioritize my goals and how to choose men who would fit into my values. And, I suspect there are many of us from the Baby Boomer generation who have nothing but fond memories of the lives we imagined after we freed our Barbies from the cellophane wrap on Christmas mornings so long ago.