Not having children has been both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because I don’t have to spend every weekend on a cold and damp soccer field. It is a curse because I don’t get to play with toys anymore. Luckily, I live on a friendly street where children abound and they are always willing to let me hang out with them. I love that I now have an excuse to buy giant colored sidewalk chalk, Lego, Nerf guns, super soaker water pistols and coloring books. My greatest joy, however, took place this last summer when my four-year-old neighbor, Zoe, discovered the glittery, high-fashion, permanently arched perfect feet for stiletto heels world of Barbie.
When I was growing up Barbie was a staple in my life. I had the first generation of Barbies who had classically tailored clothes, bouffant hairstyles, and painted on blue eye shadow. They were also paraplegics who could neither bend their arms or legs and moved with their limbs sticking straight out like they were goose-stepping German soldiers. They had evening dresses, cocktail dresses, bathing suits and sun dresses. Those were the only clothes needed because my Barbie didn’t have a career. She sat around the Dream House all day waiting for her boyfriend to come over and take her out on dates. Her entire day was spent finding just the right outfit to entice her clean-cut, all-American, handsome boyfriend, Ken. Ken’s wardrobe basically consisted of the male version of Barbie’s. He had a tuxedo, a bathing suit, a sailor suit (complete with hat) and a pair of shorts with a button down plaid shirt. A lot has changed in Barbie’s world since then.
Last week while babysitting for Zoe I pulled out Barbie and her sister/friend named Stacey. I refuse to call her Stacey and insist she be called Skipper. Zoe, on the other hand decided that since she didn’t like either name, she calls her Beyonce. Now, Zoe wanted to have Barbie and Skipper go on a hiking trip where a terrible accident awaits them. “I want Barbie to trip on her shoes and break her back, her leg and her arm,” Zoe said. I told Zoe I thought this was a gruesome hiking trip and suggested they get dressed up and go to a fancy party instead. “Okay, Zoe agreed, but then Barbie will trip on her long dress and break her back, her leg and her arm. She will have to go to the hospital and be operated on. And, she needs a boyfriend.” I don’t know where the boyfriend came from. He will either be her surgeon or someone she picked up on the ambulance ride over. Since I only bought the two dolls I didn’t have a spare Ken on hand. The quick thinker that I am I ran upstairs to see what kind of male dolls/action figures I might have in my office. I found Twilight’s Edward Cullen, Sawyer from Lost (complete with his raft) and a mint-condition, in the box Dexter in his leather apron holding a blood-dripping saw. I opted for Edward. When I returned with Edward, Zoe was unimpressed and complained that he was “too short.” That’s when I decided it was time to invest in a real Ken doll.
My search for Ken began on the Internet. As I pulled up image after image of Ken I was completely taken aback. Gone was the blonde plastic crew-cut and the tailored Don Draper suit. Today’s Ken looks more like the fifth member of a boy band who got kicked out because he was girlier than the others. He has that goofy Justin Bieber haircut; he’s wearing tight pants, a graphic t-shirt and – get this – gold high-top sneakers. If my brother’s GI-Joe had seen this version of Ken, he would have kicked his ass! I don’t know if this Ken is supposed to be Barbie’s boyfriend or her gay spa-day buddy who she gets her legs waxed with. I’m afraid that if I introduce this feminine Ken to Barbie, she’ll find a way to rip the plastic off my Dexter action figure box so she can get laid.
Needless to say, I ended up buying the wimpy, effeminate Ken from Amazon.com. I was too embarrassed to go into a real store and have someone I know see me purchase that creepy doll. I didn’t get any extra outfits for him, but I’m guessing that his clothing accessories consist of an Indian outfit, construction worker clothes, a police uniform, and a motorcycle jacket and chaps. Barbie better forget the fancy parties because I think she’ll be spending her evenings at bathhouses and the YMCA.