Happy 52nd Birthday Barbie!

  • March 09, 2011
  • Jenna Maxwell

You don't look a day over . . . eh . . . 20?

When I was a little girl I was absolutely obsessed with Barbie.  Yes, I am talking about the teenage fashion doll made famous by toy maker Mattel.  She was blonde, beautiful and had an extremely glamorous life.  Not to mention she also had lots of really cool clothes and costumes.    Barbie has been a doctor, an astronaut as well as a Racecar driver—just to name a few.  It almost seems absurd to think it that it would ever be enough just to play in that imaginary Barbie world.  I think on some level I wanted to actually be Barbie.  And what young girl wouldn’t want to be this girl that seemed to become anything she wanted to be and look simply gorgeous while doing it?  Barbie epitomizes so many young girls dreams, realistic or not.   As far as I was concerned she had the perfect life.   In fact, she had more than the perfect life—she had several perfect lives all being lived simultaneously.  I wanted to be her—yet as impossible as it was it was still always fun to delve into childhood dreams for a while and live Barbie’s life in my imagination.  No one ever told me that Barbie was a ridiculous fantasy—and that you could never be that perfect or live such a great and fantastic life.  Real life would actually turn out to be much more difficult, far less glamorous and certainly more mundane.  But no one would ever try to squelch the dreams of that 7-year old and back then I loved being a Barbie girl. 

Barbie has evolved quite a bit over her 52 years.   Barbie skipped infancy and childhood and was born as teenage beauty with a stunning figure any girl would envy yet no one could possibly emulate.  Back in the 60’s when I fancied myself a “Barbie girl” I only owned one bathing suit clad doll and later added one of her friends (Midge) to my collection.  Barbie outfits were sold separately and I do remember owning many and mixing and matching Barbie’s wardrobe extensively in various combinations.  My earliest thoughts toward a career in fashion were probably inspired by Barbie but back then it was just fun to imagine dressing her for every possible event.  This included of course her wedding and I’m sure I married Barbie off to Ken dozens of different times.   Nowadays if you want a new outfit for your Barbie you usually have to buy a new doll along with it.  It wasn’t always that way and I had a Barbie sanctioned clothing trunk that conveniently stored all her (very high end) fashions on tiny plastic hangers.  The matching and ridiculous little plastic shoes would go on her forever tippy toed feet--to stay on for all of a about a minute.  (I guess those high-heeled shoes hurt her feet as much as they do mine today!)  I recall my Barbie often wearing a hat as well—she dressed as if she were British Royalty—pretty good for a girl named Barbra Millicent Roberts that supposedly hailed from Willows, Wisconsin.  Barbie also had a thing for boas—not really sure why but my Barbie had several. 

Not much has ever been said about where Barbie got her education but obviously there must have been a period of intense study for her at some point to end up being both a teacher as well as a nurse.  Who knows how she ever managed to find the time to tool around town in her Pink Mustang convertible with her gorgeous and sexy boyfriend, Ken Carson. Ken never was allowed to drive Barbie’s car in my world—he rode in the passenger seat, probably one of the few guys in the world that wouldn’t mind riding shotgun in a flaming magenta Mustang.  Ken had male model good looks and was also always impeccably dressed (looking back on it he was a little too perfect), certainly like no man I’d ever known.   It didn’t help that I was the owner of a first edition “Malibu Ken” so he also had a deep orange-ish tan.  I’m sure this made him look that much better as he sat silently happy in the pink Mustang.   My childhood clearly was setting myself up for many disappointments later on in life.  In my 7-year old mind Ken was the perfect boyfriend because he sat in the car and didn’t utter a word while Barbie drove him around.  She talked endlessly about her various careers and shopping expeditions.   I don’t actually recall my Ken doll doing much of anything else—certainly not the endless torturous and childish acts akin to my two younger brothers.  Oh no—Ken was a much more civilized male being.

As shocking as it seems on March 9, Barbie will turn 52 years old.  She doesn’t look a day over 20 though and from what I can see her 36-18-33 measurements are still pretty much intact.   Even though she and Ken were rumored to have split up back in 2004, the lovebirds rekindled their romance in 2006 after Ken reportedly got a complete makeover.  (Hey, even I can’t make this stuff up!)  I wish them well—for as many times as I myself walked an ebullient Barbie bride (along with a perfunctory silent Ken) down the aisle, it seems only fitting that they should stay forever young standing by one another’s side.   So here’s to you, girl-- Happy Birthday Barbie!   To eternal youth and ridiculous perfection!  I’m also pretty darn sure your fifty-second birthday looks much better on you than it does on your old pink Mustang.   It’s good to know you’re still out there still living that perfect life that seems to elude the rest of us.

PS: For more history on Barbie, visit the official Mattel website.