Now that my boys are bigger than me, I turn my attention toward my younger nieces and soak up their delicious feminine company.
Last week, nine year old Marlo gave me Barbie lessons which were–I have to tell you–simply brilliant.
I sat down beside her in the playroom, and confessed, as one is apt to do with Marlo:
“I don’t know how to play. I’m not very good at it.”
“Oh, you’ve just forgotten,” she assured me, sizing up my anxiety, “I’ll teach you. It’s really simple.”
And thus, I proceeded to receive remedial Barbie lessons which left me wishing that Marlo had been around when my boys were young so that she could have broken down playing with trucks in manageable, adult-friendly steps.
“First, you choose a Barbie,” Marlo began, pushing a large bin toward me. (Which was no small feat as I rummaged through a large collection of legs and hair entwined in an orgy of pale plastic.)
“Then, you decide what she’ll wear, and you start dressing her,” Marlo continued.
As I began to sort through another bin of miniature clothing and high heels, Marlo stopped me to develop my skills. “Take a look at this,” she said, pointing to the Barbie that she had dressed. “Why do you think I chose this outfit for her? What do you notice about her?”
I stammered and sputtered. The woman had long, wild red hair and I was afraid to say something inappropriate.
Marlo helped me out, leading me with answers, and soon enough, I began to enjoy assembling an outfit for my own doll; which was surprising, because I take very little pleasure in dressing myself.
In fact, I was so thrilled with my final fashion statement, which involved 4 top layers, including a flannel shirt and a sequined tank top, that I went downstairs to show my husband and my sister.
When we returned from the mini fashion show, Marlo complimented my work profusely before directing my attention to the next step; but I was distractedly photographing my art from every angle.
Marlo coaxed me back to the play at hand: “The next thing you need do is decide where your doll is going; and then you start talking about it.”
I decided that my doll was a Marine Biologist who was going to the library to research marine mammals despite her shiny jacket and silver go go boots.
I thought this career focus would impress Marlo and raise the bar on Barbie play, but she took my doll’s credentials in stride and made casual conversation between her Barbie and mine.
“The thing about playing Barbies,” Marlo explained, “is that it’s really helpful–for real life. You get to try things things. You can work out problems–without having to talk about them.”
I pulled out the small pad I kept in my purse in order to take notes. (Or maybe I only made mental notes because I can’t find them now.)
“Can you repeat the part about how helpful it is to play with Barbies,” I asked.
“Keep playing,” Marlo said, and then she suggested that I would need additional lessons.