Recently, my husband Jeff and I spent an afternoon at Disneyland with our five-year-old son and two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
While perusing one of the theme park's many gift shops, we came across a Barbie collection. A lovely family of four, complete with Barbie, Ken, and two children, all dressed in full Disney memorabilia. They each had the infamous "Mouse Ears" hats, Mickey Mouse jackets, and various other theme-parkish little goodies to complete the set.
My husband let out a low whistle as he glanced at the price tag. "Wow. That's more than the price of a ticket," he noted out loud.
I laughed. "Not to mention the farce. As if Barbie could ever have a FAMILY." I shook my head.
Jeff looked at me with a sideways glance that spoke a thousand words, but the most obvious was his bewilderment that I seemed to have forgotten Barbie was a fictional character.
Nevertheless, he humored me. "Why couldn't she have a family? She's married to Ken, isn't she?" "Ha!" I snorted. "Only about fifty times over, each time wearing a different gown." I picked up the box that held Barbie and her "family" in their Disney gear. "This is her stage family."
Jeff ultimately spoke his thoughts: "She's a doll, Suzie."
"Yeah... I know... " My voice trailed off as I watched my husband take a fragile Goofy mug out of the hands of my daughter, who was then content to hike up her dress, plop down on the floor, and breastfeed her stuffed Mickey doll.
While Jeff and my son went through the collection of Tarzan memorabilia, I set the Barbie box back on the shelf, realizing that, in her plastic and Spandex lifetime, Barbie had surely been around a time or two.
But she has never been a Mom.
Barbie has been a nurse, a teacher, a stewardess and a tour guide. She has spent her summers at the beach and her winters on the slopes. She drives a pink convertible to the gym where she works out in Spandex with plastic weights. She has a bicycle. She has been to Hawaii, Japan, London and China, just to mention a few places, because she has her own airplane. She sang at the Grand Ol' Opry. She premiers a new Christmas gown every year. She dances, roller skates and skateboards with her friends and plays with her little sister at the park. She has a beach house. She is forty years old, but doesn't look a day over eighteen. She loves Elvis and Frank Sinatra. She's a sports fanatic, having modeled outfits for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and NASCAR. She offers her fans a Barbie line of clothing, makeup, jewelry and computer software. For forty years, she has been a representative of the "ideal" woman.
But she has never been a mother.
There is an "Autumn Glory" Barbie, but there is no "First Trimester" Barbie. "First Trimester" Barbie would be the first Barbie who didn't sport the plastic Mona Lisa smile that is characteristic of every Barbie ever created. Rather, her pink cheeks would be a little green, her mouth curved in a downward slope. Her wardrobe would be limited to a terry cloth bathrobe. Her jeweled accessories nonexistent, she would instead complete the ensemble with a pair of nausea-combatting wrist bands, a pink plastic bucket (in case she couldn't make it to the bathroom in time), a teeny box of saltine crackers and a small bottle of ginger ale.
There is a "Millennium Princess" Barbie, but there is not an eight months pregnant "I Can't Fit Into My Evening Gowns Anymore" Barbie, complete with stretchy maternity pants, shoes that don't fit her swollen feet and a scale with its dial forever set to 180 pounds. In one hand, she would hold a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, in the other hand a spoon.
Instead of another "Evening Sophistication" Barbie, it might be interesting to see a "Stages of Labor" Barbie. Of course, this would be a collector's edition, due to it being a once-in-a-lifetime event (Barbie probably wouldn't go through pregnancy, labor and delivery again), and due to the volume of the collection's contents. Ken would be included in this set. Inside the collection box (which doubles as the hospital room), you would find "Doctor" Ken (not to be confused with "Husband" Ken), a hospital bed and a fetal monitor, "Nurse" Barbie (not to be confused with "Pregnant" Barbie), and an unpacked overnight bag (pending a "Postpartum" Barbie wardrobe). Additional accessories would be available to purchase separately, such as "Anesthesiologist" Skipper, complete with epidural cart.
"Postpartum" Barbie would leave the hospital with her new baby boy or girl. The baby would be purchased as an accessory and come in either sex, with a variety of different hair colors. Each baby would have a different name and each one would eventually become a collector's item. "Postpartum" Barbie would be dressed in "I Can't Fit Into My Evening Gowns Anymore" clothing and not appear to be very happy about it. She would still resemble "Stages of Labor" Barbie, with the exception of her midsection, where hard plastic would be replaced with soft cloth, stuffed with Beanie Baby insides that sag when she is upright, then flatten when she is on her back.
"I'm a Dad Now" Ken would be purchased separately. He'd come dressed in the same clothing as "Stages of Labor" Ken. He'd carry a baby bag in one hand and hospital discharge papers in the other. He'd also come with an empty wallet. Available for separate purchase would be a mini-van equipped with a carseat, a bit more practical than Barbie's former pink convertible.
Appearing simultaneously with the premiere of "Postpartum" Barbie would be the "Breastfeeding" Barbie. "Breastfeeding" Barbie would have a slimmer stomach, but conveniently retain the same engorged-appearing breasts that all Barbies preceding her have had throughout the past four decades, except now they serve a purpose. She would come complete with a new wardrobe of designer breastfeeding shirts, itty-bitty nursing pads and burp cloths. Additional accessories which could be purchased separately would be breast pumps, nursing shawls (in a variety of hip and attractive patterns that would correspond with Barbie's wardrobe), tiny tubes of nipple cream and a miniature glider rocker. Available for a limited time only would be "Oh, No! -- Coping with Mastitis" Barbie, "Oh My Gosh, I've Got Sore Nipples" Barbie, "Mother of a Colicky Baby" Barbie, and "Ouch! Biting hurts Mommy" Barbie.
"Sleepless Nights" Barbie and "Date Night with Daddy Ken" Barbie might follow. However, while "Sleepless Nights" Barbie (equipped with a rocking chair and nonstop recording of your lullaby of choice) might be a huge seller, "Date Night with Daddy Ken" Barbie (including "Babysitting" Skipper doll) might see a drop in sales. I think that "Date Night with Daddy Ken" Barbie would be purchased with good intentions, but would inevitably be lost in a corner somewhere, collecting dust, possibly pending a new wardrobe that fits Barbie's waistline, while "Breastfeeding" Barbie, "Mother of a Colicky Baby" Barbie and "Sleepless Nights" Barbie would be more active.
The entire future of Barbie could be changed by motherhood. "Mother of a Toddler" Barbie would be equipped with running shoes and peanut-butter-and-jelly-stained clothing. Perhaps her figure might even take on a more realistic appearance -- stretch marks, sagging breasts, and dark circles under her eyes.
"Time to Potty Train" Barbie might come with accessories such as a pull-up diaper and a teeny version of "Every Barbie Poops."
Interesting proposition, isn't it? After all, how many more evening gowns can Barbie premier annually? How many new Christmas wardrobes? How many career moves? Worldwide trips? Appearances with Ken at the Grand Ol' Opry? Isn't it time for Barbie to grow up? To take on some responsibility? To be a "real" Mom?
My daughter's soft grunting beside me brought me back to reality. I turned to focus my attention on her, discovering my little blonde beauty was squatting, her face red, her grunts turning into a very audible "Mommy... I pooping."
"Daddy, did you FART?" piped up my son, his nose wrinkled, his hand waving back and forth in front of his face. My husband dropped a plastic Tarzan figure, shocked by my son's question, embarrassed by those around us who heard it. His face was red, but he was laughing.
A few passers-by glanced at us and chuckled.
My daughter reached under her dress, about to put her hand into her diaper, but I was a step ahead of her every move.
"Oh, no you don't," I cheerfully mused, taking her hand in my own before she was able to wedge it into the back of her diaper to examine what she had done. "Mommy learned her lesson after the last time you did that at church."
"Diaper change," I said to my husband as I headed out the door of the gift shop.
He nodded and smiled, watching me grab at my daughter's free hand, as she attempted to sabotage my efforts of keeping her from surveying the "new" contents of her soiled diaper.
I think Mattel knew what they were doing all along. Barbie couldn't handle motherhood. Not even on her best day.