Monday, February 21, 2011

What we can learn from Barbie

It's funny, I didn't play with Barbie much as a kid, but as an adult, I've come to identify with her. I've written about this before, but today I discovered I have even more in common with Barbie from this LA Times article:

Beyond the obvious connection of my being a blue eyed, blond haired, hourglass shaped California surfer girl, I discovered that the original "Barbie Dream House" was furnished with simple Scandinavian style furniture. Since 4 of the 8 sticks of furniture I own are mid-century modern and the rest, save for my drafting table were purchased to match them, this piqued my curiosity about the original "Dream House" and it turns out that the dream was a far cry from the pink plastic Mc Mansions Barbie dwells in today. Barbie's original "Dream House" was a simple, modernist shoebox studio, much like my little beachfront apartment.

So what happened to us between 1962, when a "Dream House" consisted of a simple one room studio made of cardboard with folded paper furnishings, and now, when a "Dream House" is a pink three story townhouse with over 55 pieces, lights and sounds? Are little girls any less or more happy when they get the massive plastic castle than when they got the compact little shoebox? Do they use their imaginations any more or less? What does it say about us, that something as iconic as a doll's "Dream House" could go from something so simple to something so bloated and complex?

I've been feeling somewhat sorry for myself lately. I got laid off from my job after 4 years of faithful service, and I've been working on beautifying my formerly hideous apartment. I was a little melancholy over my birthday this year, I'm not sure why, I usually love birthdays, but a part of me was dwelling on how most women in America my age have houses while I'm grateful to dwell in a two room studio that admittedly is a run down fire trap.

But. My backyard is the Pacific Ocean. People say how lucky I am, but luck has nothing to do with it. Living on the beach is something many people dream about their whole lives but never achieve. But the reason that I live on the beach and they don't isn't because I'm lucky, its because I'm willing to pay more than a lot of people's mortgages for rent on a studio in a run down building. Its about choices. Do we choose stuff, or do we choose other stuff, or do we choose Less stuff? My brother says I have a pretty simple dream. I don't want a big house. I just want a little apartment near the beach where I can surf. I don't want a fancy car, just a reliable one with good mileage. Its just that simple. But sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have made different choices. Everyone does.

And when I saw Barbie's dream house, I stopped feeling so sorry for myself. I DID have the dream house after all.