A Boy and His Barbie

Lyle picked up a brunette Barbie dressed in pink from head to toe at the doctor’s office today: “Who’s this, Mommy?” he asked with great curiosity.

“Oh, her name is Barbie! She’s fun to play with,” I responded, wondering what would come next.

I watched, smiling, as Lyle worked to bend the ever-limber Barbie this way and that to fit her in a too-small doll house, a Little People fire truck, and the back of a yellow dump truck. (She liked the dump truck best.)

I thought about how I’d probably be cringing if it were a daughter of mine playing with a Barbie with such zeal, and how silly that really is since I played with Barbies as a girl and loved them (despite the fact that my mother tried valiantly to keep them out of the house), and didn’t end up all that warped on account of it. I know I’d still be a little freaked out, though.

What did make me cringe was the 4-year old boy in the waiting room who was clearly disturbed by my little boy playing with Barbie, and commenting on it every chance he got “Why is that boy playing with a princess?” he asked in disgust, turning away from the very sight of it.

I considered whether I should get Lyle a Barbie for his upcoming birthday, and wondered what this hypocrisy is all about, exactly – my discomfort about small girls playing with the busty, high-heeled doll on the one hand, and my amusement and encouragement of a little boy shoving her into trucks and getting glares from other boys on the other.

I guess it’s mainly about messing with people’s expectations, but I’m not sure that’s exactly the right thing to do, either.

I mean, Barbie is Barbie no matter whose hands she’s in. Isn’t she?

I’m still tempted to get one for Lyle.


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