Another month has appeared in my diary. More family birthdays to buy gifts for the grandchildren. It is the granddaughters and great-granddaughters this time, plus my great niece. Most of them are pre-schoolers or in the early stages of primary school. Adorable little ones, all with a passion for collecting Barbie dolls.
I set about the secret women’s business of purchasing Barbie dolls. Which Barbie to buy? The Barbies all look at me, forever Mattel with plastic smiles, hair immaculate, lovely long-legged icons, with pert boobs and tight butts. I wonder if I am perpetuating a stereotype, buying a Barbie for each girl.
I pass on Wedding Barbie. Some of the mothers of these little darlings are not married. Maybe because their parents did. Enough said. In the 21st century, anything goes. Personally, I gave up on Wedding Blues Barbie many years ago. Single appreciating the single life. Things could be worse, I could still be married!
Never mind. Disturbing news on my social media. Barbie has officially turned 60. Malibu Barbie with her bikini and bushy blond hairdo is now a faded, jaded housewife, somewhere in a lower-middle-class housing estate in middle America. This means that Ken Doll is 60 as well. Barbie’s little sister is now 57 years old, divorced three times, a recovering alcoholic, whose adult kids don’t talk to her any more.
Ken Doll is ageing in his own way. His black hair and craggy jawline are no more. His pate is bald, with a few stringy grey hairs combed over it. His six-pack and washboard stomach also turned into a bloated beer belly. His toenails are feral, so Barbie makes him wear socks and slippers.
Barbie and Ken in Malibu long ago had an unplanned pregnancy and a shotgun wedding. Ken was employed as postal worker, to support Barbie and their ensuing four children. Barbie and Ken don’t hear from their family much. The older two kids have moved to Nebraska and Canada, their third son is a long-haul interstate truck driver, always on the road. They lost their beloved youngest son, Barbie’s baby GI Joe, in some overseas armed conflict. Ken has still not worked through his issues what that was all for, as it broke Barbie’s heart.
There they sit, somewhere in an American lounge room. Ken had to retire early due to his ‘bad back’. He has let the garden go, barely mows the lawns these days. Barbie sits next him, both busy staring at the talking heads or endless football games on the television. The windows are permanently closed, the air-conditioning is on, the atmosphere outside is polluted. Barbie orders some more home delivery food.
Barbie is 60! Her ponytails are greasy and grey. Her toenails aren’t the best either, but she still wears her high heel sandals, even if she doesn’t shave her legs any more. Gravity had won for poor old Barbie. Her once pert boobs are sagging down, it is too hot to wear a bra. She has a double chin, and rolls of fat on her stomach wobble like her butt as she occasionally walks to the kitchen to grab some more snacks.
Both Ken and Barbie’s dental displays are a bit yellow and decayed, thanks to all those years of smoking and Coca-Cola. Their day room is a awash with overflowing ashtrays and nearly empty pizza boxes, the pizza crusts tempting stray rodents in the night. Barbie just cannot be bothered. She sits there, munching her carbs and calories. Ken eventually grunts, no kiss goodnight, as Barbie is turned off by his grossness. Ken’s prostate is playing up, so he struggles to pee, before shambling off to bed.
Barbie can now regain control of the TV remote. Nibbling on a box of chocolates, no sharing, she switches to The Real Housewives of …, wondering what she missed. Ken forgot her birthday, she only received one card from her kids.
I gaze at the stereotype Barbie dolls. What else to buy, but fairytale Barbies? They have sparkling frocks and plastic smiles, forever Mattel with a happy ending, we hope. There are no fork lift driver Barbies — like a young friend of mine — no women footballer Barbies. Still, girls just wanna have fun. I buy fairy Barbies, one for each. Gifts are for the giving, so we hope the adorables kick their own goals, and do not make too many mistakes. Happy birthday, girls!
The real Barbie has turned 60. Happy birthday, Barbie.