Barbie Turns 53: Life and Style Lessons From A Real Doll

10 Mar

Someone who has lived with you is having a big birthday tomorrow. It’s not a former boyfriend or even your beloved goldfish.

Wish Barbie happy birthday. Barbie is a Midlifer.

Barbie turns 53.

Holding my stepdaughter’s holiday version of Malibu Barbie, a few things dawn on me starting with this fact: Babs, you haven’t changed a bit, but stop tanning. I know you live in Malibu, but one word: Sunblock!

Alas, your face is still line-less and that fall of blonde, unattainable-in-real-life hair is still your crowning glory. Hey, what products are you using? There isn’t a line on your face and I don’t think you can afford LeMer because you don’t really work that much.

I don’t exactly think your eyesight is going either. Unless you’ve had Lasik, I don’t see any glasses like I have now or even contacts. Still, be careful when you’re driving the camper around. You just never know about your night vision.

Then there is the body thing. Barbie turns 53 and she still has the big and supposedly natural breasts and the teeny-tiny waistline. Has she done Slim-Fast her entire life? Or maybe the itty-bitty plastic food diet is what really keeps you thin. Her hunk of orange plastic steak and those purple dozen eggs that don’t come out of the box really seem so unappetizing that you don’t even need a spin class to burn them off.


Oh, Barbie, you’re such a duel-edge relic of my childhood. On one level, I remember countless joyful times when we acted out our future lives and did so in style. You not only were a writer, but you looked so cute in your sundresses and evening gowns as you traipsed through my backyard.

And then there was the inevitable moments of horror including when my younger brother kidnapped you, decapitated you, poured ketchup on your headless neck and declared that G.I. Joe had struck. Now, it would be a story for “Dateline NBC”….and certainly a cautionary tale.

By the way, years later as an entertainment journalist, the lovely Virginia Madsen who also grew up in suburban Chicago told me her brother Michael Madsen had done the exact same thing to her Barbie. “I never forgave him,” she sniffed.

But we digress. I did learn several style and life lessons from that curvy doll named Barbie.



*Barbie Doesn’t Need A Bra, But You Do

Yes, Barbie you’ve had natural endowments that have been celebrated by both sexes, however it’s nice that you’ve never drooped over the years. No sag there. And the best part is you never wear a bra. The rest of us need one.

*Keep Your Signature Haircut Despite the Trends


The Barbies I’ve seen haven’t really changed their ‘dos much over the years. Many still have blonde, shoulder-length hair that’s pretty straight – and it always works. Sometimes you do shake it up with bangs, but then I think you look like an exotic dancer. I do appreciate the brunette Barbies and the ethnic dolls these days. It’s a nice way to show that beauty is everywhere.

*Your Figure Is Unattainable

Even though you’ve set some strange standard of beauty, it’s not real. Your measurements are out of this world and not even the best Hollywood Pilates teacher could help a real woman achieve that waistline. As little girls we’re taught that Barbie is the pinnacle of a beautiful woman only to figure out later that we’ve been duped and must adjust our real life expectations.

*Heels and Capris Don’t Mix

I love that you showed women that you can get out of the skirt or dress. Your capris were always so adorable, but they don’t mix with killer high heels. First of all, any chiropractor will tell you that at age 53 (sorry to bring it up again), it’s not good for your back and spine to always wear heels. Try flats.



*Do Change with the Times.

I’m thrilled to see that Barbie during these hard economic times is employed. She’s out of the dream house and into the work force as a teacher, a vet, a doctor, etc. It follows that she has great new furniture for her house…and now she can pay for her light up vanity and sunken bathtub. (Shampoo not included).

*Avoid Plastic Men. Why was it that you were thrilled to get that plastic, pretty boy Ken doll…only to tire of him five minutes later? Barbie taught us to avoid the boys like Ken who will certainly hog all the mirror time and look for life partners who have real depth…and who don’t spend all their time as a beach bum in a bathing suit! (Can’t you just see Barbie supporting him!) PS: You were never all that in the tux, either!

*Keep Smiling Through the Pain. Even when my baby brother demolished the Barbie townhouse with his Tonka Trucks (renovations?) or flattened the camper with his “Star Wars” Darth Vadar attack spaceships, Barbie never spent one moment frowning. Her Can-Do attitude was infectious. It seemed to say, “Forget the pain. I can always live in my pink Convertible until I can buy my next Dream House.”


Happy birthday, Babs! One bit of advice: Moisturize!

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