Thursday, January 2, 2014

Barbie Grows the F%#! Up

This past week I spent some time back in Iowa for the holidays. Every time I'm home my mom asks me to go through all of my drawers and closets in my old bedroom to get rid of the stuff I don't need. I'm convinced she's trying to erase all proof of my existence from the house. Each time she asks I tell her I'll do it, and then I go read a book until she forgets about it.

This time though, it occurred to me that I could use this as a blog post. Something about revisiting my teenage bedroom. I've saved all kinds of stupid stuff that it would be hilarious to revisit. I was already coming up with snarky witticisms about Teenage Chris's weird obsession with professional wrestling and Spongebob Squarepants t-shirts.

As I looked into the closet I was to be organizing I started to doubt my decision. There was a lot of crap in there, and it was looking more like work and less like fun. I got started with a small suitcase that was tucked off to the side. I vaguely remembered using it when we went on family vacations (overnight stays at Casino Hotels), but I hadn't seen it in years. This suitcase is also where my productivity for the day ended.

It was full of Barbies.

Growing up I was always afraid of going near my sister's Barbies, no matter how much I loved playing with them. I don't think I was ever told specifically that I couldn't play with them, but I knew very well that those were girl toys, and I wasn't to play with girl toys. So I'd have to wait for an invite from my sister. Then I could make a show out of asserting my masculinity while still agreeing to join just to keep her company, and then rip off the hideous dress that she had put Barbie in and dress her in something more fitting for a ball.

Coming upon them now, I still felt a bit of that same anxiety. It was like I was a teenager who had just stumbled upon a box full of Playboys, except playing by myself with a box of Playboys would probably still be more socially acceptable.

I reminded myself that I was now an out and proud gay man who gives zero f#%!s about gender norms, and started planning outfits.

I remembered Barbie being more...glamorous. But with the weird 90's clothes, the amateur haircuts, and nothing but hot pink heels, she seemed to have lost some of her sparkle. I mean she was still technically the same beautiful girl as I remembered, but she just seemed more tired. A bit defeated. Like life had taken the wind out of her sails.

Like she was in her late twenties.

Looking at these sad dolls all these years later, I couldn't help but start to imagine what their lives probably would look like today.

Helen lived a life in Barbie's shadow. Truthfully I'm not even sure that her name is Helen, it just seemed more polite to make something up than to call her "That Brunette Girl Barbie Used to Hang Out With." She desperately sought the attention denied to her because of her dark hair. She regularly got too drunk, and made choices she knew she'd regret the next day, the biggest of which was marrying Brunette Ken while on a weekend bender in Vegas

She now spends most of her evenings at the local ski lodge trying to pick up a rich second husband, often waking up the next morning with the taste of Pinot Grigio still in her mouth, missing her skis, her shoes, and her dignity.

Brunette Ken would really prefer it if you'd call him "Kenneth." He's desperately trying to lose his frat boy image, working nights and weekends to prove to his boss he's ready for that big promotion. No one's really sure what he does exactly, only that he works in an office that is apparently fine with him wearing one piece suits with suspenders. As hard as he works to change, his party boy side does shine through from time to time.

Especially when he gets cold water on his hair and his frosted tips begin to show.

Barbie's kid sis, Skipper, went off to a small liberal arts college on the east coast where she cut her hair, declared a women's studies major, and started going by "Kip."

When she's not busy organizing a protest or working her part time job caulking tubs, Kip enjoys hiking, collecting dream catchers, and going out for craft beers with her intramural softball team.

After he drunkenly (and tearfully) come out at that kegger at Barbie's Dream House (and then crashed Barbie's Dream Car into a tree), Blonde Ken (Kenni...with an "i") spent quite a bit of time "getting to know himself." Sure, he had his slutty phase, but how else would he have met the love of his life, Lyle? Lyle is 49, is always out of town on business, and most importantly, is f#%!ing loaded.

Bankrolled by Lyle's deep pockets, Kenni began a moderately successful career as a drag queen. His lack of testicles make tucking a breeze.

Life hasn't been kind to Barbie. Considering the gay boyfriend, the multiple failed careers, and the overwhelming student loan debt (it's not cheap becoming a vet, a teacher, a pilot, a surgeon, and a Canadian Mountie all in the span of a few years), it's really no surprise that Barbie suffered a severe mental breakdown.

She doesn't leave the house much anymore, only throwing on her pink housecoat to run to the store when Mr. Whiskers needs more kibble. She spends her days buying collectible dolls from QVC, looking at old yearbooks, and pondering where her life went wrong.

The hoarding seems to help take the edge off.

FYI, this is only about like a third of the photos I took (with the horrible green suitcase serving as the backdrop). I had beach looks, night club looks, and sports apparel all planned out. I finally stopped myself after two hours when it dawned on me that I really was having an alarming amount of fun.

Lord help me if I ever lose my phone and a stranger goes through my photos.

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