Put Some Gay In Your Day, Dallas!

Think Pink

It was in a very early part of my childhood that I first discovered the bittersweet ecstasy of doing what I wasn’t supposed to do with someone I wasn’t supposed to do it with, and that something being so unacceptable and so obviously wrong that no one had even bothered to say not to do it. 

But doing it anyway, and sweeping away the inevitable shame that followed, turned out to be excellent practice for that time, years later, when I found something else I wasn’t supposed to do and started doing it with someone I wasn’t supposed to do it with.  Some boys didn’t but some boys did, and my rehearsals in doing the “wrong” thing helped tremendously in discovering a different kind of ecstasy.

There is that time during early childhood when little boys and little girls play together, when gender is virtually unimportant and hormones together with the larger society have yet to change the dynamics of those relationships.  That was the time that I began my relationship with Barbie, with the surreptitious help of the little girl who lived across the street.

I would go over to her house to play, and she would bring out the Barbies and the trunks of accessories that went with them.  It was the first time I realized that there was a difference between having plenty of clothes to wear and having a wardrobe.  

My friend had three dolls, one being a kind of knockoff Barbie, probably a gift from a cheapskate relative.  Her favorite was a “Bubble Cut” Barbie with blond hair like her own.  An older sister, now too old to be playing with hers, had supplied a hand-me-down ponytail Barbie, that suited me just fine.  

Playing with Barbie mainly involved dressing and undressing them, and my friend gravitated toward daywear, like the blue jumper with appliqued birdhouse over a white dress (“Friday Nite Date”) and other informal outfits.  Of course, I was all about the evening wear, particularly the iconic skin-tight black dress with the flounce of tulle with red rose accent (“Solo in the Spotlight”).  But my favorite was the gold and white brocade sheath dress with its matching coat featuring fur trimmed sleeves, an outfit that clearly influenced later costumes for movies like Back Street, in which Susan Hayward wore Jean Louis’ designs for which he was Oscar nominated a few years after “Evening Splendor” was made for Barbie.

But those days were soon over, and I became limited to periodically looking at the Barbie and Ken (“He’s a doll!”) catalog that I removed from the box before giving a new Barbie as a present at a birthday party.  Before long, Barbie was like a friend that I had never spent too much time with, but I was somewhat sad she had moved away.

Going into young adulthood, I heard the criticism that was being sent Barbie’s way.   She was a plastic embodiment of an impossible feminine ideal, resulting in all manner of self-esteem issues for all sorts of people, as if Barbie was the source of an actual problem.  But I still managed to get a little Barbie magic in my life.  

Karl’s requirement for home security that exterior doors have dead bolts that require a key means we have the need for keychains for those locks.  Barbie, of course, is my keychain of choice.  “Solo in the Spotlight” is for the front door, and the classic black and white swimsuit for the back door.  “Poodle Parade” Barbie helps me every time I’m digging through my bag looking for my car keys.  Just the daily intersection with Barbie that I don’t even notice.  

Now, of course, there is the new Barbie movie, and it’s well positioned to be the biggest blockbuster of this year.  If it makes it, it’ll be the first one I’ve even seen Clinton was in office.  I loved the movie for a variety of reasons, but I couldn’t hold Karl down in the den to watch it, much less get him into a theater.  But I’m glad Barbie’s back in a big way, and she’s still giving them something to talk about 64 years after she first appeared.

The one thing I loved most about the movie has gotten some level of attention in the press and in social media, and I’m providing a link at the end of this column to the full text of America Ferrera’s monlogue from the movie.  It reads like a pastiche, an amalgamation of dozens of conversations I have had with so many women over so many years.  I think it’s worth a read.

Barbie is the pinkest thing I’ve ever seen.  M’Lynn might say it “looks like it’s been hosed down with Pepto-Bismol.”  But it’s also the pinkest think in which I’ve ever engaged.  If one is so inclined, think pink for a minute or two.  Remembering that the emphasis is on the verb helps.