never say never

Two new toys. The last toys I thought would ever cross the threshold of our house. Two of them. And I bought them myself.

Akka has shown a passing interest in Barbies. I always scoffed at them and, being no dummy, she picked up on that. Once, in a toy aisle, she stood captivated by shelf after shelf of pink, self-effacing, narrow-waisted, big-busted, small-footed Barbies, then turned to me with a shy look and said “we don’t want to buy those, right?” Right. I didn’t. She did, though.

Last week my friend and her son came over for lunch. Three-year-old E. walked through the door carrying his sparkle Barbie. Akka was captivated and played with it whenever E. let it out of his grip. After they left she asked me for one outright. Something occurred to me: if my son asked me for a Barbie, I’d probably get him one. And I’d be weirdly proud of it. We’ll see…

I have the girly debate frequently with my friends who are parents. It’s not much of a debate, really; it’s us congratulating ourselves on not succumbing to the aggressive Disney-Barbie marketing campaigns and sharing proud stories about how, due to our successful stonewalling, our daughters can’t even tell the difference between Ariel and Belle. But Akka’s interest was piqued and the issue kept coming up. A friend sent me a link to an online discussion about Barbies. One mom was bemoaning the fact that her daughter wanted one and most of the responding moms were telling her to lighten up. Something struck a chord:

“… now I worry that by making them forbidden fruit she wants them all the more. We have tried explaining why we don’t like them, but this seems to really hurt & embarass her, she is very sensitive and she then feels as though she is doing something wrong in wanting them.” (motheringdotcommunity)

That’s what I’d inadvertently done to Akka. She knew she wasn’t supposed to like the things she liked. What kind of message is that? Other moms on the discussion forum talked about their kids building cardboard box houses for their Barbies, cooking and feeding them pretend food, creating clothes out of paper and fabric scraps, building shoebox cars for them and basically just playing. They’re just dolls. They’re just toys. So I went to Value Village where second-hand Barbies are disturbingly sold in clear plastic bags:


photo credit: Jodi Green on Flickr

I sorted through them and found two clean and clothed and un-chewed ones to bring home. She couldn’t believe her luck.

Their names are Daisy and Lisa. They play Simon Says. They sleep in a little basket. They have unrealistic body proportions and permanent make up. Daisy can only walk on tip toe (or, presumably, in high-heeled shoes). Malli took Lisa for an airplane ride. We don’t need to watch Barbie movies or buy Barbie backpacks or get the lavender camper van. Just two new dolls and a happy little girl.

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13 responses to “never say never

  1. …maybe i’ll get her the lavender camper van 🙂 Wish I’d kept the Mennonite barbie dress and bonnet we bought for you in Elmira…

  2. I think you’re an awesome mom.

  3. I too had issues with Barbie (and yes I do work for Disney and did succumb to the princess thing) yet I still had bigger issues with Barbie for some reason. I think it was because of the bust/waistline/foot issues primarily. I found Chloe was the same as Akka. She seemed afraid to tell me she wanted them – something I realize now after finding out that her Dad’s house is chuck full of Barbie and all her “Dream Home” accessories. I had no idea she had them and apparently they have been in her life for years. She seemed socially well rounded to me the whole time she was secretly playing with the evil dolls at her other house. I guess they weren’t so evil after all. So now, I talk to her about her Barbie choices instead. She prefers Barbie the vet over Barbie the supermodel which makes me happier. She grew out of the princess phase unscathed, so I have hope for Barbie too.

  4. Same thing happened to me. My mom was anti-Barbie but a babysitter brought us her own collection–I think she had officially outgrown them but still kind of wanted to play with them. She led us through the creation of an elaborate multi-room house made out of cardboard boxes–carpeted with carpet scraps, furnished with couches made of cereal boxes, mirrors made of tin foil, etc. We had a complex and ever-changing storyline that went with the digs. We spent months on it and it was probably the most creative thing I ever did as a kid. We also died their hair with Kool-Aid. Later, in grade 7, I fondued Barbie in a pot of boiling oil as part of a presentation on medieval torture techniques.

  5. You ARE an awesome mom.

  6. so true about the double standard. i have boys and feel as you say, “weirdly proud” when they prefer princesses to superheroes. i was, on a rare occasion, putting lipstick on the other day and my son asked if he could wear make up too. without any hesitation, i said “of course” and helped him out, even putting toenail polish on him as per his request. if i had a girl however, i quite possibly would have refused, insisting she was beautiful the way she was and that she didn’t need any of that stuff. funny how our minds justify our actions, when we think we are trying to be equal and fair.

  7. When she arrived in my stocking I KNEW santa was real as there was no way in hell my mother could ever have purchased such a thing for me. It made her (replete with her pink briefcase and business suit) all the more wonderful, and never made me feel wanting.
    Can’t believe Malli is 3!
    xo
    c

  8. When she’s 14 you might wish that she would just want to play with barbies.

  9. The Lavender Camper Van would RULE – get ’em to go camping outside! Or swimming in puddles! You could also dig up a bag of fabric scraps and scotch tape so they can make some clothes… ahh Barbies – i spent many many hours playing Barbies and, I agree with Jenny, they were the source of some major creative play. At least you bought them used! The Vancouver VV wraps the same disturbing way. always naked.

  10. I played with Barbies and even had grow up Skipper – the one who, if you cranked her arm, grew and sprouted breasts – and I still managed to embrace feminism, find midwives to support a homebirth and nurse my kids far longer than I ever anticipated 🙂

    When R. was 4 she really wanted a Barbie, so I called my mom and said “Ok Nana B., this is _my_ gift to you. YOU get to buy R. her first Barbie”. Happiness for Nana and granddaughter.

    I couldn’t resist commenting on the Barbie movies though … they really aren’t as bad as you might think and I have to say, everyone in our house likes to sing the duet from Diamond Castle. The 3 Musketeers’ one has some girls kicking butt and the new one coming soon is about surfing. Not awesome but not terrible either 🙂

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