Joan Dorsey
Contributing columnist
I was reading the other day and noticed a story about making Barbie dolls more diverse in looks and body types. They want little girls to be able to relate to their companion toy. I guess they need to see themselves in their dolls.
I was trying to remember when I got my first Barbie. It wasn’t the year she came out which was 1959. They were quite pricey those early years and I was a five year old with a tendency to remove doll heads and cut hair.
My first Barbie, which I am going to figure, was a Christmas present, came into my possession several years later. She was a beautiful red head with a pony tail. She wore the black and white swimsuit and of course her high heel shoes. It was love at first sight. She was my playmate and companion for years to come. My mother who was a fantastic seamstress hated making doll clothes. She later found a lady in Wellsville who enjoyed the task so my gal Barbie always looked, well glamorous.
About two years after Barbie made her entrance, Mattel introduced her boyfriend Ken. Ken was also a little pricey, but my sister in California knew I needed him desperately so she sent a doll she found in a store out there. He wasn’t Ken, his name was Andy and I always felt the California version was just a little better than what we had here.
I went on to acquire Midge, several Barbie wanna be’s and her little sister Skipper. There were suitcases and cars and canopy beds and wedding dresses. I am not sure how many times she and Andy were married, but they never divorced. My Barbie was a nightclub singer in her black satin dress and ran a ranch with dogs and horses. Busy gal she was.
I never in all that time looked at her and thought we were the same. I never wanted her shape or her car or her clothes. Maybe I played with her wrong? I knew I wouldn’t grow up to wear clothes with boa feathers or high heels with swimsuits.
I do wonder however, if a doll who resembled me somewhat, would have lived a more Kansas lifestyle. If I would have imagined her home here, making supper for Andy and taking her little sister and friends to the Jo Co Fair and to Gardner Lake for a swim. As it was there were no limits on what she would do and accomplish. My imagination was unstoppable.
When my daughter was at a responsible age I bought her a Barbie doll. She was never as fascinated by Barbie as I was. Sometimes her fashion dolls ended up switching heads with Teenage Mutant Turtles or other toy box occupants. I do remember getting out my Barbie’s and allowing her to play with my old worn toys. She was amazed at the clothes and accessories I had kept all these years. When she was done we put these dolls away in their custom suitcase and placed them back in the cupboard where they were kept.
Those dolls are still in their case safely kept for another generation some day. I never grew up wanting to look like Barbie. Never wanted her job as a nightclub singer. I did want to live on a farm or a ranch, but was happy where my life took me. I wasn’t a little girl who needed a doll to make her feel comfortable. We didn’t need to look alike. I do hope the girls who get these diverse dolls love them as much as I loved mine. I hope they become scientists and mathematicians and maybe even professional musicians or singers.
I hope above all they continue to make Barbie and her friends. I think she has a place in little girl’s hearts and closets for years to come.