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Feb 16 2012

Is My Daughter Doomed Because I Can’t Play Barbie?

By at 3:14 pm

barbie and friendsEvery weekday morning, after my husband and two older sons leave for work and school, my 5-year-old daughter and I are left alone for about 45 minutes.

And, every weekday morning, I promise her that if she eats breakfast and brushes her teeth and gets dressed and there is time left over, we will play whatever game she wants until it’s time to go to preschool.

For the last few days, she’s wanted to “play Barbie.”

Here, as far as I can tell, is what constitutes “playing Barbie,” according to my daughter:

1)      Get Barbie.

2)      Remove Barbie’s outfit.

3)      Don new Barbie outfit.

4)      Remove Barbie’s outfit.

5)      Rinse.  Repeat.

This is a game? What am I missing?

I’ve tried to get into it, I really have.  I’ve suggested that maybe we could tell stories about Barbie (I’m a writer–go with what you know, right?) as she squeezes into each of her outfits.

In return, I got, “This is the story of Barbie.  She has a new dress.  She’s putting it on.”

“And then what happens?”

“Then she takes it off and finds a new dress.”

My daughter also enjoys changing her own outfit several times a day. (It’s like living in the middle of an Academy Awards broadcast.)

Me?  I hate dressing so much that, if I have several activities to complete during the course of the day, I pick one outfit in the morning that works for them all.

Though she’s not too keen on getting her own hair styled (see: My Daughter’s Black/Jewish Hair), she is perfectly happy to play Beauty Parlor with mine, pulling it and twisting it and inserting clips of many colors until I look like Pocahontas gone terribly wrong. “Look, Mommy, I’m making you pretty!”

I, on the other hand, brush my hair once in the morning, put it up in a ponytail, and, weather permitting, try to forget it’s there for the remainder of the day. (I’d cut it short, but the one time I did, my husband sulked, so I grew it out again and kept it long–I figured one of us should enjoy what I look like.)

Clearly, I was not cut out to be the mother of a daughter.

And that bothers me.

Right now, she wants me to play with Barbie and tell her how beautiful they both look in their infinite costume changes. What happens when she wants advice on clothes and makeup and hair-styles and perfume? (Perfume gives me headaches. If I read women’s magazines, I’m sure I’d be ripping out the malodorous inserts.)

Here is the thing, though: It’s not that I don’t think clothes and makeup and hairstyles and perfume are important. My life would be much easier if I did, if I could make it a choice rather than a deficiency. But, I don’t. I’ve read all the studies that show how attractive people do better overall in life (not just in self-esteem and happiness, but in actual, quantifiable earnings, too) and that EQ is more important than IQ. I happen to think that clothes and makeup and hairstyles are extremely important.

I just suck at them.

My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was good at it. My grandmother was charming and feminine. She knew how to dress and flirt and smile. And in the middle of World War II, she managed to flag down a Soviet tank to take her where she needed to go. (Maybe the story isn’t true, but it sure sounds like her.)

One never knows when one might need a tank in the middle of wartime to take one someplace.

Those aren’t superficial, self-absorbed skills. Sometimes, they can be critical ones. (Granted, the instinct to survive might be considered self-absorbed, but, considering our only biological function on earth is to stay alive long enough to pass on our DNA, really, what other instinct is there?)

I’m not saying I necessarily want my daughter to use her feminine wiles all the time.  But, I definitely want her to have them in her back pocket for an emergency. (Yes, I know, what she should have in her back pocket for emergencies is a flashlight, a Swiss Army Knife, and the GRRRL Power to know how and when to use them. But, assuming those aren’t immediately available, feminine wiles can also come in handy for survival.)

And so far, I haven’t been real great at teaching them.

Heck, I can’t even figure out how to put Barbie’s dress on….


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