Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Here She is, the Malibu Barbie of my Childhood

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was seven, and although I don't remember, my belief in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy must have taken a strong hit then too. I vaguely remember that I had more difficulty believing in a magical bunny that I did in magical human-like beings. Unfortunately I believed in Barbie for a much longer period. I should clarify that I believed I would grow up to look like Barbie. This is quite a ridiculous idea really, since I knew that Barbie was not my mother. Still, in those days (back when the dinosaurs still roamed) nobody was thinking about Barbie's unrealistic proportions, and Barbie was all about looking gorgeous. My Barbies flaunted the long, straight, bangless hairstyle of the times, had bell bottom pants and halter tops.

I viewed Barbie's figure as an ideal, but not impossible, adult female figure and saw no reason why I wouldn't grow to look like that too. It never occurred to me to look at my mother for a more realistic view of what my future physical self would more likely resemble. I am astonished to recall that in later years, when I had outgrown playing with Barbies, I was still confidant and arrogant about my expectations. From about the age of thirteen I projected all of my hopes and dreams forward to the age of twenty one. This was the age at which I would achieve perfection. I lacked the ability to see myself beyond that point, but my delusions of beauty remained for several more years before they were shattered.

I had a close relationship with my mum and still do. I spent much time just hanging around her and discussing life, usually in the kitchen but sometimes in her bedroom while she dressed. Although my family did not appear before each other naked, underwear clad parents were a common sight for me. With shame I clearly recall appraising my mother's body and believing that she hadn't done enough to keep her figure. Surely my breasts would never hang, my stomach never pucker, I would know better and remain thin when I was older. If I could go back in time and smack that little me-brat I would. Although I never voiced any of these thoughts. It must be stated with no more delay that my mother has always looked fantastic. I was too stupid to know it then and my critical teenaged brain, simmering in its hormonal stew, didn't have the life experiences to put things into perspective.

While I'm not identical to my mother, and I'm older now that she was in those days I viewed her so critically, I certainly have a body that shows the signs of bearing a child and living a life of forty two years. I weigh more than I should, but at least I am tall enough to carry it off somewhat. I am still critical but aim my judgements at myself now, something I have to work constantly to avoid. I have more than made up for any unkind thoughts I had about my mother, with all of the unkind thoughts I've had about myself. What, if anything, does playing with Barbies contribute to distorted body images and unreal expectations? I don't know. If I'd had a daughter would I have accepted her desire for a Barbie, or worse, those deformed Bratz things? I can only say that I would be inclined to discuss body image with my daughter from an early age, I would introduce her to yoga and being at home in her body whatever it looks like. And I would never, ever let her in my bedroom while I was changing.

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