Avoiding The Topic

The ideal book spins, like an exotic planet, into your heart and mind.  It weaves a starry web of creativity where one’s thoughts will venture over an endless cartography of mystery and depthless lands.

Our libraries are changeable things; a reflection of what we see when we go exploring:  what strikes our coy fancies, our earnest gravities, our pretty flippancies.  They are a portrait of our lives as we walk past intellectual gardens, trailing our hands amidst the flowers and looking at the colors that remain on our fingers.  The titles change, but the pigments never do.   They fade, they become maddeningly subtle – but they never disappear.

I discovered a magazine recently – long lost and forgotten, but with its colors still intact:  “The World of Barbie”.

A Pretty Girl Is Like A Barbie_NEW

Published in 1964, probably in my possession sometime in 1965, I loved this dainty little voyage.  But it wasn’t because I was a collector of Barbie dolls – I only had one, with a favored magenta gown which I paired with scarlet heels.  I don’t recall being moved by the editor’s salutation:

“This is the very first issue of “The Barbie Annual Magazine.”  It is dedicated to you…

…because you are a girl

…because you like pretty clothes

…because you enjoy dressing your Barbie dolls in pretty clothes

…because you know that the word is a wonderful place and you are part of it

…because you are special, we have made this magazine for you.  Everything in these pages is just for you.  We hope you enjoy it!”

I don’t remember the stories – but I remember stepping into the photographs as if they were pools of thought; the visions that linger within closed and dreaming eyes.

Here is a – rather adult – Barbie wearing a prom dress.  Branching Out_NEW

She’s a very statuesque redhead, it’s true, but of more interest to my 8-year old imagination was the type of world where a girl could recline in the nape of a tree so large it could embrace your entire body!  And the verdant light in the background – could one actually venture there; beyond that unknown light?

And then there was the darkling Barbie, clad in shimmering black and silver, her glorious 1960’s hair piled high and reined in by a diamond tiara.

Strolling Across The Green_NEW

But what I remember most affectionately were the blurred leaves crossing the photograph.  By fencing this strolling Barbie in, by demoting me to mere viewership status, it made her demure jungle all the more real.

Finally there is Barbie-By-The-Sea.  She is calm and charming, but what of the ship in the background – where was it bound to?  From where did the gust of wind come, carrying it past the lady waiting on the shore, past the pebbles and flowers?  What kind of place was this, where the plants grew over your head, where one could stare directly into their inquiring blooms?

Sea Bird_NEWI remember staring into these pictures as if I could perceive the very heart of them.  I would walk quietly around the subject, hoping I would remain unnoticed as I took possession of the marvelous world in which she lived.  And my footsteps would be light and my movements careful as I quietly closed the door.


7 responses to “Avoiding The Topic

  1. I had no idea there was a Barbie magazine. Of course, in 1964 I was graduating from high school and beginning to move into the world – Barbies never were a part of my growing up.

    It’s strange. When I first became aware of Barbies, I thought they were boring. I couldn’t imagine why a girl would want to play with them – as in the photos you’ve included here, they seemed to be nothing more than accessories. I never could imagine dragging one into a tree with me to read stories to her.

  2. That is so cool, I love it. I did’t have a Barbie, I had an Emma Peel doll, she wore black leather and had a hole in her hand for the gun to slip in to.

    • Emma Peel is hella cooler than Barbie.


      Seriously, I had a love-hate relationship with Barbie. She had so many cool accessories and clothes, I was jealous of her. In the 60s I wanted to be like Barbie, and yet something inside told me I would never be like her, nor should I want to be. Then came the feminist revolution and Barbie was uncool, so it was goodbye to my Barbie and her huge carrying case filled with clothes, shoes, purses, Scottie dog, beach blanket, sunglasses, etc. A painful goodbye! I don’t think I ever quite got over it.

      • I don’t remember us having Barbies, we weren’t big doll girls I don’t think. My mother said we liked to have a few bigger ones but not to play with them. I’ve just packed away my girls Barbies and Bratz and a huge box of clothes and accessories – they’re still in great condition and they might want them if they ever have kids. I can’t believe they never choked on some of those tiny little bits and pieces.

  3. My kids do this. Not with barbies, but with their stuffed animals. They dress them up in costumes and then pose them in settings and take pictures. Love this!

  4. My older sister gave me my Barbie in 1965 when I was 7. I still have Barbie in the cupboard. I spend so many hours making stories come alive with her. Thank you, you have given me smiling memories for tonight.

  5. What a fantastic post… I had no idea there was a Barbie mag, either — but I was overseas, and I missed out on lots of pop culture. LOTS. I did have one or two very sad Barbies, however — I can recall my mother explaining their ridiculously hyper-unrealistic-femininity. Knowing me, I probably asked about it at age 6. So great! Thanks for the flashback. 🙂

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