When I was a little girl, I played with Barbie dolls like most other little girls. My mom was (is) really into organization so my Barbies had some method to their madness. Shoes were in a little Rubbermaid container with a blue lid. Clothes were in a larger Rubbermaid container with a pink lid. I must have lost the pink lid, because I remember that the clothes were always brimming over the top of their box and spilling out the sides. Sorry, Mom.
Unwittingly, this organizational obsession weaseled it’s way into my gene pool and the way I played Barbies was affected. After sliding all my Barbie boxes out of the shelves in my closet organizer, I distinctly remember that it was hours before we actually got to playing Barbies. We’d open the tubs and survey the scene. Sometimes the dolls would have clothes on, but none of their outfits were right, so we spent dozens of minutes undressing them in an orderly fashion. All the while we were lining them up for the ceremonial choosing of the dolls.
I would choose, then Lauren would choose, then I would choose, then Lauren would choose. Back and forth until there were no Barbies left. It was like a fantasy draft, now that I think about it. Ken was always the difficult choice, too. You didn’t want to pick him first, because then you’d miss out on the really pretty Barbies, the one’s with such amazing hair and subtly permanent makeup. But you couldn’t wait too long, because Ken held so much power over the ensuing plot of Barbies. Ken was responsible for the asking out and the dumping of Barbies and, inevitably, my pretty Barbies would be on the brunt end of those choices if I didn’t choose Ken. Ken was a tough draft pick.
So the Barbies were chosen, mostly naked, and we had to prepare the plot. We’d carve out homes for them underneath dresser drawers and behind bookcases. We’d lay out blankets and towels and pretend they were the beach or the gym. While we spent hours dressing each girl, from her French braided hair to her missing red shoe, we would narrate where she was and how she felt and which other dolls she was currently in a fight with.
Typically, by the time all the dressing and the scene-setting was finished, Mom would call up the stairs, Girls, dinner! And we would lay everything exactly right and promise to come back and play after dinner. If you think about it, we hadn’t actually played yet. We had only set up to play, even though Lauren had been over since noon.
I laugh to think of how many times dinner led to other things and the fate of the Barbies was to fall back in the box that evening, never to live out the elaborate plans we’d narrated for them in their perfect outfits. We bought the dolls just to dress and plan for them, never to actually play with them.
And I can’t help but think–no longer a little girl–how much do I dress and plan, never to actually act and play?