Back when I was a Barbie, before I had children and became the anti-Barbie, I sometimes thought about the twenty-somethings I'd have someday and what I would and wouldn’t do, all based of course on what I was doing at the time. That’s what makes Barbies, Barbies - a view of the future that looks suspiciously the present, but after a diet. In the Barbie years, we make many decisions about the future, usually while applying make-up to our own twenty-something faces which we can’t imagine looking like any-something else.
But - and I knew this even when I was buying knee high boots and running out of Adorn hair spray - I would not be a Mom Barbie who wore Daughter Barbie’s clothes, had facelifts, flirted with younger men, used teenage language or did other gross things to win approval that would make her Child Barbies cringe. Because - and I knew this even when I was reading Dear Abby in traffic jams and making my hair wider than my body and affecting Faye Dunaway’s “Network” expression in meetings - Barbie years have a shelf life.
Since I like to stay ahead of the curve I’ve implored my children, friends and hairstylist to help me remain true to that pledge. I’ve stopped my daughters to the point of annoying them to ask about my outfit: “Okay or too young?” My hairstylist always begins our sessions (and they are sessions with the hairstylist, they are not appointments) with the question: “So. What are we doing today?” Once, in response, I suggested that “we” just color my hair gray now and get it over with. In the mirror, behind me, she tilted her head, raised her little hairstylist tools like the magic wands that they are and said, “Um. I’m not liking that idea.”
But shelf life, schmelf life. Barbie years do not have to screech to a halt and morph into Meredith-from-The Office years. No, if done right they can evolve into elegant, earthy, Everything years when the work on the inside is done but for decorative touches, and we can throw ourselves into being as Christine would say, “who we are.” By then, we've put away our plastic heels, we're using less (but expensive) make-up, buying way fewer hair products, wearing the seat belt every single time, and can’t remember the last time we went to McDonald’s (that’s a lie, I went two weeks ago this Friday for a Big Mac because I felt like it). We dress for our lifestyles as much as appearance, we work out because it feels good to be strong, we read novels that stay with us for days, and take ourselves out for lunch because we find our own company agreeable and interesting. We do stuff selectively. See the friends who love us, think about where we haven’t been and go there – even if alone. We love our younger, Barbie-esque friends, but don’t care if they approve of us. We nurture our inner cheerleaders and keep their little flags in good working order so that the words on them, which say “Why not?” and “Life is short,” can be viewed as needed.
I went ziplining with two of my Everything friends last week.
My sons would have considered it mild compared to the roller coasters they’ve been on but for me, as my world goes, if only for a few paralyzing seconds:
it was death-defying. Afterward, my Everything friends and I ate pizza, drank wine and talked about, of course, Everythingness. I believe I loved that as much as I once loved a great black dress and four inch heels.
Barbie years look great. But the Everything years, these are for the Serious.