Thank God for my Barbieless childhood

Posted: November 26, 2014 by jennroig in Commentary, English
Tags: , , ,

I’ve heard there’s a new barbie in the market now. A Barbie that it’s supposed to be realistic, it’s smaller than classic Barbie, more curvy and… more anatomically possible. I’m not so sure about that. I haven’t read if manufacturers added anything that may remotely resemble a vagina… But that’s a discussion for another day. The thing is girls can add bruises and scars and cellulite when they play with the doll, so this one should make them feel better about themselves as females, as future women…

I grew up in Cuba, in the 80s. No Barbies in my toy kingdom back then. It was the Golden Age of the Soviet era. Everything was made in USSR.

Vintage set, exactly like mine.

Vintage set, exactly like mine.

I had a set of Matryoshkas, I had a baby boy doll with stuffed body. Or at least I thought it was a baby boy, even though it was dressed in pink… what a lovely thing to think for a girl back then. I had a lot of stuffed animals that I like to vaccinate pretending I was a nurse and they needed to receive medication via a syringe. About that baby boy doll, I remember I really liked that toy.

Of course, as a girl, there’s always this doll that you care a lot for. You don’t love it as much as you admire it. You don’t play that much with it, instead you put it in a visible place to be admired, queen among all the others, because you think it’s beautiful and you feel you would like to be like “her”.

For me, it was a tall doll, brown eyes with long eyelashes, black hair slightly curled, with a skin several tones darker than mine, like an Indian skin, or mixed race skin. Her body was solid, curvy, and with its round face you wouldn’t think it as thin. It wore a pink, loose dress and it had definitely an adult expression, a somehow distant maturity and mystery in her eyes. It didn’t look like a girl doll, but a woman doll.

Barbies actually came later to my life. My aunt came back from Angola with two of those, when the war ended or at least Cuban troops were dismissed. One was dressed in white, like a bride. The other was dressed in black, like an elegant femme fatale or a millionaire orphan. Both were skinny, so tall with impossibly long legs. They used heels, but they couldn’t stand, they needed some sort of plastic device to help them stand. I didn’t play with those either. I sat them in front of the queen, on the other extreme of the shelf.

As a woman, I left behind those dolls a long time ago. Not just because I’m a migrant and dolls don’t fit in my luggage, but they were out of sight even before, when my mom moved to Havana and I refurnished my bedroom as university student.

Now I wonder if I don’t have a lot to thank to that queen doll. Even if I envied her, even if I wished I looked more like her, with those big mysterious eyes and darker skin and less like myself. As every girl/woman, I would want to be different. Back then more than now. But also now.

Yet not to the point of having plastic surgery, or spending hours and tons of money on makeup, or rejecting who I am and how I’m made. I’m fine with the way I am, even when I’m not at my best. Maybe it’s true and I have that doll to thank for, because at least she had a body that resemble mine, because she resembled a human female, not an impossible fantasy of some feverish, sick mind.


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