Jewish World Review May 23, 2002 / 12 Sivan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The passing of Ruth Handler, the creator of the Barbie doll, brought back memories to so many parents whose lives became intertwined with Barbie's when their daughters were little - and we grown-ups paid the bill.
I wrote about Barbie in the '60s, when my daughter was 7 years old and said she wanted a Barbie doll. As far as I was concerned, one doll looked just like another, and since a Barbie was only $3, it was a bargain. (In those days Barbie came with just a bathing suit.)
I bought the doll and didn't think anything more about it.
A week later my daughter came in and said, "Barbie needs a negligee."
I said, "So does your mother."
"But there is one in the catalogue for only $3."
"The one that came with the doll."
I grabbed the catalogue and found out what the makers of the doll were up to. Barbie was only $3, but you had to buy 200 outfits for her wardrobe - everything from ski suits to tiny mink jackets. Your status in the neighborhood depended on how many articles of clothing your Barbie had.
I was hoping my daughter would settle for a negligee, but a few weeks later she came back and said, "Barbie wants to be an airline stewardess."
I put another $3.50 on the line.
Barbie didn't stay a stewardess for long. She wanted to be a nurse ($3), then a singer in a nightclub ($3), and then a professional dancer ($3). (Note: This was before Barbie acknowledged women's lib.)
One day my daughter walked in and said, "Barbie's lonely."
"Let her join a sorority," I replied.
She showed me the catalogue, and sure enough, there was a doll named Ken. She cried, "If Barbie doesn't find a man, she will become an old maid."
So I went out and bought Ken for $3.50. He needed a terrycloth robe, an electric shaver, tennis togs, several double-breasted suits and a tuxedo. You can figure out how much that cost.
Pretty soon I had put up $400 to protect my original $3.
Then my daughter announced that Ken and Barbie were going to get married.
"Here is a list of wedding clothes and Barbie's dream house."
"Seven-fifty for a house!" I shouted. "Why can't they live on your shelf like your other dolls?"
I thought after the marriage that they would live happily ever after, but children pick up on everything, and one day my daughter said, "Barbie wants a divorce."
"Why?" I asked.
"Ken is going out with Midge, Barbie's best friend - and Midge ($3) doesn't have a thing to wear."
05/21/02: Why Bermuda?