On March 9th Barbie turned fifty years old. A Brazilian artist did a rendition of what Barbie would look like today if she had aged normally. As many of you know, Barbie has been frozen in time since 1959. She has taken on many careers, new looks, makeovers, and changed friends, but the doll has always remained young and oh so fit.
My first Barbie doll was bought at Oud's Drugstore in Orofino, Idaho one summer in the early sixties. Mine came in the signature box and she was a blonde like me. I remember thinking she looked like she was in her thirties even back then. That makeup was pretty exotic. I remember the glamourous black nightclub dress ensemble I had. My Grandma West also made quite a collection of clothes for my Barbie. I got a carrying case to hold my growing collection of Barbie stuff.
Ken Carson came on the scene in our house a few years later. I had the original Ken that had hair that tended to rub off so he looked bald in the wrong places early on. The original Ken wasn't buffed up... just a perfect guy in swim trunks. I don't think Ken liked it when some girls grabbed their brothers' GI Joes to hang out with Barbie. That was just a bit too much for Ken. I learned last week that Barbie and Ken broke up in 2004 after 43 years together, but reunited in 2006.
Now when Midge Hadley joined the crew in 1963 she was the epitome of cool. Her hair flipped,she wore a two piece bathing suit and she looked like a natural California girl with freckles and a tan. I had the plain Midge, not the one that came out later with movable legs. Just look at her above on the box. She looks so sporty compared to her fashion designer friend. I always liked Midge just a bit better. I wanted my name to be Midge and I wanted my hair to flip. I wonder what Barbie and Midge had in common?
Another Barbie called Bubble Cut Barbie joined the party a bit later. Mine had beautiful auburn hair. I can't imagine why I would have been interested in a doll that was a fashion designer at such an early age, but I loved my Barbie group of friends. I never even saw women wear some of the clothes I wanted for my Barbie. What was the attraction?
I never had Skipper or Midge's boyfriend Allan. In 1968 I didn't get her African American friend Christie or Skipper's friend Scooter. My Barbie didn't have a dream house or drive a sports car. She got along fine with her handmade clothes, and the many adventures she had in the upstairs landing at my house. Ken survived being partly bald.
I also spent hours playing the "Barbie- Queen of the Prom Game". Would she become class president? Would she go steady? Would Ken always be her date to the prom or would it be redheaded Poindexter, athletic Bob, or intellectual Tom? Personally Ken was always a bit "too perfect" for me. I was a Tom girl! He probably enjoyed poetry also. Would she earn enough money to buy the perfect dress? My goodness, it was a lot to be concerned about around the kitchen table on a summer afternoon in the mid-sixties.
Barbie took on so many careers it was hard to keep up. I don't think my Barbies moved on to being astronauts, gold medal winners, or members of the army. In 1992 Barbie ran for president, then discovered Share-a-Smile Becky's hot pink wheelchair in 1997. Also, in 1997 the most popular doll that year was Harley-Davidson Barbie! She became Native American, wore cowboy chic, and also began to talk.
It was hard enough for me to keep up with the small group of friends my Barbies had. I liked the simpler times when Barbie was only a fashion designer and didn't have to decide whether to be a Malibu Barbie or Hispanic. Looking at the natural Barbie above I think she looks great at fifty. I like the natural gray hair and I think she looks like an old soul. How could she not be wiser? She has done almost everything on the planet and been everyone to everybody for fifty years. Come to think of it... she looks great! Maybe now Barbie can be a writer, a grandmother, a blogger, or a Red Hat Lady. Maybe she can be reunited with Tom on Facebook.
My Barbies were passed down to my sister and then passed down to her daughters and I believe they are resting in the basement of Mom's house in their carrying case. I may have to go get reacquainted the next time I go home. Happy Birthday Barbara Millicent Roberts and thanks for the memories.
click to make larger to check out the many faces of Barbie