That was my daughter’s response during a conversation about how I used to spend my summer when I was her age, “back in the olden days.” When I listed Barbies as a favorite activity of mine, she couldn’t believe it had still been in my repertoire of play at the ripe and clearly mature age of 10.
Then again, I didn’t tell her how I played Barbies….
Saturday mornings were strictly reserved for three things at my house when I was growing up: Cereal. Cartoons. And Barbies. In that order. After stuffing our bellies with Rice Krispies and catching up with the Muppet Babies and Snorks, my sister and I would retreat to our room for hours of play with America’s beloved doll.
But there is something I feel the need to confess after so many years: My Barbie was a floozy.
That’s right. What is considered by most as an innocent, playful pastime for little girls everywhere, I twisted into my own soap opera, complete with torrid love scenes. Or in other words, my Barbie was gettin’ it on. Bow-chicka-wow-wow.
My Barbie had a pink canopy bed. And she put it to good use—especially since I had scored a hottie Malibu Ken, who had appropriately placed tan lines. I kid you not. My sister, however, couldn’t be as authentic when her Barbie and Ken gave way to the throes of passion, as her Ken, of the short-lived Heart Family series, had permanent plastic underwear. She openly lamented that fact many a time.
In order to add a new dimension to our play, we always pretended Barbie and Ken were either real-life people or characters from shows we liked. For instance, I went through a phase where my Barbie and Ken were Eden and Cruz from the old soap opera Santa Barbara, while my sister often pretended her Ken was Ricky Schroder or Joey McIntyre. But more often than not, my Barbie was cast as the role of myself, and Ken was whoever I was crushing on hard at the moment. Which brings up another thing I’m not proud to admit: My Barbie was a two-timer.
At the birth of my Monkees fandom around the age of 9, when reruns of their show played every day after school, I went through some seriously conflicted feelings about which Monkee would be my boyfriend. Initially, I declared my heart belonged to Davy Jones, because that’s who I thought I was supposed to like. He was the official heartthrob after all, and I dug his accent. But it felt forced from the get-go. Especially since my eyes would inevitably fall longingly upon Micky Dolenz. But Micky was supposed to be the funny one, not the one you married. My head was telling me one thing; my heart was telling me another. I was a prepubescent in a fictional love triangle, and it was every bit as emotionally exhausting as Joey Potter made it out to be when she had to choose between Dawson and Pacey on Dawson’s Creek.
Enter Barbie relationship therapy. I may have used my Barbie to act out these feelings of loving two men at the same time. Thankfully, someone gave my sister Rodeo Ken one year, whom we rarely cast as any leading man because of his unfortunate ball-and-socket midsection that caused his top half to flail back and forth, making him look like one of the A Night at the Roxbury guys.
So I had the resources to pull this off: two Kens. And more than once, Barbie was officially dating Davy but was mysteriously drawn to Micky. Inappropriate things may have transpired. I’m not proud of it. I finally did the right thing and just declared my undying love for Micky, and I’m happy to say that I (and my Barbie) were faithful from that moment on. I think Davy took it pretty hard.
Now before you start faulting my parents for my make-believe sexual indiscretions, I want you to leave them out of this. It wasn’t their fault. Well, OK. Maybe it was a little bit my mom’s fault for letting us watch her soap operas from the time we were pretty much born. But Mom and Dad did an A-OK job of raising us. Because while my Barbie was a bit of a promiscuous jezebel, I was anything but. I was practically a nun in real life…except for the whole making Barbie and Ken have sex thing. And having Barbie cheat on Davy Jones. I’m pretty sure nuns don’t do that kind of stuff. While I was obviously curious about sex, which was natural, I was also raised to know that I didn’t have to act on every animal desire I had. So poor Barbie had to act on them all for me. Or, lucky Barbie. Depending on how you look at it.
So yes, despite my daughter’s disbelief, I did still play with Barbies when I was 10 years old. And now that I think of it, I might just be glad that she doesn’t.