Monday, January 4, 2010

Barbie Damage...we dressed our Barbies...we have our Kens

January 4, 2010

Barbie Damage

We’ve all heard about the image problems brought on by Barbie’s monstrously unfair proportions that were surely hatched in the mind of some mutant teenager. I myself am still reeling from the realization that I already have my adult body and I am not going to receive another helping of chest.
I actually have tender childhood memories of lovingly dressing my Barbie, so I really hold no ill will toward her or her creators. She was a toy and I got the picture – eventually. I’m more bummed about the fact that I didn’t keep that original Barbie, inflexible of limb though she was. Forget whether she was in the original box, she’d be worth a bundle now. I wouldn’t exactly be living on Easy Street, but I’d at least be living in that vicinity – maybe Comfortable Court?
The media has attempted to make us think that Barbie is responsible for our poor self-image as women and the retail community has attempted to make us feel self-recrimination about the money we lost by giving the Eve of the doll community to some forgettable charitable organization. These are old stories that, no doubt, most of us female babyboomers have heard and long since processed.
The real damage was not wrought by this more-than-perfect plastic android, but by the female’s possession of her stiff-haired man, Ken. It was Ken who made us feel as though we have free license to dress our men. We have turned our childhood hobby of clothing Ken into an adult pastime of dressing our men and this can sometimes render long-term consequences.
Take a typical Saturday night when a couple decides that they are going to go out to dinner and perhaps take in a movie afterwards. It seems harmless on the surface doesn’t it? Au contraire. Here’s how a man thinks: “All right. We’re going to dinner and a movie.” Here’s how a woman thinks: “Let’s see. I’ll wear my maroon velour mock turtleneck mini-dress and Gary, well, Gary will have to wear his white, pin-striped, button-down collar shirt with the eighty-two percent silk, gray, cuffed slacks. This is not a simple outing for a woman. This is GETTING DRESSED UP!
Wake up and smell the fabric, ladies. The men in our lives are just our Ken dolls. This is our opportunity to make our significant other, if not shine, then glow warmly as a result of participating in our helpful Outfit Coordination Seminars. It’s a way for us to relive our girlhood – over and over and over again. Where before we shook Ken into those lovely cotton pants that almost fit him, complete with handsome Nehru jacket, we now lovingly lay out the latest fashionable garments for our own “Big Ken’s.”
While this intrinsic reality of any relationship exists – that a woman will dress her man and consider it a badge of success when he struts out into the day well turned out – men are utterly unaware of the beautiful package that we have created. This happenstance is not a bad thing and a dual purpose is served; a stylish male makes the female look good and it sends the signal that this is a man who is in a committed relationship. It’s ownership for “us” and “they” are none the wiser.
If you don’t believe it, try this little exercise. Walk into a restaurant and take a look around you. Notice how the male patrons are dressed. Tell the maitre d’ you’re gathering material for a sociology dissertation on restaurant cleanliness and that should take care of him for a while. If he continues to harass you because you’re taking up needed space, flash him your driver’s license and tell him you’re an undercover Department of Health investigator.
Now, you’re sitting in the middle of the diningroom, sipping your complimentary glass of a lovely California white wine and you’re free to complete the task at hand – noting which of the fellows are dressed well and which are not.
Also observe which men are wearing wedding rings, rings in their noses or other outward signs of serious involvement. (Hot Tip: You can usually tell if a guy is “taken” because the woman with him pulls out her own chair, orders her own drink and moves over when he tells her he can’t see the game on the television set in the bar.)
In my own informal studies I’ve found that ninety-five percent of the committed men look fantastic and are well-dressed in garments that originated in the current decade. This informal study is actually good news for single women. If you’re attracted to a nice looking, well-spoken guy and he’s stylin’ – forget it! He’s already filing a joint tax return with someone else. On the other hand, if you see a guy who is a bit rough around the seams, possesses visible creases in his clothing, but exhibits possibilities to the “trained” eye – trained being a former Barbie and Ken owner – then you’ve got yourself a keeper! He’s single, he’s malleable and he’d better start running because the pounding hooves of a relationship aren’t far behind him.
I have a very nicely bedecked husband who, unfortunately, reverts to his single guy attire – seats and a spotted teeshirt – at home, so I’m basically dressing him for the community. But there are those times when we’re out to dinner and I see another woman cast an admiring glance at my man, we exchange knowing looks and she gives me the subtle nod of approval and I remember – I may not look like Barbie, but who cares? I married Ken!

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