Did you know that is Barbie's full name? Neither did I. Barbie turns 50 today.
That photo is my own #1 edition Barbie doll, purchased in 1959 when I was 12 years old. I was really a little too old for dolls at the time, but I was passionately into sewing and designing clothes, so I thought Barbie would be a great little manikin for me. I made a million outfits for her. This original version of Barbie looks very much like the German Lilli doll that she was modeled after—a little more worldly looking than the later Barbies who were much softer in appearance.
Why have I kept my Barbie all these years? It was not love or sentiment. It was that I knew a long time ago that it is a collector's item, being a real #1 edition. If it were in perfect condition and I still had the box and sunglasses it would be worth some serious money. As it is, I don't know exactly what her value is. Doing some research on eBay tells me that the fact that her hair is in near perfect condition and she has her original bathing suit, shoes, earrings and especially, that stand, that was only used for the very first dolls, makes her fairly collectible. One of the shoes is split, which is a minus, however. I have considered selling her on eBay several times, but she has become my "ace in the hole" as it were. I always think that if something catastrophic, of a financial nature, happens I can sell her. When there was a question about whether Emily's insurance would cover her bills for giving birth to Sofia I considered selling Barbie. The insurance came through and I didn't have to. Isn't this wierd? At some level I don't even like her, but she has taken on a very symbolic significance for me!
When Emily was a little girl I thought I would never buy her a Barbie. My feminist sensibilities were offended by the body image issues and sexuality that Barbie represented. When push came to shove, however, she wanted one, her friends had them and she ended up with a couple. She was never all that enamored of Barbie and hers were discarded after a relatively short time. In retrospect I think it was a good course of action just to not make a big deal of it.
So, it is with a certain sense of ambivalence that I wish Barbie a very happy 50th birthday. After all, the older she gets, the more she is worth! Maybe she'll end up supporting us in our old age or sending Sofia to college. Or maybe everyone will come to their senses and she won't be worth a dime.