One day, at the thrift shop, I spy this book Mondo Barbie, and I think to myself, 'I can get a quick & cheap fix for a quarter,' so I buy it.
This book is not so much the ideal book for Barbie collectors, as it is a cultural look at the impact of the icon (and not always from a flattering angle, either.). This book is not for my girly collector side, but for my feminist side. Donít all feminists need to bash Barbie?
Mondo Barbie is full of insane imaginations, visceral accounts of childhood angst, & preachy culture assumptions: Barbie & Skipper have breast cancer; Barbie is to blame for lesbianism; there is domestic violence and rape -- even the rape of Ken. And plenty of mocking of Barbieís tremendous endowments, and Kenís lack of endowment.
A collection of stories & poems, that frankly can make a real Barbie fanatic ill, a parent faint, & make Barbie creator (and Mattel founder) Ruth Handler roll over in her grave.
Itís gender issues, cultural mores, & stereotypes gone mad, mad I tell you.
And of course I love it.
But what really hooked me was on page 8. In a story by A. H. Homes, called A Real Doll, there was this: "She chews on my toes."
I stopped, I re-read it.
Suddenly I remembered my Barbies, their toes missing to that hard part that began in the middle of their feet. I stopped just where this Barbieís owner had: "At the arch... There's a bone there, and once she realizes she's bitten the soft part off, she'll stop."
I hadnít remembered this fine childhood fact until I read it there. I donít remember biting off her feet. And lord knows, Iíd love to blame my baby sister for it, but I must have bitten them off. And I wasnít alone. For in several other stories, Barbie has missing toes.
So I took to the internet. Many auction listings & sales pages with Barbie dolls with their toes, & sometimes fingers, chewed off. And before you think itís just little girls, let me tell you I found pages where boys had done the same to their action figures as well.
Then I remembered my Aunt Vickiís dolls. She had a huge box of Barbie dolls that she brought out of hiding when her own daughtersí were old enough to play with them. I looked eagerly on as my unappreciative cousins dove into the box, calling the older dolls Ďuglyí because they did not look like the ones on tv ads. (Oh, I wonder what became of those original first Barbie dolls of hers?!)
One the ingrates ran off with Ďthe best ones,í I picked up one of the vintage dolls & turned her over to look at her face. There, on her front, on her you-know-whats, were pin holes. One on each orb, exactly where the other you-know-whats would have been.
I quickly tossed her back into the box, my face red, my aunt laughing at my reaction, and ran off somewhere... anywhere but there.
Now I wonder how many Barbies with bitten off toes & pinholes are out there, homeless & unloved?
There are collectors of teddy bears with missing eyes. I know, I have met them. Why not become a collector of fashion dolls with missing toes?
If Barbie is collected for nostalgia, why not collect her for the childhood chewing memories?
Or would I be collecting her in the name of feminism -- the icon of the unfair female form poetically attacked by girls & hobbled by some immature foot fetish?
Barbie, do we love her or hate her?
One thingís for certain: We eat her up.