13 September 2005

I Kissed Barbie

A few weeks ago at the ear nose and throat doctor, Curious Girl got to select a toy from the Charity Guild's box of treats for kids. She was in ecstasy when she saw that the box was filled with Barbies (not real Barbies, just a cheap knockoff, but CG isn't yet savvy enough to know the difference). "I love you so much!!" she kept saying as we walked back to the car. She had a running conversation with Barbie all the way home: "Do you want to come to my house? You can meet my cats. You can see my bed." I'm thinking to myself "why the heck are they giving cheap Barbies away at the hospital?!" (although I know the answer is "because it makes little girls like mine so happy.")

For the past few nights, CG has wanted to sleep with Barbie. Last night, we did our bedtime routine: brush teeth, read a book or two, sing some songs, talk about what our favorite parts of the day were, fall asleep. CG holds up Barbie so she can see the book, and then puts Barbie down. I kiss CG tonight. "I want Barbie to have a kiss," she tells me. So Barbie gets a kiss, too, and then goes to the pillow to lay quietly and fall asleep. But no, Barbie is resisting bedtime. "Barbie has a question," Curious Girl tells me. "Can I come to your house sometime?" Barbie asks. "You're already here, Barbie. You live here with all of us." "OK," I hear, although I'm not sure whether it's Curious Girl or Barbie who has answered. And then they both fall asleep, seemingly secure in the knowledge that they were both home, where they belonged.

It's our first Barbie, and I realized, as I watched Barbie and CG share a pillow, that I've made my peace with Barbie. Driving home from the hospital, I was plotting ways to "lose" Barbie in the house. But over the past few weeks I've gotten intrigued with Barbie's position in the house. Curious Girl doesn't seem to notice her abnormal physical shape--in deed, CG has little idea (I think) of the cultural baggage around Barbie. Her Barbie is a good companion, who likes to read, who snuggles, who goes in and out of various play scenarios (and then gets left behind in a toybox for a few days while other toys or animals get more playtime). Her Barbie loves to talk; she's athletic. And as I watch Curious Girl invent Barbie, I'm learning to let her be, to let her choose her toys, choose her scripts, interpret her own world.

I was worried at first that we would be recreating the scenario Nancy White's song "Daughters of Feminists" describes, but I don't think so. Yes, CG likes to play with Barbie, but she also likes to climb up jungle gyms even if she's wearing a dress. She likes to wear velvet dresses and doesn't mind jumping in the mud. All in all, she's pretty flexible--and she reminds me to be flexible, too.


Nels said...

Probably better to learn these lessons now than when she's a teenager!

Phantom Scribbler said...

Ah, a friend of mine sent me that Nancy White album a couple of years ago -- for awhile I had a running joke on my blog about Leonard Cohen bringing my bags of tortilla chips in. (Ok, I was the only one who thought it was funny.)

You know, I think I'm going to have fewer issues with Barbie than I will with the army of Disney princesses. At least Barbie doesn't come with the stories already prepackaged to supplant your daughter's imagination.

susan said...

Better to learn everything now than later, Nels! thanks for stopping by. And hi Phantom! Comments are so energizing.

Curious Girl conflates the princesses and Barbie (although this morning she asked if we could watch a Cinderella movie, and I have no idea where that came from). I don't have a lot of tolerance for things that supply the narrative--except books, of course, which supply plenty of narrative but in a very different way.

I have never heard Nancy White's version of that song, btw--I know it from Cathy Fink and marcy Marx's fabulous album, Parents' Home Companion.

elswhere said...

I love that album! Our girl also adores Barbies. When my partner tried to explain that many parents don't like Barbies because they make girls think they should look like that, Mermaid Girl fixed her with an incredulous look and explained gently, "Mama, it's a *doll*."