Unpacking Barbie

I went to see the Barbie Movie on Friday with a friend. I have been looking to see other people's reactions, because I'll be honest... when I left I had a feeling like, "Well wasn't that avant garde?" I couldn't say if I liked it or not (I did), because I needed to marinate in it a bit. I needed to process. (See Mali at No Kidding in NZ's take on it here.)

First, my own Barbie experience -- I was not allowed to have Barbies for a long time (well, kid years long time). My mom did NOT want Barbie in the house with her tiny waist and big boobs and unrealistic body image. So, she got us a Darci doll. Which I looked up as an adult, because my recollection was that Darci was Barbie's flat-footed, bigger-boned cousin, a sort of hippie reimagining. So call me surprised when I looked her up and unlike Barbie, who had all the crazy jobs (although I remember the controversy over "math is hard!" Barbie), Darci was one thing -- a model. HER ONLY JOB WAS TO LOOK PRETTY. So, um, who cares if her proportions were a bit more realistic and she wasn't on tiptoe, that's kind of worse! Watch a real (but fuzzy) advertisement for the doll on YouTube here. Not exactly screaming Woman Power.

But, anyway, my Barbie-free childhood was disrupted when our Episcopalian priest dropped off his daughter's Barbie treasure trove that they'd outgrown. Literally treasure -- Malibu Barbies, Kens, a Barbie Dream House, a pool, all kinds of clothing and accessories... and my mom couldn't say no! It was a man of god giving us those Barbies! I'd played with my friends' Barbies, but now my sister and I could play at home. It opened the door to Barbie convertibles, Sweet Roses PJ, and my common misconception that sex was Barbie and Ken literally smashing into each other. 

It was interesting to me that the movie has Barbie as a positive role model, that Barbieland is all woman power and the Kens are just...ancillary Beach Bods. I loved when the angsty middle school girls tear her apart and the dissonance of Barbie's thinking that she's a feminist hero and the girls' assertions that OH NO, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM, PINK PLASTIC LADY. 

The movie is definitely more for adults than kids. It felt very nostalgic to me, and I thought it was so much more about the roles women are squished into and the layers of expectations that are just impossible to "win" at. I liked that it was very much about finding out who you are and realizing that these expectations are ridiculous but you can shed them (sort of). 

I loved America Ferrera's speech. But, I felt a little like a footnote in it. I thought that the inclusion of "not mothers" got put in as an afterthought and so much of the rest of the speech was about womanhood and motherhood's intertwining. Which I guess is true, as not being a part of motherhood can sometimes make me feel left out of what society has deemed an essential part of womanhood. And really, the movie is so much about mothers and daughters, which makes sense because who's playing with Barbies? 

I loved all the weirdness. I loved the American In Paris style Ken dance number. I saw an article in The Guardian that criticized the movie for being so body inclusive with the Barbies, but then all the Kens are perfect beach bodies. Which goes with the whole "Ken is one-dimensional" thing about Ken, but interesting point. 

While Barbie was darker than I thought, it was also way funnier -- I laughed out loud and literally flailed in my seat like a beached sea turtle. There were nostalgic laughs, and "oh my god I FEEL THAT" laughs. 

After marinating, I really really really liked the movie. I think I have to see it again to catch more things and marinate further. Then I might be able to say I loved it. 

What did you think about the movie? 

Summer Without Kids

Ahhhh, summer... Anyways a nice slower time for me, but especially slow this year. I have been enjoying time for reading, time for puzzling, time for healing. There's no alarm, and everything in my calendar is there because I scheduled it (and once I could do stuff outside the house, it's been things like PT, Pilates private lessons, the occasional massage, and outings or visits with friends). 

I realize that this is a bit of a luxury, as all my friends with kids have very little respite. It's nice to spend more time with your kids, but I bet if I were to talk about all my restorative time to myself it would definitely cause some wistful envy. Or a snarky "must be nice..." 

Yes, yes it is, and the cost was just 8 years of pain and heartache and loss, time and money and energy that yielded ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. So hell yeah, I'm going to revel in my free time.  

Part of this summer is cleaning out the garage. We are doing some rearranging and purging, and one thing in the garage that I had to go through was a cardboard box of stuff from my childhood. That box has been in the garage, between our cars, for at least a year. Oh good gracious, if it's the same time as the Breyer Horses that I gave away, TWO years. oh, the shame! 

Anyway, I promised I wouldn't let it fester any longer and so I went through it. Apparently, a mouse had made a nest in there, of some of the cards and letters dating back to high school and college. But there were also tins of seashells. 

I used to collect seashells, from trips to the beach, or gift shops at the Jersey shore, or gifts I guess. I used to know all the names: scallops and limpets and cowries and whelks and moon snails and a million other names I can't remember. Cockles. That one still makes me giggle.

So here I was, with my box o'childhood that I probably subconsciously let languish because I didn't want to deal with it, and a substantial number of very pretty seashells. 

I texted pictures to my friend with the three girls who received several of my (plastic) horses. "Do you think your girls would want these?" 

I crossed my by fingers and waited. I really didn't want to have to throw them out. 

I was thrilled when she said yes! I drove them to her house, and the three little girls were in the pool. They were thrilled -- we went through some and picked out some particularly pretty ones. It made me happy to see them get a new life. 

My friend sent me a picture later:

That's her two older daughters, setting up a "treasure hunt" for their Barbies. 

Bryce asked me if it made me sad. It didn't, not at all. If I don't find people who have kids who might enjoy my childhood treasures, they are just going... Nowhere. THAT would make me sad. But seeing littles playing with my seashells? Awesome. 

Photographic Evidence

All through fertility treatments, I loved collecting pictures. Ultrasound pictures of my ovaries with follicles (one doctor dubbed them "chocolate chip cookies" with follicles as the chips), of the moment an embryo or two were released into my uterus. Photos of the inside of my uterus from hysteroscopies, looking vaguely like alien landscapes. Hopeful photos of embryos that had made it to the point of transfer, either blobs of 8 cells or split-disc-looking blastocysts. Sadder photos of my rupturing tube both inside my body and on a tray when I had the ectopic pregnancy, and the one lonely photo of a briefly viable gestational sac.

In more hopeful times, I saw these photos as the earliest possible baby pictures ever. I saw them as proof of the inexplicable medical miracle that was possible. Photos of such tiny things! 

Eventually, though, they became a record of pain and worst-case scenarios, and a gallery of sadness and loss. That, for some reason, live in a floral box in my attic. How could I ever get rid of the pictures of my hopeful, ill-fated children? 

I still find photos of medical procedures fascinating. No one would humor me when I had my hysterectomy; I really wanted a picture of that organ, excised. I had to use my imagination instead. Apparently people think it's weird when you want a picture (or the item in a jar, which is illegal in New York) of an organ you're exorcising surgically. 

Lucky for me, knee replacements are cool and you are encouraged to take pictures of your x-rays. They don't take pictures of your surgery, probably because it is so aggressive and traumatic, what with the power tools and the mallets and the gore. But I do have some nifty pictures of my new knee, just under seven weeks after surgery: 

HOW COOL IS THAT? But also, yikes. No wonder that hurt so much! All the pounding components into bone and shaving bone to fit the implants. Bleccchhh. 

This, along with my hysterectomy, are some of the only surgeries and medical procedures where I have way better outcomes after. I lost something in both, but they were both things that didn't serve me. Both my uterus and my left knee caused me pain and hampered my quality of life. One is just gone, but this new knee is an improvement! I'm working hard to get my strength back and looking forward to getting back to the things I love doing. 

This photographic evidence of things done to my body makes me so very happy. I have a new knee. I survived this procedure and my body is stronger for it. It was worth the pain. I didn't have the same positive outcomes from the many infertility photos, but all of them remind me that I'm a survivor. I can come out the other side of something traumatic with more strength than before.

Weddings and Hope

We went to a wedding on Saturday, at the Buddhist temple. It was 90-95% in Laotian, so we followed along as best we could, but it was absolutely beautiful. 

There was a parade with the groom and his family and then he had to answer questions from an elder family member of the bride to enter the gate, and then questions from a younger family member of the bride tho enter the temple for the ceremony. I felt nervous for him, because the questions were INTENSE and he isn't Laotian. He did great though, they let him in!

It's always bittersweet when weddings feature prominently the promise of children. When everyone is like, "bring us lots of children! Have many babies!" It seems like a constant no matter the religion. At first I bristled a bit. And then I thought, well, we had the Blessing of Hands at our (highly unreligious)  wedding and one part is "these are the hands that will hold your children." 

It's that hope thing. A part of me feels superstitious, though... That maybe it should be "we hope for children" instead of "there will be children," like it's a given. But for so many, it IS a given and I end up feeling like the dark cloud, Milificent at the christening. Yes yes, things are great now, but wait until that spindle comes for you!

I guess it's that edge that comes with losing that sense that things can ever be a given. But I do hope for this young couple, that if children are in their plans, that children they will have. 

I just wish the focus was less on future children and more on the happiness of the couple's lives together. 

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