|panda-like calm through fiction|
Barbie at 50
I sat down to write my memoirs this morning. I got twelve sentences deep before pushing the laptop off my desk. “I need a bourbon,” I said; of course, I was the only person in the room, so I got up to pour it myself.
I found my old typewriter in the closet, pink; it was hard to believe that a simple decision like branding myself with a color had caused so many issues through the years. I didn’t even particularly like pink- but our market research said that pink had a calming effect, and it appealed to girls, our target demographic.
There's something I have to get off my chest: I haven’t been 110 lbs. since junior high, and I’m not anorexic; my waist hasn’t been 18 inches since probably before that- I’m not Cathie Jung (even I think she needs to lay off the corsets). I don’t know whose stupid idea it was to tell Random House my weight (or to shave off a few pounds for vanity’s sake), in the interview with Playboy it was my decision to tell them my measurements- but it seemed a small consolation prize, since I wouldn’t pose for the magazine. And by then my weight (however inaccurate) was out of the bag.
I’ll admit I haven’t always taken the greatest care of myself, and there have been times in my life when I wasn’t eating enough, but even today, when my waist has expanded, I’m criticized for not being fat enough. Isn’t that the same kind of body fascism (albeit in reverse) that causes eating disorders in the first place? Shouldn’t I be allowed to be as fat or as thin or as curvy or as whatever as I am?
And of all the things I’ve ever said, I never thought the one that would haunt me the most would be “Math class is tough.” Math has never been my best subject, and I don’t understand why it’s antifeminist to say so. Math class is tough. So was inorganic chemistry and physiological psychology. So was my astronaut training and my medical internship.
Aqua’s characterization of my life and my company, it reminded me so much of that controversy, of being called stupid and vapid by so many people… I knew we could never win the lawsuit. If Jerry Falwell couldn’t beat a pornographer in a parody defamation lawsuit, I certainly wouldn’t win out against a playful Scandinavian pop band. But I was tired of being humiliated in public, being the butt of fucking unfunny Leno monologues- I couldn’t just lie back and do nothing.
A low point came in 2003, when Saudi Arabia banned me from the country; their Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice did everything but call me a whore who would corrupt their youth and pervert their ideals. I was humiliated. But what was more humiliating was the tacit agreement of our own board; I wanted to fight back, to press for a line of accessories and items that subscribed to Islamic standards- it was a lucrative market we were being shut out of, and our only answer to the unspoken slur of “Barbie's a slut” was to mumble “Yeah, a little.”
But what I get asked about most, more than anything else, is Ken. I like Ken. I’ve always liked Ken; there were times I even loved Ken. But not for a long time. I think Ken was exactly right for me at a certain point in my life. Neither of us were really looking for anything too complicated, and when we were, I think we matured at roughly the same pace, so I never got to that pint so many of my girlfriends had, where I outgrew him (or worse, that he outgrew me). But it didn't last forever; it would have been naïve of me to believe a relationship based on simplicity and proximity could. But by that point, he'd become such a part of my public image, such a part of the Barbie brand.
I thought I could be done with it in ’04. I thought I could move on, and, I don’t even know if I wanted to try and find someone else. I was to that point where I might have been happy alone. But after the press release announcing our split there was panic. Suddenly the thread of my romantic life was interwoven into the fabric of society- the dissolution of my one, long-standing relationship was going to cause an entire generation of women to become spinsters and lesbians. And of course, Ken needed the money. He still has his looks, I’ll grant him, but he’s never been ambitious, never really wanted more than to drive sporty cars and screw pretty women. So we got the band back together. I can't complain; he really is one of, if not the, best friend I've ever had, and he knows me better than anyone else.
We've talked about kids- and I know how dysfunctional it is because that discussion started with the marketing department, and what kind of an effect that would have on our business model. Obviously, we'd go the Angelina route and adopt; my OBGYN thinks I'm healthy enough to attempt a pregnancy, but at my age, the risk of complications with the pregnancy and childbirth, the incidence of problems with the fetus- I couldn't bring a child into the world malformed simply to stop my own ticking biological clock.
That's my life, in a nutshell. It's glossing over most of my triumphs, because my triumphs are all cliches; it's only when I fuck up that things seem interesting. And it's probably obvious, now, why I can never send this. It would ruin my company, my career, make a shambles of my life. Because as real is this has all been for me, to so many of you out there, I’m a fantasy, an ideal, something to aspire to- a doll you all play with without thinking about the woman inside the plastic shell. But I’m not. I’ve spent more time in school than any healthy person ever should, dabbled in a hundred careers, but never really found one that suited me (besides whoring my image to sell tacky pink accessories). I want to send this so badly- but I’m not drunk enough, yet.
I could use another bourbon.