When we were little, my sisters and I concocted elaborate back stories for each of our many Barbies. Like with our other dolls, we needed our Barbies to help fulfil that mothering instinct that is the basis for a lot of doll-based play in children, especially little girls.
Only instead of us playing the part of a middle aged mother to a teenaged doll (like we would EVER have teenaged kids – HA!) our Barbie got to step into the lead as the inexplicably tall, leggy super model-esque mother to her imaginary babies.
Which was a problem.
Hadn’t our own mother told us AT LEAST a thousand times that babies are only born to married women? Ours were good Christian Barbies, after all. In the moments before my sisters and I piled into the car to go to church every Sunday, we pretended to turn on a televangelist so that our Barbies could participate in worship on TV.
It wasn’t ideal, but what else were we going to do? Let them all go to hell? These were our BARBIES and we loved them. And we couldn’t very well load up all 27 or so dolls and bring them with us because where would that leave our teddy bears? And our roller skates? Lonely and forsaken on Judgement Day while the rest of us went to heaven, that’s where.
Rather than keep the wrong company with Baby Out of Wedlock Barbie, we invented husbands for our Barbies. Only we had no brothers, so aside from one lone Donny Osmond doll, there was a dearth of boy dolls in our house. This meant that our Barbies’ husbands must have died.
And so it was that we lived with a whole array of Barbies whose husbands had died “in the war”. We didn’t know which war – this was the late 1970s. Vietnam was over and the Gulf Wars were years to come. We only assumed it was in a moral conflict against people who can’t buy bras at K-Mart.
In imagining husbands, it helped that GI Joe was infinitely more appealing to us than the lame, plastic haired Ken. We never even considered wedding one of our Barbies – even in an imaginary ceremony destined to end in tragedy – to Ken when GI Joe was so much more handsome. Marry Ken? We’d rather they all joined Donny Osmond’s harem.
And THAT would never work because Donny didn’t have a penis. We checked.
So it was that all of our Barbies came into our home mourning the loss of their rough and ready soldier husbands who all had good hair and the decency to go off to war and die. It was just as well – like us, our Barbies thought boys were gross.
Besides, once you have your babies, what else are boys for?