7 ways Barbie dolls could give girls something real to look forward to

     Toy company Mattel celebrated Barbie's 50th anniversary in 2009. This display of Barbie dolls from various years appeared at the Javits Center in New York City. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, file)

    Toy company Mattel celebrated Barbie's 50th anniversary in 2009. This display of Barbie dolls from various years appeared at the Javits Center in New York City. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, file)

    If you’re a girl and you’re a boomer, one thing is certain: You grew up playing with Barbies.

    Whether you lived in a mansion or in a trailer, you spent hours as a little girl playing with America’s favorite foot-tall plastic fashion plate. You dressed her up in stylish clothing (remember “Silken Flame?”), complete with tiny matching shoes that were always falling off and getting chewed up by the dog. You sent her off on dates with Ken. You staged pajama-clad heart-to-hearts with Barbie’s best pal, Midge.

    Barbie play was designed to prepare you for the wonderful world of romance and dating. And that future was always wholesome and bright. (There was no Unplanned Pregnancy Barbie or High-School Dropout Barbie.)

    Of course, the edgier kids could always improvise. I know one girl who, after seeing the movie “Gypsy,” had her Barbies perform strip-teases for her Kens.

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    (Okay, so it was me.)

    And I know of at least one future lesbian whose Barbie enjoyed marathon make-out sessions with Midge.

    Plus ça change …

    Barbie has been updated and modernized countless times since she first came on the scene in 1959. (Although her shoes still fall off and the dog still chews them up.) These days, Barbie doesn’t just don cool outfits and go out on dates. She has a career!

    Teacher Barbie! Pop Star Barbie! Airline Pilot Barbie! Brain Surgeon Barbie! Rabbi Barbie! Porn Star Barbie! (Okay, I made that last one up.)

    But one thing about Barbie never changes. Her age. While the little girls who once played with her have grown and matured, Barbie hasn’t aged a day.

    Now that we boomers are middle-aged, we’ve discovered that it’s time to play Barbie again, this time with our granddaughters.

    This gives me idea.

    I think we need a new kind of Barbie. A Barbie who, like us, has grown up. When we get down on the floor to play with our grandkids, instead of a fresh-faced know-nothing who is just starting out, why not introduce the kids to a Barbie that reflects both our lives and their future.

    Middle-aged Boomer Barbie!

    What better way to signal to our granddaughters that there’s more to life than what outfit you’ve got on? And that while teenage dating is great, so is being a mature woman with a rich, full life?

    This new line of AARP-aged Barbies could include:

    1. Happily Married Barbie

    Now that the kids are grown, Silver Fox Barbie and Slightly Balding Ken can re-focus on each other. Includes a Dream House with a paid-off mortgage, a zillion frequent-flyer miles, fat 401(k)s and matching Medicare cards.

    2. Happily Divorced Barbie

    After Barbie catches Ken and Midge making whoopee in the Dream House mudroom, help her kick him to the curb and jump back into the dating pool. Assist Barbie in crafting her Match.com profile, then dress her up in tiny Eileen Fisher outfits and send her out on exciting dates!

    3. Cougar Barbie

    She may be in her 50s, but she loves those younger dudes. (For her date, just borrow Ken from your regular Barbie. She won’t mind — he’ll come back to her a much better lover.)

    4. Never-Married Barbie

    Includes a Xanax prescription, a tiny plastic vibrator, three cats, a library card, and a tenured position at an Ivy League University.

    5. Billionaire Barbie

    Comes with four mansions, three ex-husbands, a private jet, a personal trainer, an unscrupulous investment adviser, and an offshore bank account.

    6. Out-and-Proud Barbie

    Help Barbie and Midge shoot their “It Gets Better Project” video! Includes a rainbow flag, a Massachusetts marriage license, matching white tuxes and a Provincetown time-share with a signed Alison Bechdel original in the foyer.

    Every Boomer Barbie is slightly shorter and plumper than Original Barbie, and comes with at least one ailment (bad knees, a bad back, cataracts, etc.) to kvetch about with the other Boomer Barbies. (The deluxe model has genuine hot flashes!) And all of them talk, saying things like:

    • “Where did I put my glasses?”

    • “Is it hot in here?”

    • “Can you repeat that?”

    • “At least I have my health!”

    The best Boomer Barbie of all, of course, will be …

    7. Grandma Barbie

    What better way to enjoy playing with your beloved granddaughter than for the two of you to help Grandma Barbie play with her beloved granddaughter?

    Grandma Barbie reads books, sings songs, plays pretend, makes cool snacks, and gives great hugs. If you’re lucky enough to be her granddaughter, you know there’s nobody Grandma Barbie loves more than you. And shouldn’t a cool grandma who loves you to bits be just as much fun for a little girl to play with as a vapid teenager who gets dressed up and goes out on dates?

    Not only that, but Grandma Barbie’s stylish yet sensible shoes will never fall off and get chewed up by the dog.

    This essay was previously published in Women’s Voices for Change.

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