The Jillian turned six last week. I’m not sure how that happened, since I am still rocking baby weight, but there it is. She is six years old.
For her birthday, we threw the now-annual raging backyard bash, and of course there were gifts because I forgot (no, really – I actually forgot) to put “no gifts” on her invitations. I wrestled with the etiquette of that for a long time, too.
So, gifts happened. And I have to say, our friends and Jillian’s friends really came through with some awesome stuff. Crafty stuff and some Transformers and a metric ton of Hello Kitty things, an Easy-Bake Oven thingy (not an actual Easy-Bake oven, however. I fear those are going extinct for real now because where can you get a 100-watt bulb that’s not a CFL?) and the ever-popular gift cards.
I am a huge fan of gift cards, as it happens. Some folks say they show a lack of thought or creativity in gift-giving, but I say bring ’em on! I am totally cool with the gift cards, man!
With gift cards in hand, we went to our local Backwards Letter Toy Store (are there any others anymore?) and made our way directly to…
The Barbie Aisle.
I know. I am deeply conflicted about it. On the one hand, gender stereotypes blahblah body image blah blah unrealistic bling doo dee girly girly girly blerg. I get it. I took way more than my fair share of Womyn’s Studies courses in college and I know allllll about the whole “Barbie Thing.” On the other hand, I had what can only be described as a shit-ton of Barbie stuff when I was a kid. Including the mega-awesome Town House (with an elevator!!!) and I spent days and days dressing and undressing Barbie and her friends and coming up with ever more outlandish outfits for them. And I’m mostly okay. So IIIIII GETTTTT ITTTTTT.
I managed to avoid it for awhile, I must say. I know of little girls who were gnawing on their Barbies before they could even walk and that is something I worked diligently to AVOID. I wanted Jillian to be able to develop her creativity and all that jazz without this blonde mutant overshadowing it. For the most part, I think I succeeded.
This past week, I sent Jillian and What’s-His-Name down to the beach with What’s-His-Name’s brother and family. Longtime readers of my various blogs (especially the previous incarnation) will understand why I didn’t go along. Anyway, What’s-His-Name’s SIL gave Jillian a Cinderella Barbie, and the rest, as they say, is becoming history.
Cinderella and Barbie in the same toy? Might was well just shoot me in the face (which I’m sure is the dearest wish of some)!
“We can make this work,” I thought to myself. There are ways around it! With that in mind, we wandered up and down The Barbie Aisle, and I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with the offerings. There are lots of different dolls, but they all seem pretty specialized as to what they can wear or do. The plastic seems a little more flimsy than what my Barbies were made out of, and I’ll tell you right now that the Barbie dolls of today would never hold up to the abuse we inflicted on mine back in the day. Did you know Barbie was a high-jumper? Over electrical wires? She was.
The clothing selection is equally disappointing. Everything is very pretty, but the “fabrics” that the clothes are made from seem a little shoddy and cheap. THIS MAKES ME SAD because my Barbie’s clothes were really rad. I had Golden Dream Barbie who dressed like a Soul Train dancer but had hair like Raquel Welch. I had Crystal Barbie, who had the absolute best irridescent dress ever, and if I get married again I’d like to reproduce that. In fact, I might attempt that dress anyway and wear it everywhere, all the time.
The Barbies now seem so… lame. And I’m trying very hard to look at them as objectively as I can (if that’s even possible – can one look at Barbie objectively?) and I’m saddened by the fact that the quality is rather terrible. If you’re going to perpetuate gender stereotypes, at least do it with some attention to quality! Go big or go home!!
The thing is, Jillian doesn’t give a shit about any of that. She doesn’t care if Barbie’s body is impossible in real life. She doesn’t know or care about any of the controversy that has surrounded Her Blondeness over the years. She just sees a doll with outfits that she can change and mix and match and OMG SHOES and and and and and!!!! AND!! For a budding “fashion star,” this might be a good toy to have.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go braid Barbie’s hair.