I graduated high school and set off for college with a few more of my personal puzzle pieces in place. Deep down I did not really care about getting a college degree. College, for me, was the means to an end with the end being a Pledge Commercial house and a bunch of kids like on the Brady Bunch. At college I could get a husband.
I planned for perfection: I had chosen wedding colors and themes for each season. I watched housewifey-type cooking and sewing shows on PBS. While I babysat my nieces and nephews, I thought about what a great mother I was going to be. I visited real estate open houses and imagined each one as my own. I knew what I wanted, and I wanted it all. I just knew I was ready to take on a full fledged grown up life. All I needed was my husband, Phil: Phil-in-the-Blank.
I was chomping at the bit to become a housewife. The key part of that word for me was “house.” The “wife” part had little meaning. I knew that all I needed was some guy to marry me, give me a bunch of kids, and work all day so I could be left to my own devices. My attitude toward marriage had not changed much since I was a little girl playing with Barbies.
Barbie was, for sure, my favorite toy. Using the word “toy” to describe Barbie doesn’t even seem right. She was more than a toy. She was the representation of all my dreams. With her 11½ inch disproportionately blessed frame, shapely rubber legs, and massive wardrobe, Barbie played out my future in miniature every day.
I had it all. The dining set came complete with formal dining table and six chairs, plastic dishes, teeny tiny silverware and a plastic turkey dinner. Barbie’s bed, made of glued-together Lincoln Logs was covered with groovy tie-dyed blankets and pillows. My mom made Barbie an ultra modern chair by covering a tuna can with felt, and my daddy cleverly designed a set of dresser drawers out of Diamond Brand mini kitchen matchboxes. Best of all, my Barbie had the coolest dream kitchen. It had a refrigerator, dishwasher, sink, oven and washing machine all combined into one circular unit that would spin and light up at the push of a button. Barbie’s high-heeled rubber feet didn’t have to move a step: After a satisfying plastic turkey dinner, the dirty dishes came to her. I spent hours playing with Barbie, dressing her, setting up her Dream House, and practicing what I imagined life would be like when I grew up.
Ken, on the other hand, didn’t get much play. Ken had only one outfit: an odd pair of black tuxedo pants that were left over from my older sister’s prom set and a purple letter sweater with a big white “Y” on the front. Most days I would wake Ken up, dress him, and send him off to work under the bed. He was devotedly content to lie among the dust bunnies, dried up crusts of peanut butter sandwiches and boxes of out-of-season clothing while Barbie pursued her dream of being the first woman on the block to become a housewife/pet vet/astronaut/policewoman with a spinning light up kitchen.
Ken didn’t have any dreams or desires. His purpose was to work hard and make an honest woman out of Barbie. After all, they did occasionally share a Lincoln Log bed, and of course, the Liddle Kiddles who sometimes doubled as babies had to come from somewhere!