It was a big white, blue, green and black vinyl case. It had a silver clasp on the side and a black plastic handle on the top. This carrying case held one of the treasures of my childhood.
Opening the clasp on this vinyl case unlocked a world of play, a world of fashion, elegance, and beauty. It was a world of make believe but it taught us reality. Inside this case was a hook on which hung beautiful clothes on pink and purple hangers. There was a wide array of colorful shoes, scarves and handbags squished into the tiny drawers of that colorful vinyl case. But most of all, there were dolls. Dolls each with a blonde ponytail high atop her head. She was known only by one name – Barbie.
Say it, I know what you are thinking; Barbie is a poor image to portray to girls. If this is you, stop! Just stop it now! Barbie is a toy.
Yes, her body proportions maybe based on her creator’s thoughts of perfect body measurements, her skin may have the perfect complexion, and her hair a beautiful golden blonde, but Barbie is more than all those things. Barbie let us explore our childhood, use our imaginations, and dream of the future.
I never had had the Barbie Dream House, Jeep, or cruise ship. My friends and I would play for hours using our imaginations to create our own Barbie dream world. We learned how to match clothes to make the perfect outfit and we looked for shoes that got lost in the lime green shag carpeting of my bedroom. Barbie showed us that we could have a career when we grew up. We would pretend that Barbie was a teacher, a stewardess, or nurse. As kids we knew that Barbie was perfect but we also knew that she was only a toy.
Like mother, like Monkey, my little Monkey has her own collection of Barbie dolls. Barbie’s clothes have been updated throughout the years and her occupations have taught a new generation of little girls that they can become doctors, pilots, and attorneys, but one thing has stayed the same. Barbie teaches girls to use their imaginations. Even while Monkey and her friends play with the Dream Condo, the Corvette, and Barbie’s 747, they are using their imaginations and that’s what childhood is all about.
At fifty years old today, Barbie has not aged even a year. Her ability to stay looking youthful isn’t due to plastic surgery or Botox. We keep her looking young so that we can see our children enjoy the same toys that we played with when we were their age. As we watch them play, we can relive our memories of opening the big vinyl case and pulling out Barbie in her fancy white wedding dress with her iconic ponytail.
What will Barbie be like fifty years from now? Will she be teaching girls that they can become astronauts who fly to Mars? Will she driving a hovercraft? Maybe Barbie will live in an eco-friendly treehouse? Only time will tell but one thing is certain, fifty years from now there will still be children playing with Barbie dolls.
Happy birthday Barbie!