Since today is Barbie’s birthday, revealing her role in my sex education seems appropriate.
When I was a kid, I loved playing with my Barbie doll. She was a star as I acted out, puppet fashion, every book or movie that caught my fancy. I couldn’t sew, but I’d cut out fabric to make the costumes she needed for a given role, then bind them together with scotch tape and staples. They weren’t very durable, but my attention span was as short then as it is now, so they didn’t need to be.
I often played with Vicky, who lived across the street. One day we were in the log cabin playhouse my dad had built for us kids in our backyard when she asked me if I knew where babies came from.
“From your mom’s belly,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Yeah, but how does it get in there?”
Since it was still four years before Reverend Puff would bring his magic record into school, I had to admit ignorance.
“I can show you,” she said, “but we’ll need some stuff.”
We set off down the alley behind my house, searching the neighbors’ trashcans until we found a discarded aerosol can of Lilt home permanent solution and one of Barbasol.
She hefted the almost empty can in her hand. “This should do it.”
Back at the cabin, we stripped off Barbie and Ken’s clothes. Vicky applied the Lilt to Barbie’s groin area and the Barbasol to Ken’s. Then she rubbed them together.
“And when the shaving cream mixes up with the Lilt,” she said, “that’s when you get pregnant.”
This is how screwed up things were at my house: my mom overheard this conversation, and did nothing to correct this misconception.
For the next few weeks, my Barbie sported a wad of cotton beneath her blouse.
Just as I was beginning to grow bored with the restrictions pregnancy was placing on my leading lady, I overheard my mom and one of my aunts talking about a woman who’d had a miscarriage.
I looked up from my blooming Barbie.
“What’s a miscarriage?” I asked, and got the standard response.
“Go look it up.”
A week later, after a trip to the library, my Barbie was once again svelte.
“I thought your Barbie was having a baby?” Mom said.
“She had an abortion.”
(There are a lot of morals you can construe from this, but the chief one is: Don’t put life-and-death decisions in the hands of fourth-graders.)