I think Christmas time always makes us think about our childhood and the year we finally got that bicycle we wanted or finally got the old man to cave on a Red Ryder BB Gun. I think it's the memory of those longed-for toys that make us, as adults and parents, go to the ends of the earth to fulfill our kids wishes. Of course, our kids' wish lists are considerably more expensive and more complex than ours were. Witness the mad desire for the (undermanufactured) $600 Playstation 3. When I look back, I remember my most cherished gift as the Barbie doll.
Oh, I know, I've heard it all. Feminists berate the Barbie doll for the false and unattainable image of beauty it subconsciously impresses upon young girls (and boys too, I suppose). I'll concede that there aren't a lot of women walking around with the proportions Barbie has, unless they've had their ribs removed and a couple of internal organs pushed up into their chests. There was a scary woman in New York a few years ago who had several plastic surgeries to transform herself to Barbie-likeness. (I always wondered if she had her elbows and other bendable joints removed.)
That fact is ironic since I was a tomboy. I spent most of my days climbing trees, having foot races, and generally just walking around. So it doesn't make much sense why I would love Barbie. Well, here's why I did.
My Barbie was a single woman in the big city. She lived alone in a fold-out three-room house that was situated on 12 green acres (actually, the pool table in our den). She was a self-made woman who excelled at whatever career I chose to give her that day. (She was no Paris Hilton.) She dated Ken occasionally but it was kind of hard to work up any excitement over some guy with plastic molded hair. Her best friend was Malibu Barbie (who would probably now be sold as Basal Cell Carcinoma Barbie).
A couple of years ago, Mattel started marketing some career-ready Barbies, like Nurse Barbie and Veterinarian Barbie. But a quick check of their site showed me that we're back to the mostly unachievable, with Princess Barbie and Mermaid Barbie (I sincerely hope that weird New York woman doesn't get wind of the latter.)
Most of my friends preferred their baby dolls, which confounded the heck out of me. I couldn't believe that their idea of fun was to listen to "Mama" over and over and have to change diapers soiled with imaginary poop. (I had my first child at 29 and that was soon enough for me to experience that particular joy.) So they were thus occupied while my Barbie just got in her pink Corvette and sped away to the next adventure.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.