“Let’s play Barbies.”
Every day, my best friend Debbie came over to play, her Barbie case in hand, and waited at the front door while I ran to get my Barbie case. (Hers was black vinyl, mine was red.) Then we’d find a spot – in the summer, somewhere outside – and settle down in the grass to the serious business of choosing outfits and accessories for Barbie and her best friend, Midge.
Ken usually stayed in his red swimming trunks. Who cared what he wore? Not us. Ken existed solely to drive Barbie around in her pink plastic sports car, or escort her out on a date, and…that was about it. I had only two outfits for him – trousers and a white shirt, and a tan overcoat.
When we got down to playing, it was all about Barbie.
The pony-tailed fashion model never lacked for outfits. There were tiny blue jeans and a red gingham shirt; sheath dresses right out of Mad Men, evening gowns, and a red velvet clutch lined in white satin. The shirts had tiny buttons and working zippers. There were accessories like a mink stole, a princess phone, an alarm clock, and fluffy bedroom slippers.
Back then, playing Barbies could be as simple – or as elaborate – as we wished. Sometimes it meant dragging out the Dream House, car, or camper (or all three), the pink plastic furniture, and Ken (if he was unavailable, GI Joe was an acceptable substitute).
I liked to style Barbie’s hair. Unfortunately, this meant whacking off her long brunette hair with a pair of dull kitchen scissors; and since I had no knowledge of cosmetology, the results were pretty awful. Instead of the pert, Megan Draper/Mad Men bob I’d pictured in my mind, Barbie ended up looking more like Uma Thurman in “Pulp Fiction.”
Then there were practical considerations. Before bendable Barbie came along, the dolls legs’ stuck straight out. This made seating difficult. Shoes didn’t stay on their tiny arched feet. (No wonder Barbie never had a matching pair of heels.) The dolls couldn’t stand unless you propped them against something. They were forever falling over in the middle of a conversation with Ken.
Poor Ken. Not only did he dress badly, his conversation really put the girls to sleep.
After dressing Barbie and Midge up in one of their outfits, we wedged them in the pink sports car and spun them off to shop. (There was no online shopping available back then – but Barbie and Midge didn’t seem to mind one bit.) Then it was home again to the Dream House to try on their new clothes and get ready for their dates with Ken and Allan.
If we were feeling really ambitious, Ken and Barbie would get married. I didn’t have the wedding dress, but Debbie did. With Barbie resplendent in her white satin gown and veil, and Ken kitted out in his trousers, white shirt, and overcoat, the wedding ceremony began. (Midge was always a bridesmaid, never a bride.)
GI Joe or Allan officiated. With the vows spoken in record time, it was off to the reception in the pink sports car to eat lots of plastic cake.
Those Barbies and their guys sure knew how to party.
I always imagined having a little girl of my own one day, handing my Barbie treasures over to her. But we ended up with two boys instead. So the girly fashion dolls, pink plastic furniture, and cute outfits were put away, replaced by GI Joes, Cobra Commander, and the Cobra Terror Drome (don’t ask).
But there’s still hope. Although my oldest granddaughter collects American Girls dolls, which are much, much bigger than Barbie (and much more expensive!), her little sister LOVES Barbie…