My friend Marcus Goodyear recently released his first book of poetry, Barbies at Communion, and today has become "Barbie Friday" for several of us around the blogosphere.
I have to admit, it's a bit of relief imagining Barbie at communion. I've often wondered about her soul over the years.
Barbie was one of my earliest friends, after all. I don't remember how old I was when Barbie came to live with me, but it was certainly when I was still awkward. I remember the ambivalence of my thinking during those years, simultaneously believing that I was the ugliest person I know AND that someday I might grow up to be beautiful AND that I would never marry someone like Ken AND that surely there was a Ken waiting for me. But I didn't see that having anything to do with Barbie.
She has gotten a bad rap over the years for promoting an unhealthy body image and premature sexuality for little girls. Even though Barbie is now a vet, doctor, AND teacher, among other vocations. And there's something shallow and demeaning about the artistic value of many of the Barbie books and movies, cheaply produced to help feed the machine.
I don't see that as her fault, though. She was very down to earth when we were hanging out together.
My Barbie didn't have a beautiful mansion or speedy convertible, and she certainly didn't wear glittery outfits and sparkly shoes. She lived like I did, except for her occasional "shoebox apartments" I created. And she actually wore what I wore, homemade clothes my mom constructed out of the scraps of material left over from my polyester jumpers or cotton shorts.
Certainly there are power brokers behind the Barbie name, capitalizing on the aspirations of little girls as they hock unrealistically proportioned, supermodel dolls and the accessories to go with her. But when you are the little girl who spends hours brushing her hair, changing her clothes, and whispering secrets to the little doll, the name Barbie means something entirely different.
Marcus' poetry finds the tension between cultural icons and real life spirituality and reminds us that every part of us is open to be changed and influenced when we encounter the Divine.