Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waxing nostalgic over Barbie dolls

Terry, Chloe and I were reminiscing yesterday morning. We do that a lot these days. I guess when your kids are in high school, you start thinking fondly of the days when they were toddlers and said funny things and never asked for the keys to the car.

We were talking about the times when Elissa and Chloe would play Barbies together. We had one African-American doll, which Elissa very appropriately named Kesha. She did that innocently, aware of the fact that many of the kids she knew with darker skin had names her little white friends didn't. That always made me laugh.

Elissa, being the older sister, had the final say as to which Barbies were hers and which were assigned to Chloe. Kesha always ended up with Chloe. Nice job, racist Elissa! Elissa would claim (this is true) that her dolls had something called "obedience dust," and that when they sprinkled it on Chloe's dolls, they would have to do anything Elissa's dolls told them to do. That made me laugh, too.

Saturday mornings were the time when I would be pulled into playing Barbies. I didn't mind, though I quickly came to realize that "playing Barbies" consisted of 45 minutes of getting the Barbies dressed and maybe 5 minutes of actually playing with them. I was always Ken, of course, and Ken only had like three outfits. So I didn't need the full 45 minutes to get Ken dressed. I needed maybe 4 minutes.

In the remaining 41 minutes while Elissa and Chloe put their army of dolls into several of the 987 sparkly pink outfits we owned, I would usually lay on the floor and fall asleep. This was because I was working as a sports writer at the time, and on Friday nights I would be in the office until 2 a.m. The Barbie games would often start at 8 or 9 a.m. I was tired. The girls didn't like that. "Daddy, wake up!" they would yell as I opened one eye to look at the clock and figure out how much more Dressing Time was left.

Eventually, we would get to Actual Barbie Play Time. As I said, this never lasted very long, and that was for two very good reasons: (1) Dressing Time was a lot more fun for the girls, and (2) Under my influence, Actual Barbie Play Time always always ALWAYS ended quickly and violently.

The scenarios for Actual Barbie Play Time varied widely. Sometimes the dolls would be going to a wedding. Sometimes they would drive to the mall. Sometimes they would just walk around the Barbie Dream House in their mismatched outfits. One way or another, I would ensure that the whole thing resulted in death and gore.

In the mall scenario, for example, I would orchestrate a plane crash with explosions that would blow the Barbie Pink Corvette to smithereens just as they drove into the mall parking lot. Other times, I would start a fight among the Barbies that would escalate quickly and result in multiple fatal injuries. Whatever the situation, I would always steer it toward some terrible accident.

This was not only fun to do, it also sped up Actual Barbie Play Time. Even the all-powerful Barbie master Elissa could not resurrect a Barbie whose head had been sliced off by a rogue buzzsaw. The girls would laugh every time I did this. They would put on the appearance of objecting ("Daddy, noooooo!!!!"), but I knew they loved it. Plus, by this time, they were bored of Barbies, too. Like I said, the fun was in the dress-up.

So after about 5 minutes of death Barbie-style, it would be time to clean up. We would put the Barbies and their accessories into the cool plastic bins that Mommy had bought for them and go our separate ways. The girls would find something else to play and I would go off to tackle some chore or another. Then we'd do it again, sometimes later that same day and sometimes not until the following Saturday.

Looking back on it, as much fun as giving compound fractures to Tea Party Barbie was, I sort of wish I had dragged those games out a little more. The girls are in high school now and obviously not all that interested in Barbies any more. Even little Melanie is 11 years old and has moved on to other things. I'm not even sure where the Barbies are these days. Shoved under someone's bed, I guess, but still in their cool plastic bins.

Seriously, though, what I wouldn't give for one more chance to snap a plastic Barbie leg in half...

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