When I returned to the Barbie world a few years ago, I tried to recall my first Barbie doll and while I could easily envision her black and white bathing suit, could recall the smell of her vinyl Barbie case, I could not for the life of me remember her face. This disturbed me. How could I not remember her face when she was my most cherished toy?
I spent time perusing vintage Barbies on-line hoping she'd jump out at me and jog my memory. But no, she remained faceless. Then it occurred to me one day that my Barbie didn't have a face because she was "me" and took on whatever imaginary face I decided to give her in my child's mind. She was Doris Day, she was Marlo Thomas, she was Gidget, and the list goes on. I had an imagination and that was all I needed. I didn't have a Barbie car so I used a shoebox. The shoebox could go from being a shiny red corvette to a wood paneled station wagon in the blink of an eye. My girlfriends and I would only have to tell each other what to pretend and the 1/6th Scale Barbie World was our Oyster.
So, now that Mattel is coming out with all of these new adorable dolls that are curvy, petite and tall, is it more for the sake of the parent than the child? There are numerous posts both positive and negative on these new dolls going on sale in March. One person questioned how a chubby girl would feel when she receives a chubby doll for her birthday. Another wrote it was about time Mattel came out with new dolls that would better reflect diverse body images. Have we forgotten our children have great big vivid imaginations?
One day while I was babysitting my 2 year old granddaughter, I decided to see if I could ignite her imagination. I began telling her that I owned a party store and described each balloon and cake with great excitement. I began pulling imaginary balloons from the air and handing them to her one by one. She looked around the room and then gave me a look as if to say, "grandma, you've lost your marbles". But I didn’t give up. I continued describing with great detail and enthusiasm all the wonderful parties supplies my imaginary store had to offer. All of a sudden (and I'll never forget this), her eyes got as big as saucers and I knew instantly that she was right there with me in the middle of my imaginary party store. It was wonderful! From that day forward, we had imaginary jewelry stores, grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and on and on. We had it all because we had imaginations.
And so it brings me to wonder if these new curvy, petite and tall dolls will fill more of a reality check for adults than for children. Sadly, adults have lost their imaginations because they live in the real world of going to work, paying bills, and meeting endless deadlines. How often have parents walked into their child’s bedroom and seen blankets and pillows strewn all over the bed and not for a moment see the child’s reality of a massive ship out to sea, battling the giant waves as it travels to a faraway land in the search for hidden treasures? I’m pretty sure these same kids have been pretending all along that their “one size fits all Barbie”, is curvy, petite, tall and everything in between because they, after all, have larger than life imaginations. Kudos to them!!!