Friday, April 11, 2003

To some, Barbie's a perky, plastic role model

Married with children

By Patricia Gallagher Newberry
Enquirer contributor

One of my fondest childhood memories involves a friend named Ann, her walk-in closet and the Barbie Kingdom therein.

We would spend hours shut in that little closet, dressing her Barbies, undressing her Barbies, redressing her Barbies and then taking them all to parties.

Imagine my delight, then, to become the mother of two daughters with deep affection for all-things-Barbie. That they, too, are learning the World According to Barbie truly is a mother's dream come true.

Consider their wardrobe knowledge, for example. By immersing themselves in Barbie-dom, my girls have learned more about evening wear than I could ever teach them. Frankly, I'd have to do a little research to school them in the art of matching the right pastel pump with the right chiffon ballgown.

The same could be said of beach apparel. I haven't worn a bikini since, well, I've never worn a bikini. But Barbie has, and she's got the tan lines to prove it. She's also quite adept at coordinating cover-ups (and pastel pumps) with her swimwear, another skill I'm lacking.

From Barbie, my girls also have picked up all kinds of tips on accessorizing.

After all, no Barbie is really ready for a night on the town without her purse, umbrella and tiara.

They've scored plenty of beauty secrets, too: Blond hair is best worn long and fluffy, for example, and blue eye shadow is eternally in.

My daughters - and their brother, for that matter - have learned oodles from Barbie on the transportation front, too. For instance, when fun is the goal, a convertible is the only way to go in Barbie World. And for family vacations, a pink and purple minivan, with metallic silver detailing, is a must.

The kids also know what makes a house a home, thanks to Barbie. When they are adults, they'll no doubt want a plastic rattan loveseat, Sweet Shoppe candy counter and blue dental chair in their Dream House, just like their gal, B.

Because of Barbie, the kids can skip that whole Job Fair scam in school. They already know all about exciting careers as doctors, dentists, veterinarians, soccer coaches and, of course, models from their own little 111/2-inch role model.

And, goodness knows, Barbie has done her share to expose the kids to good literature. As my husband and I know all too well, the best bedtime story is a Barbie bedtime story.

While his favorite depicts Barbie as a vet - I think he just likes the idea of a gal in a white lab coat and pink capris inside a horse stable - I favor Very Busy Barbie.

That Barbie takes time in that morality tale to drive an injured senior citizen to the hospital when she's late for a modeling appointment says volumes about her values.

And speaking of values, that girl's got 'em!

She's taught the kids that sharing is good. After all, there are 17 of her in our Barbie box and only two Kens on call for all their dates.

She's taught them to embrace diversity. In Barbie: Soccer Coach, Barbie befriends a photographer by the name of Skovoola, no doubt upsetting Ken but showing the kids that blond Swedes make good dates, too.

She's taught them to be kind to their siblings. Where there's Barbie, there's sure to be Midge, Stacie or some other hanger-on.

And yet, Barbie never seems to mind their company.

She's taught them grooming is essential. Girls and boys who don't comb out their hair after a bath, they've discovered, can end up looking like some of the beauties that bathe with them: Ratty Barbie, Bald Barbie and Phyllis Diller Barbie.

And she's taught them that heads are good. The Barbies who have lost theirs in one mishap or another are the ones who get few shifts at the Sweet Shoppe and, literally, no face time with Ken.

I know some parents don't appreciate Barbie's important role in the education of their daughters and sons.

I've heard all the Barbie bashing - too thin, too busty, too perky, too obsessed with clothes and boys and pink vehicles.

Well, posh, I say.

Barbie is as good a friend a parent ever had.

She's an upbeat, can-do, multitasking, 36-24-36 (translated to human dimensions) dynamo that shows my children daily what a person can do in life with the right attitude and an accessorized outfit.

If only I had a walk-in closet to spare, I could really put the kids on a sure path - in a pink convertible - to successful futures.


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