Love Her or Leave Her? Barbie

Barbie Princess Tea Party Barbie Doll

Princess Tea Party Barbie Doll, from Amazon, $12

Last week I was conflicted over leggings.… They’re so comfortable! But when I wear them I feel like my thighs deserve their own Brooklyn zip code.

This week, I’m thinking toys — specifically Ken’s significant other.

I loved playing with Barbies when I was a little girl — the endless clothes changes and hairstyles, the elaborate stories about the glamorous events my dolls were attending. And I don’t think it did any lasting psychological damage. (The comment about my thighs was for fun — I DO have big thighs, but I have a pretty realistic body image and no self-loathing issues. I’d like to be thinner, yes, but that’s about it.)

Even though my memories of Barbie are oh-so-fond, I’ve been reluctant to get Magnolia one — she’s seen them in stores, she’s watched some of the Barbie movies (which have a surprisingly “girl power” message), and she’s said more than once she wanted one. We debated it for Christmas, but decided she was too young. She’s already into princesses and sparkly things and stuff she deems “pretty” — I figured why further the girlie obsessions by bringing home Barbie?

Also, cliche, but I don’t want her growing up too fast — she’s only four! I’ve seen other kids her age and younger at the playground clutching a Barbie, but I secretly turned up my nose. Dolls are one thing, but why give a kid so young a woman in miniature to play with? I don’t want M. fast-forwarding to a fixation on mature looks and clothing, or the idea that she wants to grow up in a hurry because older = better.

And I certainly don’t want her to see Barbie as the physical ideal for a woman.

Thus my *previously* anti-Barbie stance — at least at this age.

Then we went to Texas, and M. unearthed some of my old Barbies from my childhood toy box. The girls looked like they’d suffered in the heat of a Texas attic for 30+ years, for sure — Superstar Barbie had some unattractive melted hair and Malibu Barbie was shy a leg — but M. was DELIGHTED to have found them. She was instantly engaged in play. Quiet, independent play. For longer than 10 minutes.

This is a draw for the mommies. Potent stuff.

Later in the trip, we headed to Wal-Mart to get each of the kids something new to play with during the long car ride to the great-grandparents’ house and the trip home on the plane. She’d been so happy with mine that we caved and got a Barbie for M., who could hardly believe her good fortune.

But we went with the tamest one we could find, the Princess Tea Party Barbie Doll above. No slutty clothes, no trashy glitter and glitz, no red carpet accessories — she just came with a tiny tea set.

M. has nicknamed her “Barba,” worries that she’ll get lonely or scared if left in a room without a human, and sleeps with her nightly. It doesn’t seem so awful, but I don’t know….

What do you think? Harmless toy or the root of all evil?

Barbie: Love her or leave her?

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2 Responses to “Love Her or Leave Her? Barbie”


  1. 1 Suzanne Franchetti March 10, 2011 at 12:46 am

    I’m with you! But, we received some hand-me-down Barbies and faux-Barbies as gifts. My girls seem more enthralled with combing the hair than anything else, and I don’t actively enourage play with the dolls.

    On a related note, my girls are now playing “wedding” after watching one-too-many Disney princess movies. Hmmmm….

  2. 2 Melisa March 10, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Yes, getting the hair just right seems to be part of the fun — and funny about the princess movie thing! M. hasn’t started playing wedding, but she definitely has princess aspirations.

    And J. and M. both seem confounded by the idea that they can’t marry EACH OTHER….


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