A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
Like so many other girls, I used to love my Barbie dolls. I’d dress them and undress them and dress them again, and again, and again. My Barbies went on exciting adventures and sang songs and put on shows and had a hot pink convertible and occasionally went swimming in the tub with me. They kissed their boyfriend, Ken, an awful lot. They were doctors and mommies and teenagers and teachers and dancers and brides and stand-ins for Betty and Veronica. Once I was old enough to use sharp enough scissors, some of them got super rad haircuts. Unfortunately, they all eventually lost their extremities in tragic Cocker Spaniel puppy-related incidents, but their lives were worthy and good for as long as they lived them. In unrelated news, I would categorize myself as a woman who has struggled with body image, diet, and weight since she was in high school.
Recently, Lamm, an artist in Pittsburgh, designed and launched a crowdfunding campaign for Lammily, a so-called “Normal Barbie” doll whose proportions are based on the average 19-year-old girl (according to the Center for Disease Control, so it’s legit). His goal is to show that “average is beautiful,” to “promote realistic beauty standards,” and hopefully help some young girls grow up with a healthier physical ideal. She is healthy looking, alright. As a 31-year-old who has had a baby, I look at Lammily and think: “Damn, I will never be 19 again. I have got to start jogging or doing some other horrible thing like that.” But Lammily isn’t for me. It’s probably too late for me altogether.
Honestly, I don’t blame Barbie. I know I’m supposed to. Perhaps it’s just my lingering affection and nostalgia for the gal, but I think there were a lot of other factors at play in my case. We don’t need to get into specifics, but I believe that everything from my environment to Seventeen magazine to “Saved By the Bell” to, well, Betty and Veronica contributed to the formation of what I considered the ideal body, a body which is and has always been maddeningly unattainable. Barbie’s a part of that, sure, but she can’t shoulder all the guilt. Mainly because her shoulders would likely cave in on themselves due to her excessively narrow frame, impossibly enormous rack, wasp waist and distressingly high arches. Very poor structure for carrying weight of any sort, really. I don’t know how CrossFit Barbie does it.
This isn’t at all to say I’m against the Lammily. I think it’s a fantastic idea, and if she can come in and replace one piece of this terrible puzzle then god bless her. I think often of how I can possibly prevent my daughter from becoming the sort of person who thinks poorly of her body and consistently accidentally prepares and eats half a box of spaghetti when she finds herself alone for dinner. It’s a daunting challenge for me and for all mothers, and it feels complex and impenetrable. But maybe I’m overcomplicating things because I’ve never understood how to be happy with “normal.” Perhaps that bottle blonde vixen had more of an insidious influence on my spongey young mind than I ever realized. Perhaps beginning at the beginning-—before my daughter can even read, let alone get her hands on an issue of Seventeen—will set her on a healthier course. In the hopes that it helps make Lammily and her future imitators a household standard—and hedging on the chance that Barbie prevails—I think I will contribute and save my kid a doll. It’s worth a shot. If she doesn’t take to Lammily, I can always use her as a motivator when I don’t feel like working out.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!