Pen

The Best of Times Short Story Competition


Spring 2012 Results




Waiting for Barbie

Copyright © Jacqueline Allan 2012


Barbie was born, or should I say ‘launched’, into the world in 1959; the year before I was, so we sort of grew up together. But then we didn’t. At least not at first, because whenever I asked my parents for a Barbie at Christmas time or my birthday the answer was always a resounding ‘No!’

I did get a Skipper doll when I turned five. She was Barbie’s younger sister. I knew I had been short changed but, nevertheless, endeavoured to make the best of things. I took Skipper to school in her trademark red bathers and whilst I wasn’t exactly treated with abject contempt - except by that Rosemary Trollope who was a right piece of work - all the other little girls had Barbies in beautiful evening frocks, so I definitely felt like an outcast.

It was a year later, my sixth birthday, and the debate was on again. To appease me this time, my parents said I could have a party.

I tried to reason with them. I didn’t want a party; I wanted a Barbie doll. I argued and argued in the futile manner with which children are so adept. With the answer still ‘No’ and my dreams crushed, I did the only thing any self-respecting six year old could do under the circumstances - I threw a massive tantrum.

It didn’t get me anywhere. That night, after almost sobbing myself to sleep, I tiptoed out into the hallway and heard the muffled voices of my parents in the lounge room. I couldn’t hear all the conversation, but a few fragments teased their way into my consciousness and managed to throw some light on the mystery: "Barbie … breasts … unsuitable … six year old."

So that was it! Barbie had breasts so she was off limits. How tragic. They must have thought I was thoroughly stupid. I knew what breasts were. My mother had them and my older sister had recently (and mysteriously I might add) acquired some too. What did my parents want me to think? That they didn’t exist?

In the meantime, I was forced to resign myself to the painful reality that Barbie and her breasts would not be coming to live at my house. She may have been only one year older than me, but Barbie was a woman, I was a small child and therein lay the sad conflict.

That night, I dreamed that Barbie and I went shopping and bought evening gowns together at Myers. Hers was lilac and mine was pink. Everyone in the shop, including Barbie, said how beautiful I looked. We spied Rosemary Trollope in another changing room but everything she tried on simply didn’t fit. All the dresses were far too grown up for her and only succeeded in making her look ridiculous. She became more and more angry and started screaming and yelling at the staff. Barbie and I paid for our dresses, snuck away and had just begun to enjoy afternoon tea together when, sadly, I woke up.

I fought back the tears as I opened each present from my family that birthday morning. The new dress, the Famous Five books, the cooking set and the worn out Matchbox car - that one came from my eleven year old brother - would otherwise have thrilled me, but on this occasion, they held no appeal. I felt cheated. I was just squeezing out the obligatory but tearful thank you to my family when the unthinkable actually happened. My mother, beaming with joy and exchanging knowing glances with my father, handed me a familiar shaped parcel with the words, "We know this is what you’ve been waiting for."

Rapture! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. My parents had seen the light. Now, I would be able to hold my head up high at school. Rosemary Trollope could go jump. Delirious with joyful anticipation, I ripped off the paper but if I thought the unthinkable had just happened, I was wrong. It was about to.

"Sindy," I said darkly.

Sindy, spelt with an ‘s’, The Doll You Love to Dress was staring up at me from her pink packaging. Sindy, Barbie’s so called ‘rival’ with her boring, shapeless body and boring, shapeless wardrobe to match. Where Barbie had breasts, Sindy had pathetic bumps instead. She was practically flat-chested, but clearly she was ‘suitable’. This was my consolation prize. I felt completely betrayed. If Skipper had made me an outcast at school, Sindy was going to seal my fate as a complete freak. I ran sobbing from the room.

All attempts to console me failed. It was my sister and her persistence in getting me to eat the chocolate cake after lunch that succeeded in restoring me to what was my otherwise adorable disposition.

And a doll is a doll is a doll to a little girl, and it was no different for me at that tender yet wise old age of six. By the end of the day I had managed to bond with Sindy - a bit. My party was coming up in a few days and despite Sindy’s arrival and the mixed feelings she had stirred within me, I was looking forward to this event and being the centre of attention, if only for an afternoon.

The night before my party, I had another dream. This time, I was walking through Myers with my mother and saw Rosemary Trollope and Barbie trying on evening gowns. Rosemary had the cheek to be wearing the same pink frock that I had worn in my previous dream and when she saw me, she stood triumphantly, hands on her hips, tongue poking out. She then whispered something to Barbie and in my grief and embarrassment to get away, Sindy, of all things, fell out of the bag I was carrying. Rosemary started laughing and pointing at me and before long everyone’s eyes in the entire department store were upon me as I frantically attempted to make my exit.

I awoke in tears.

Henceforth, I was absolutely determined to avoid any mention of Sindy to my friends that day, the day of my party. It was simply not worth the humiliation. Instead, I contented myself with enjoying the company, the games, the lollies and the boisterous, foolish mayhem synonymous with an occasion that was, after all, being held in my honour.

I definitely hadn’t wanted to invite Rosemary Trollope, but unfortunately our mothers were friends so her presence at my party that day was unavoidable. Things may have turned out quite differently if she hadn’t been invited at all.

It all happened during ‘Pass the Parcel’ and my father scratching the Rolf Harris song on the record player every time he made the music stop, that I noticed Rosemary was missing. My heart was thumping. I knew Rosemary was capable of exposing my secret, even though I had taken all necessary precautions to prevent this. I asked my older sister to go in search of her and when the two reappeared in the doorway, I knew something was very wrong. Rosemary was wearing that terrified ‘I didn’t mean to do it’ look and my sister was close to tears beckoning my father to leave the room. Eventually he did, leaving Rolf Harris singing The Court of King Caractacus to ten bewildered little girls grouped in a circle on the floor.

It turned out that my sister had caught Rosemary Trollope snooping in my bedroom. Rosemary had discovered Sindy in my hiding place under the bed and decided to see for herself if her head could be twisted on and off just like her Barbie.

She ruined my Sindy doll! Decapitated her. My father came up to me and said, "I’m sorry Darling, but we’ve lost Sindy. Be brave," which was a bit over the top but indicated that even he, who could fix just about anything, had been rendered helpless by an inferior brand doll and that Rosemary Trollope.

I should have been traumatised by this turn of events, but I actually wasn’t. Fortunately, all my little friends were suitably sympathetic and I was spared the humiliation I most feared. Of course, I still pretended to be devastated and behaved very heroically when Mrs Trollope came to pick up the disgraced Rosemary who left in floods of tears and forgot her bag of lollies which I later ate. I was beginning to see Sindy’s demise as almost expedient. The incident served to strengthen what was becoming my cast iron resolve to turn this situation around, once and for all, to my own advantage. How this was going to happen, I had absolutely no idea. The way that it was going to happen and even sooner than expected, I could never have predicted in my wildest dreams.

It was at the school fete a week later. Armed with fifty cents, I was wandering from stall to stall, weighing up the pros and cons of this and that potential purchase and its subsequent worth. From time to time, I would stop and count my precious bounty. Approaching a stall of books, I turned at the sound of my mother’s voice, calling my name and waving to me from the stall where she and Mrs Trollope were selling cakes and making a killing. It was then, when I waved back, that something caught my eye amongst the jumble of toys ahead of me.

Wedged in sideways between some chewed up old teddy bears and gnarled wooden toys there she was. Barbie! A Barbie that someone clearly no longer wanted. How could that be? But, a Barbie all the same. Looking beautiful with her blond hair glowing in the sun, it was almost as if those heavenly rays were shining down on her alone. The whole world stopped. Imbued as Barbie was with an almost divine radiance, I recognised this to be my moment of truth also. I could practically hear a choir of angels singing.

They weren’t just singing either. They were chanting, "Buy Her!" in celestial harmony.

Stampeding over to the stall, I grabbed her for fear that someone else might beat me to it. "How much?" I asked breathlessly.

That day I ended up blowing my entire stash on someone’s cast-off Barbie in a lilac evening gown. A lilac evening gown! Just like in my dream.

Acutely aware, however, that I had technically disobeyed my parents in buying a doll of which they didn’t approve, I spent the rest of the afternoon as far away from my mother and her cake stall as the parameters of the fete would allow. But thankfully, when both my parents eventually discovered my purchase and how happy I was - and given the recent Sindy debacle and her untimely beheading - they gave up, got over it and I ended up feeling almost indebted to Rosemary Trollope, if that was at all possible.

That night I had a wonderful dream. Barbie and I were shopping in Myers again and wearing the same evening gowns; she in the lilac, me in the pink. Everyone kept remarking how beautiful we looked and whether we were sisters, to which Barbie said "Yes." This time when sitting down together for afternoon tea, we noticed Rosemary Trollope at a table all on her own, except for my headless Sindy seated beside her.

Poor old Sindy. I don’t know where she ended up in the end. The bin I suppose.

The upshot of all this - and bearing in mind that much later, funnily enough, I ended up with a bust-line probably more like Sindy’s than Barbie’s - was that I will never, ever forget the joy of owning that very first Barbie doll despite the fact that she was second hand, a bit grubby, slightly balding and wearing a moth eaten frock that had definitely seen better days.

And I did eventually tell Rosemary Trollope to go jump.