The warm summer sun cast my shadow long and lean. The birds were singing and the warm central Ohio breeze danced in my hair. There was white cake, with white, pink and green buttercream icing. Ice cream was melting and
Mom, Dad, my brother, aunts, uncles and cousins gathered around to celebrate my birthday.* I was turning legal. No, not to drive, not to vote, not to consume adult beverages, but to play with the most wonderful toy the world has ever known. For my third birthday, I received not one, but two Malibu Barbie dolls (and a Ken). They were tan with silky, long blond hair, and blue eyes. And that was the day my imagination was born.
About the time I turned five, Barbie and I met some kindred spirits — young ladies who lived across the street. The two sisters and I needed nothing but an afternoon, our gifts of gab and our thoughts to take our Barbies on adventures.
Barbie was introduced to the world by Ruth Handler and her husband Elliot. Elliot and his business partner Harold Matson formed Mattel. After a rocky start building picture frames and using scraps to make doll house furniture, they burst onto the scene with Barbie at the New York Toy Fair in 1959. Though not an immediate hit, Mattel invested a lot of money in advertising during The Mickey Mouse Club show when it debuted, and before long Barbie was on a lot of little girls’ Christmas lists.
Barbie would have more than 200 careers (and I hope still counting) over her 60 years. She transcends race, color, creed and the boundaries that separate grownups. But before she was a Presidential candidate, a veterinarian or a surgeon, in my head she was a movie star, a dancer, a lawyer and other careers as she acted out what was on my mind. She was single and dating, married and in love with Ken. But through the years, MY Barbie was never about being a subservient wifey; Ken was merely another one of her accessories.
Over the decades, she has often been controversial, but not for me. Barbie was the best vehicle I had for exploring my thoughts and dreams, and an ice breaker for a shy kid who liked to keep to herself. On March 9, 2019, I wish Barbie a happy 60th birthday. Without you, my friend, I would not be the woman I am today. Strong, vibrant women in my circles of friendship contribute much of their success to you — 111/2 inches of plastic with a killer wardrobe and the flexibility to pursue any career imaginable. I encourage young ladies of all backgrounds to give and receive Barbie — use her to cultivate creativity and grow aspirations.
*OK, it was really “our” birthday, my brother and I were born on the same day, ten years apart. He’s older.