Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Barbie memory: The hair was magic

8

March

In an effort to keep me from growing up too fast, my mother always said: “Stay a little Mom_holidaybarbie_2 girl as long as you can because when you grow up you can't go back."

For me, staying a little girl meant, among other things, playing with dolls. In my household, Barbie reigned supreme. I had a gaggle of the dolls – never Skipper or her friends -  only Barbie, baby. My friends and I introduced those dolls to real life. We took Barbie swimming, played house with her in my Barbie mansion, scuffed our knees wheeling Barbie and Ken around in their pink Barbie car. And her hair? We washed and combed, braided and teased her silky blond mane.

As little black girls, whose naturally kinky hair routinely met various forms of torture including straightening combs, Barbie represented an ideal that we couldn’t realize until we got old enough to introduce our manes to chemical processing. Still, we wanted to be Barbie.

"Moooooom, Why doesn’t Barbie’s hair get knotty when it gets wet?" I would ask. "Moooooom, Why can Barbie go swimming and let her hair air dry? Can I do that?" "Moooooom, Barbie doesn’t have to use a blow dryer with a brush attachment. She can play in the rain without messing up her hair. Swim too."

"Moooom, it’s  not faaaair!"

And then there was the big one: Mom, Why doesn’t Barbie look like me? Am I pretty?

Pretty quickly, my mother and my best friend’s mother bought us brown-skinned Barbie dolls.(We already had homemade cocoa-colored Cabbage Patch dolls, procured in the days before black dolls were widely available.) Now, my girlfriend and I had a multicultural Barbie house. We could see ourselves. We didn’t know anything about Barbie’s unnatural proportions. To us, all seemed perfect except for that unrealistic silky hair.

-- Sherri Day

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:59am]

    

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