I didn’t have many Barbies growing up. The ones I did have were gifts from friends at birthday parties because my mother was never especially keen on Barbie’s exaggerated, oversexed proportions (part of my parents larger plan to do their darndest to teach me to fill my head more than my closet). As a mother of all boys, (none of whom have recieved them as birthday gifts) I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve had much time with Barbie. A few months ago, while chatting with a friend and picked up two of the Barbies, bereft of clothing, which had been strewn across the floor by her house full of daughters. I eyed the two denuded Barbies. One was traditional Barbie, the Barbie of my youth, and the second was Barbie plus… Barbie plus Dr. 90210 that is.
Pairing the two for closer inspection it was obvious Barbie plus had been nipped and augmented at every curve from her decidedly Brazilian derriere to her obviously silicone “amendments”. Her calves and ankles were skinnier, her brows lifted. Normal Barbie has always been freakishly disproportionate, but this doll had no resemblance to normal womanly features. No supple, subtle gracious curves like those of the nude marble Greek sculptures I used to draw in my art musuem classes, simply an awkward conglomeration of classically fake “plastic surgery” features. Don’t get me wrong plastic surgeons can do amazing things. I have witnessed first hand over 1000 reconstructive plastics procedures on medical missions. I’ve sat with a 17 year old boy as he looked in a mirror for the first time following a cleft lip repair and cried with relief because he said someone would marry him now. I’ve seen it at it’s height of transformativeness and it excessive lows of shallow vanity.
Over vacation, I watched an old Sinatra flick, Pal Joey, with my sister. I stared at the curvaceous women, a stark reminder of where we’ve come in our lean idealization of the female form, no more glory for the Rubens-esque. My sister then commented on her recent observance of Linda Carter’s very womanly Wonder Woman physique. Wow, my legs would’ve fit right in, I could’ve made it in a late 50’s nightclub or better yet as a lassoing superheroine. Still today as a decidely confident woman, I feel some apologetic twinges of self consciousness as I peel down at the beach.