I was like 8 or something. I was not included in Barbie play previously because I did not have a Barbie. My struggling immigrant parents did not appreciate the importance of owning a Barbie for a child trying to belong in white middle America. My best friend at the time, Jill lent me one of hers.
So we’re playing Barbie and they make ME the housekeeper or maid or something. Now, I’m not sure if this was because I was coloured or if it was some sort of Barbie hierarchy I didn’t know about. Anyway. I’m pissed off to be the maid, see? Everybody else got to be something and I became the maid? Fuck no. I ain’t no maid. I even argued there are no maids in utopia. But they insisted.
So what did I do? I told those little bitches that they’re all too delicate and vulnerable to come out of their rooms, put them on a strict schedule so they can’t call me in-between and shut them up in the back room of the Barbie house. Then I toke over the rest of the Barbie house and played in it all by myself.
There were four other players all about the same age. At least one of them was a boy who had a Ken doll and liked to play with Barbies. I bullied them like an over bearing governess or nanny or something and made everyone do what I said anyway. That was the first and the last time they invited me to play Barbie.
I wish I could say I was devastated or something but quite honestly I found the whole experience unpleasant. And disturbing. I also felt that they’re insistence had more to do with the fact I didn’t own a Barbie (and must be economically ‘disadvantaged’) than my colour.
On account of incidents like this I hung out a lot with boys. And ended up doing mad things like seeing how fast I could go down the steep hill behind the mall parking lot on my bicycle. I was a sucker for a dare. All they needed to say was ‘girls can’t do that’ to make me go prove that, yes, girls can, even if I personally had not and didn’t really know.
The relief and exhilaration when I made it to the bottom of that hill. Going down my only stubborn thought was that I WASN’T going to crash and burn. I was going to prove that girls could do this. Alas. So young and already the weight of representing ‘girls’ upon my tender shoulders. Then someone would suggest something stupid like we go find the steepest hill in town.
So I mostly just hung out by myself. And read a lot of books.
And Barbie became a symbol of a whole lot more than just unrealistic beauty standards.