I was never a big fan of dolls. This is incredibly ironic as my mom collects them and my childhood home resembles a doll museum. Try as she might, my mom could just not get me to share her love of these inanimate figures. Fortunately, my perfect older sister liked them, so it was one more thing the two of them had in common, while I ate cookies.
Any Barbie doll I did acquire suffered a terrible fate. As a young girl, I was unaware that when you cut a Barbie’s hair, it did not grow back. So there I was, with a collection of bald Barbie dolls. Poor Ballerina Barbie had a crown attached to her head (so she could be spun around like a dancer) but she had no hair. It always made me feel better that these totally inaccurate representations of the female form now had at least one flaw (and we won’t go into what permanent marker did to their appearance, as well).
Being a chubby Jewish girl with “child-bearing hips,” I would look at these dolls and wonder what they ate. They certainly were not breaking into the side of the Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookie box that my mom hid from me and my younger brother. Their thighs didn’t rub together if they forgot to put on shorts underneath their skirts; nothing they owned had elastic waists. Yes, I was happy that they were bald.
While watching the news last night, something caught my attention. A new line of Barbie dolls. You can pick skin tone, hair color (though there really should be a hair-type—straight, curly, frizzy, etc.), body type…wait, body type?
And there it was, Curvy Barbie. I would have preferred zaftig Barbie or pleasantly-plump Barbie because curvy doesn’t imply overweight; curvy, in my mind, implies a woman with an hour-glass shape, not an eight hour-glass shape.
I guess when all of the skinny executives who designed these new Barbie dolls were sitting around the table, they said something like, “OK, we need to address the fact that childhood obesity is a really big problem (pun intended) so let’s make a bigger Barbie, but not too big, because then we will have to come out with a line of plus-size Barbie clothes and we all know those are never as stylish as regular clothes.” Then they all had a good laugh and ate some kale. The folks at the meeting must have decided that “curvy” was more politically correct than “fat,” so Curvy Barbie was born.
Big is beautiful, when it isn’t unhealthy. I am a huge believer in the ability to be fit and fat. I can walk 10 miles a day, take six spin classes a week, but I like to eat. It makes me a little less cranky than my thinner counterpart. The cute, slightly bigger kids they have in the Barbie commercials are just as beautiful as their teeny-tiny counter parts. We come in all shapes and sizes, so it is wonderful that Barbie is finally recognizing this.
After years of Barbie symbolizing the ideal, unattainable-unless-you-have-plastic-surgery image, it is about time we have something real to play with. I am not saying that everyone should go out and gain 10 pounds, but some of us are just naturally taller and larger. Perhaps if curvy Barbie was around all those years ago, those other Barbie’s I played with would still have hair!