I’ve not seen the new Barbie movie, but I’m enjoying the hype around it. So much pink. So much nostalgia. So much Ryan Gosling. 

As a child of the seventies, Barbie was an important playmate of mine. I was a socially anxious, awkward, four-eyed, freakishly thin girl who realized quickly that I preferred plastic dolls to other children, especially my bossy cousin, a frequent playmate. 

My cousin was my junior in age but had the superiority complex of a military general. She directed our Barbie play sessions like a movie set. So many costume changes. So many tiny shoes on feet that weren’t even at an angle Barbie herself could stand in. And no matter how beautiful my Barbie’s outfit, my doll was always cast as a background character. Sigh. 

My Barbies did not like my cousin either, but we did love her Barbie Wagoneer Jeep with the look-a-like wood grain panels. Mind you, my Barbies weren’t allowed to drive it. 

One year, Santa brought me the Barbie RV and that was a game changer. It was huge and had a kitchen, washroom, sofa, a pink roll-out awning, plus an inflatable pool. That big pink rig came in really handy when I got the Sonny and Cher dolls and their full stage set. I could take them on tour in style. Well, I could until I took Cher swimming in the pool and her ebony knee-length hair frizzled and matted into knots. Cher was never the same. Then the real Sonny and Cher divorced. You don’t want to know the guilt I adopted there.  

Through the years I inherited more dolls, including a Bride Barbie and members of the Barbie of the World collection. I had other action figures too, like the Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels (I wanted to be Kelly Garrett, but I was more Sabrina Duncan). I knew early on that I was never going to be a blonde, blue-eyed, tiny waisted, busty bombshell. The odds were not in my favour. And that’s when I discovered the doll that would inspire my hopes for the future, and also send me into a tailspin of anxiety that furthered my reality.

Her name was Skipper Madison Roberts, Barbie’s little sister. “Growing Up Skipper” was marketed as an alternative figure to the adult curves of a Barbie. In other words, she was created for girls like me, who would later become women like me (it’s okay, you can laugh at that).

Skipper was cute. Shorter than her voluptuous sister, she had brown hair with bangs, little freckles on her face and dressed conservatively. Think middle-school style. But if you turned Skipper’s arm backwards, she would grow a full inch and magically develop breasts. I kid you not. Cue Kelly’s therapist.

You want to talk about body issues? I nearly dislocated my arm for the span of a decade hoping, upon hope that Skipper knew the secret to my puberty fiasco. I stood before the bathroom mirror, turned sideways and spun my arms around like a major league pitcher, to the point of propelling myself to the ground on more than one occasion. You should have seen me before the Grade 8 formal. Crash. 

Yet, I wouldn’t trade a minute of my childhood where my imagination helped me create a safe and fun world for Skipper, Barbie and I. My imagination has served me well. It was all character building.

My future therapist would agree.

WriteOut of Her Mind