If you ask someone to name the best gift they have ever received in their life, most will come up with schmaltzy answers like “my children” or “the gift of being alive.” For me, the best gift I ever received was on Christmas morning when I was seven years old. It wasn’t a puppy or a little brother; it was my Barbie Styling Head.
My Barbie Styling Head came with lipstick, eye shadow, and hair accessories. Finally, I had a willing subject to practice my childhood makeup and hair skills on! Looking back, it was bizarre having poor Barbie’s head on a pink plastic tray with those giant dead blue eyes staring creepily back at me. I think she even had a weird choker necklace on as her ‘head accessory.’ Barbie put up with a lot of experimentation.
I gave my Barbie head all sorts of different looks, from demure and sweet, to punk rock bad girl. I styled her hair into sweet curls (the texture of the hair was kind of wiry and held curl really well) and then totally ratted and frizzed it out. I loved my head. I wanted her yellow blond hair, creamy complexion, and big blue doe eyes. I loved my Barbie head so much I would kiss her goodnight when I was done making her up. We were close, me and Barbie.
I had a bunch of Barbie dolls and one Ken doll. Ken was a player and had dates with all of the different Barbie girls. He even liked Skipper, Barbie’s younger sister. Scandalous! As I grew a little older and my friends and I would ‘play Barbie’, things got hot and heavy in the dream house. Being the only male Ken was now not just dating the girls - he was having hot and heavy make out sessions with all of them and even got one of them pregnant. My Ken must have been exhausted with all of the heavy petting and double duty he had to pull. Good thing he had that purple ascot to wipe his sweaty brow.
Ken dated outside of the box. He wasn’t only partial to the Mattel girls, he liked the Kenner girls as well. Anyone remember Covergirl Darcy? I can still hear the jungle in my head, “She’s Darcy, Covergirl Darcy, what a beautiful covergirl doll.” The commercial for Covergirl Darcy showed a real woman as a fashion model, going to photo shoots, getting on a motorbike with her boyfriend, and skipping rope with some kids in the park. I also remember the voiceover saying, “you can put her in a fashion pose, make her do exercises” and showed the doll going into a full cheerleader-style side-split. Barbie couldn’t do that. Darcy was bigger, taller and rounder than Barbie. Darcy had giant bazooms and a big flower around her neck. Ken dug Darcy.
Ken also liked the famous ladies. He asked my Marie Osmond doll out and she totally got some Ken action too. He may have also dated Donny, based on the flaming purple and hot pink jumpsuit that Donny wore. Donny came with Marie, but I never played with him - there was something creepy about Donny. I stuck with my Ken.
I so vividly remember the carrying case I had for my dolls, a hot pink vinyl rectangle that housed the girls along with their various outfits, shoes and accessories. It had a black handle on top so I could take them anywhere with me. I would close the gang up in the box and fasten the latch at night and dream about being Covergirl Darcy or having a date with handsome polygamist-Ken. Who knows what went on in that pink box when that latch clicked shut and the lights went out? All those girls and just one guy? Oh, and Donny, I guess. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.
There are some toys that are more than just toys to you, and you should just never get rid of them. I would do anything to have that vinyl box of plastic with me today.