First Person

Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2002 / 14 Teves 5763

"Lingerie Barbie," available at your
local mall toy store

Toying with maturity

By Jim Sollisch | I went shopping for a gift for my seven-year old niece. I was thinking about an art and craft kit or a book. You know, something wholesome.

The book section of the toy store is way in the back, which means that any kid who wants to find it has to pass through the seven circles of temptation in order to get there. I made it as far as the Barbie section.

It's been a long time since I looked at a Barbie. I have to admit I looked pretty hard at several Barbies. It was difficult to avoid those pouty lips, low-rise pants and exposed belly buttons. For a minute I considered putting a dollar bill in one of Lingerie Barbie's thigh-high stockings. Then I noticed a mother gently guiding her daughter away from me, and I quickly moved on to the Easy Bake Ovens.

Lingerie Barbie? Why not just call her Stripper Barbie? Who are these dolls for? Certainly not seven-year old girls.

These Barbies could be sold in adult sex shops. They could be used as marital aids for couples suffering from "problems." These are not dolls -- -they're plastic Victoria's Secret models. What kind of sickie wants his or her daughter or niece to play with lingerie? Lingerie is something you play with?

Well, you know, not when you're seven. It's bad enough that Abercrombie and Fitch is marketing thong underwear to 11-year old girls. But if you're actually considering buying Lingerie Barbie for your seven-year old, I think you have to ask yourself a question, "Am I out of my mind?"

My Mom used to hide the Sears catalogs so I couldn't look at the bra models. Baby Boomer culture abounds with stories of boys pirating copies of National Geographic magazines. The second part of the word "geographic" is, after all, "graphic."

What does it say about us that we force feed sexuality to our kids? That we buy six-year-old girls makeup kits. Or posters of Brittany Spears half naked. What are we saying when we buy our eleven-year-old thong underwear or give a seven-year old a Barbie with thigh-high stockings?

But it's not just Lingerie Barbie that bothers me. I'm not too hot on MBA Barbie and Geophysicist Barbie, either. I don't want my kids fantasizing about boring adult jobs when they're still in pre-school. I'm also against adult inventions like computer camp and most of the educational software I've seen. I'm opposed to subjecting 9 year olds to standardized testing and just about everything else we do that distracts our kids from their childhoods. Which, unfortunately, is a long list.

Kids need all the time they can get to be kids-non-dolled up, dirty-kneed, unfocused-on-career, test-anxiety-free kids. Heaven knows, they're going to be adults too soon and for too long.

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03/08/02: A slow embrace of gadgets leads to a longer romance


© 2002, Jim Sollisch