I had just settled my wild 4 year old in bed upstairs. On my way to the kitchen to sneak one of my just desserts, I got speared in the foot by Baywatch Barbie, who lay on my living room floor, her sunny breasts pointing toward the ceiling as if there were nothing more important in this world than reclining in a hot pink bikini with perfectly lined eyelids and a vacuous smile.
“You freaking ditz,” I whispered to her. “I’m sure you spent 3 hours today doing gymnastics and ballet and had a sensible salad for lunch. You didn’t sit in a staff meeting and get yelled at for not finishing a report you didn’t know about. I’m sure you wouldn’t sneak into the kitchen for a cup of diet hot chocolate with marshmallow fluff. Let’s see what you look like at 40, after having two kids and working for assholes for 15 years.”
Baywatch Barbie continued to smile. As I walked toward the kitchen, I came upon her cronies, blithely hanging out in my dining room —Twirling Ballerina Barbie, Pet Doctor Barbie (who managed to tight-ass her way into the profession without even having the word “veterinarian” in her vocabulary), and Sparkle Beach Barbie, who was wearing Cinderella Barbie’s ball gown and Pocahontas’ headband.
Earlier that evening, my daughter had had a tantrum because Skipper’s swimsuit wouldn’t fit on Barbie. I had to explain to her that although Skipper was unrealistically large-boobed, small waisted, and curvaceous for an 11- year-old, she was, nevertheless, less so than Barbie. I added that toy manufacturers created these dolls by pouring plastic into molds, kind of like the way we made jello dinosaurs. I further added that, in reality, women’s breasts do not stay perfectly parked in their swimsuits when they lie down. My daughter could care less about reality. She had the evidence of 11 Barbies, 2 Skippers, and 2 Kellys, to convince her that life is lived without a frown, a bulge, or a pimple.
Melting the marshmallow fluff in my hot chocolate, I concluded that my daughter’s Barbies needed to be transformed into better role models. I started, of course, with Breast Reduction surgery, choosing Sparkle Beach Barbie as my first patient and my best Henckel knife as my surgical tool. I carefully removed her white ball gown. I replaced her plastic cone breasts with soft, cozy cotton. I added some cotton padding to her painfully concave waist. Then I replaced the gown. She seemed more approachable with soft, tender boobs. With the extra padding on her waist, however, the ball gown was uncomfortably snug. So, did what any friend would do for a woman in that depressing situation—fed her some marshmallow fluff. When a bit of fluff got on her gown, I left it there. I figured, hell, why not. Whose formal wear stays clean at a party anyway?
I moved on to correct Baywatch Barbie. I gave her a cowlick on the side of her hair and some stretch marks above the bikini line. I painted pubic hairs sticking out of the legs of her swimsuit, and a hint of melanoma on her nose (no one should be that tan and get away with it). I started to feel bad about causing cancer in such a young girl, however, so I transformed the melanoma into pimples. She looked more intelligent with pimples. As a realistic touch, I caked on some pimple cream. I re-combed her hair so that it hung forward enough to give her a hint of self-loathing and molded her shoulders a bit so that she now had more of a self-conscious stance. She was now ready for a meaningful relationship with Ken.
It was time for Pet Doctor Barbie. I took her aside. “You’re a doctor, for godsakes, even if your patients are all plastic doggies and kitties who’ve never had so much as a flea bite. How can you walk around like that? Turquoise stiletto heels? Purple eyeshadow? Translucent, skin tight lab coat with no brassiere? Garish spandex pants? Do you think people respect you?” She didn’t flinch. I gave her a short and sensible haircut and had her borrow Ken’s wire-rimmed glasses. I also put one of Ken’s white shirts on under her lab coat. I fixed her a cup of strong coffee and said “Here. I know it’s not the healthiest drink in the world, but you’re going to need some caffeine in you, young lady, because we have a little studying to do.”
To be honest, Pet Doctor Barbie was the only one I had any faith in. She had a diploma on the wall, after all. True it was from Mattel University and written in squiggles. Still, I had a feeling that she, out of anyone, could make something of herself if she stopped relying on testosterone cases for validation. All that night I read to her, first Latin, then the social sciences, and finally, excerpts from my old Biology AP test preparation book. She held up extremely well, much better than I had, in fact.
The next morning, my daughter found me asleep on the living room floor with a Bio book in one hand and a plastic doggie leg in the other.
“Mommy, the doggie’s sick. Where’s Pet Doctor Barbie to fix him?” she cried.
“Oh, dear . . .” I hesitated.
“Wow. Cool” she shrieked as she lifted her made over Pet Doctor Barbie and moved it toward the mutilated doggie.
“Pet Doctor Barbie’s Mommy came to help. Now Barbie can go to the prom with Ken!”
“Mom’s are great, aren’t they?” I replied.