Barbie’s in the news again and it has everyone scratching their heads. Why is Mattel working so hard to keep a 62-year-old fashion doll relevant? Shouldn’t it be normal for girls to move on to a doll that their great-grandmothers didn’t play with?
I mean, I love the fact that Barbie and the gang is still around. But her handlers are working so hard. Barbie has been seen wearing a hijab. In a wheelchair. She took up fencing. She dressed up like Frieda Kahlo (although that may have been due to coincidentally forgetting to tweeze her eyebrows on the same day she went to Paint-n-Sip). Last month Barbie had the gall to Tweet out her last name. Most of us didn’t think she even had one.
And the jobs she has. I know it’s hard to pick one or two things you want to be when you grow up, but Barbie has been everything from an aerobics instructor to an architect, a U.S. presidential candidate, and a pediatrician with a side job at The Gap.
To what lengths will she go to convince us she’s just a regular gal?
For comparison, take Midge. What’s she doing while Barbie is out there trying to out-Kardashian everyone? I’ll tell you what she’s doing. She’s doing regular girl stuff. Putting on a one-piece and laying out by the little blow-up pool. Slipping into a baggy capri and going on a picnic with Alan. She’s had the same babysitting job for 45 years. She remembers to tweeze her eyebrows, and there’s evidence she wears her retainer every night.
Yes, the relatable one was Midge. And no one identified more with Midge than me.
I, too, was the spunky friend of the prettier, leggier, bustier blond girls. Earlier versions of me had bad teeth. I suffered from perennial bad hair days. And those aren’t freckles, people, they’re cystic acne scars. And like Midge, I sometimes feel like I was put on this earth to hush critics by being “less sexually intimidating.”
When Presidential Barbie picked a running mate, she picked Midge. I once served as an officer of the school PTO for four months, only because I was so helpful, everyone assumed I was vice president.
When Sleepytime Barbie jumped on the bulimia bandwagon and carried around a book that said “Don’t eat” Midge kept up a steady diet of small plastic fruit and wedding cake. I eat a lot, too.
Totally Tattoo Barbie got a tramp stamp. So far, Midge and I have proclaimed our bodies are temples. Also we’re both afraid of needles and fear permanent decisions.
Mexico Barbie came with a Chihuahua and a U.S. passport that didn’t even look real. Midge and I would never stereotype an ethnic group.
Midge eventually got married and had three kids. Me too. When the neighborhood Mrs. Kravitzes gossiped that she didn’t have a wedding ring, I took it upon myself to explain that she most certainly was married. Her ring was on her bedroom dresser because of pre-natal bloating and swelling. She’s got family values oozing out of her shoulder and leg joints.
So I don’t mind at all that I’m so much like Midge. It could have been so much worse. Skipper had unruly bangs and a maturity button.
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Diane Laney Fitzpatrick’s Midge doll, one of the rare iterations with her teeth bared, is still with her, naked and ready for adventures. If you’d like to get an occasional email reminder of Diane’s new Just Humor Me columns and other writing, subscribe to her newsletter here.