Carefully put away inside plastic bags up in the attic, some Barbie dolls have crossed the stream separating childhood from adulthood.
I have actually never thought about collecting these Mattel icons, but I would feel so devastated if I’d mislay those five or six Barbie dolls that I have kept. By the end of the 60’s and the beginning of the 70s, they were blonde, perfect representatives of the WASP power. Which I was not part of but I easily projected myself in those cute synthetic little faces.
Around 10 or so, I started to be interested in Ken, those male Barbie dolls. There were only a few of them in my country back then but I probably bought all you could find in toys stores. And as I never had enough boys for my games purpose, I would sometimes buy Action Man or Big Jim dolls. In order to make the male dolls look more genuine, I used to put a bit of cotton inside their pants.
Pimp my Big Jim
As puberty flourished, my interest in males grew stronger and just like most teenagers in the 70’s, my bedroom walls were covered with teen pinups. I was (and remained) a huge Osmond fan and thought that Donny Osmond was the sexiest guy in the world. I knew there were Donny and Marie dolls but they were unfortunately not available in my part of the world. So I customized my own Osmond dolls with Ken and Action Man/Big Jim dolls. I had a Big Jim action figure and as he was smaller than the other male characters, I thought I would turn him into Donny, tailoring a jumpsuit outfit and a little purple cap for him. I even cut cardboard to make a keyboard and guitars (I guess I forgot about the drums). I would then put a record on the turntable and imagined my customized dolls in concert. Hey Action Man, make pop not war!
I would have never admitted back then that I was still playing with Barbie dolls at 12 or 13. My school mates would have laughed at me but I figured all 12 year old girls were probably playing with Barbies.
For the first time in the early 60’s, dolls were not babies or little girls anymore, they were women with a breast and a make-up but no hips and no butt. Barbie may be a feminist nightmare and an unlikely female figure, but my girlie life in plastic was somehow fantastic.