First It’s Barbie, Next it Will Be Bobby Socks — and BOYS!
By Robin Jovanovich
When I was a girl, I thought like a girl and I wanted a Barbie. But my mother resisted all my fervent appeals, which started at about age 6, on the grounds that Barbie was not a “good girl doll”. I was pretty precocious, but I didn’t figure out what my mother meant until I was about 30.
The result was that I was given Ginny dolls and Madame Alexander dolls, all of which I stopped playing with earlier than most girls, because they didn’t get to wear sultry spring-break outfits, drive hot cruisers, or live in pink dream homes — Ginny, because she was a pint-sized Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm type, and Madame A, because she was old school and proper and way too tall.
Anyway, it all turned out for the best. I turned my attention wholly to books — other than the boy crazy period, which fortunately didn’t start for another seven years — and have never regretted that decision.
In recent weeks I’ve had cause to turn my attention to my granddaughter who became a girl the very instant she turned 2. Clara likes her hair braided and has never turned her nose up at a Florence Eiseman velvet party dress. I was debating what to get her for her birthday when my daughter-in-law informed me that Clara really liked Barbie. BARBIE, I bellowed. Not my granddaughter. She was pure, innocent, still babbling, actually, and would never want one of those wicked wenches — nor Ken. I realized that was an idle remark because what girl, certainly not my granddaughter, would waste her time with that one-dimensional, poor excuse for a Tab Hunter.
So, I pouted and drove to Miller’s toy store in Mamaroneck. I went straight to the doll shelves. A friendly young salesperson asked if I needed any help. “Help is exactly what I need,” I explained. “My granddaughter who is just a baby, well she was up until a few months ago, seems to have developed an unhealthy interest in dolls — Grownup dolls.” The salesperson may have felt store insecurity at that point or just felt sorry for this grandmother, who still had a skip in her step but could have just passed through a time machine in Mars. But she collected herself and replied, “Well, Ma’am, girls are liking Barbie earlier and earlier.” (This young woman was kind-hearted, but someone needs to inform her and the rest of the sales and service world that the last thing a woman on Medicare wants to be called is “Ma’am”!)
Rather than calling the manager, she turned brightly to me and gave me some news I could use: Barbie has a younger sister, Chelsea. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was another means of infiltrating the minds of young Americans to get Hillary elected. And whether the Ruskies would try to prevent this retail-political plot and would the Amerikanskies open an investigation, which would go on and on…
Putting politics aside for the moment, I perused all the Chelsea accessories I could get for Clara over the years, along with stacks of books, of course. Chelsea was just like my Ginny doll, fresh-faced, sunny disposition, showed up to picnics in her straw hat, headed directly to the teeter-totter. No hankering for an inappropriate wardrobe and unlikely to make bad choices for eons.
So, I asked for everything to be wrapped.
When the day of Clara’s birthday party arrived, I was suddenly a little anxious about the appropriateness of my gift. Maybe I should have waited until she was out of diapers. I hoped that Mattel had the good sense not to make ripped jeans for Chelsea.
Things were tumbling along nicely at the party at Kids U in Port Chester, which is a big improvement over the Chuck E. Cheese parties of old, redolent with the aroma of old and never good pizza.
Before I knew it, it was time for the cake. Drum roll. And what to my wondrous 2-year-old’s eyes did appear? Mounds of hot pink and white butter cream inside of which was a Barbie, a strapless Barbie who looked like she was wearing eyeliner and ready for more than heavy petting.
I didn’t reach for the smelling salts, which was good because I might have missed seeing Clara rush straight over and pull the voluptuous, vice-layered mound toward her. “Don’t feel that force just yet!” I wanted to warn her. “You’ve still got a few good years left. Barbie’s a bubblehead, always was, and if you hang around bubbleheads you’ll be held back or having your mouth washed out with soap or headed down the Road to Detention!”
But when a girl knows where she’s going, you sometimes have to sit back and wait until she comes racing over to you and presses her warm hands on yours and gently says, “Mimi, tell me a story.”