In honor of National Women’s Day, I wanted to share this little piece with you which I started to write some time ago and never went back to it. I wanted to share it now because social media is doing to our young women what Barbie did to me and so many young girls back then.
“I remember playing with Barbie and her dream house. I didn’t own the dream house until I was fourteen and was able to put some of my allowance towards the purchase. It was $114.00 plus tax, but it was worth every penny to me. I would lose myself for hours in that house. I was Barbie sometimes, with my pink corvette, tons of clothes, those tiny shoes and I had so many friends and Ken of course.
At some point, I decided I was going to grow up to be just like her; though we were slightly different. Just a tad in my mind. She had long straight blonde hair. I had kinky, dark curls. She had blue eyes. Mine were brown, though everyone insisted they were hazel. Hazel is not a color; it’s a shade. Right? Barbie had a tiny, skinny, perfectly slender nose. Mine on the other hand, well, let’s just say it was nowhere close to Barbie’s. My mother used to put a clothespin on my nose when I was growing up so it could get slender. I think she hated the fact that I had my father’s nose and every time she looked at me, she saw him.
Barbie also had boobs!!! We all wanted boobs back then, yes even in the 7th grade, we dreamed of boobs. While all my friends were growing some, mine were nowhere in sight. I often stood in front of the mirror and pulled my camisa taut against my body, searching for a glimpse of a slight bump or something. The only thing that stuck out was my belly button. Too bad I didn’t have two, slightly higher. LOL.
Barbie had so many friends and though I can’t particularly remember whether or not she had a job, back then she seemed pretty successful to me. It seemed fitting that this was my career choice – you know, to be Barbie when I grew up; since every time I turned on the television there was someone that looked like her. All the actresses where white, tall, blonde-Barbie look-a-likes. I spent many days daydreaming about Barbie and what a wonderful life I would have when I grew up.
It wasn’t long before I started noticing that there were some serious differences in appearance between Barbie and I. Soon I started hating my curly hair, opting to sit under a hairdryer with big-ass rolos and then have it blown out straight so it could look like Barbies. I started hating the width of my nose and the color of my skin. Why was I so dark? My father was a lot lighter and some of my cousins too. Why wasn’t I lighter like them? Sometimes I’d lay in bed at night wishing I’d wake up with my “real” family. I’d be a totally different person living in a different house with a different family, preferably a white family. Barbie was so glamorous and everything on TV and in magazines told me that’s who I needed to be. I started not minding when teachers would call me Jennifer instead of Jenny, because Jennifer sounded “American”.
It was a sad, sad day when I finally discovered that all the blow drying of my hair, clothes-pinning of my nose, and bleaching of my skin with Porcelana would NOT make me white. I would never be Barbie or even come close. When I got older, I tried straightening my hair, chemically, but the tight little curls at the nape of my head, the grenitas, gave me away. I bought contacts when I was 18, sapphire blue. Everyone said, “Nice contacts.” I eventually had a nose job, but nobody noticed it was so slight. I said I had a deviated septum that I needed corrected. I still didn’t have boobs, but could do nothing about it.
Eventually, I started trying to convince myself Barbie was shallow. All she ever did was change her clothes and live up in her plastic dream house and hang out with her equally shallow friends. By this point, she’d had so many professions, she seemed a little fickle to me. I even later found out that if you created a real person out of Barbie’s measurements and proportions, that person would have to walk on all fours, because they were so unrealistic. I tried convincing myself that Barbie was not the person I wanted to be; yet I found I didn’t want to be me either.”
At 18 I went on a solo trip to the Dominican Republic, it’s where I am from and I was awed by so much beauty – everywhere- the food, the beaches, the countryside, the people! We came in so many different shades!!! I . learned about my culture, how we were a blend of Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans. I learned to speak Spanish well and how to dance Merengue. Eventually I grew out of my awkward stage and discovered that people thought I was exotic! I stopped putting so much effort into being Barbie and finding all the beauty if me.