We have never bought in to the whole Barbie thing. In fact, our house has been something of an anti-Barbie zone for so many years, that it just doesn’t enter my head any more.
Until this week.
Meg has a friend, K, who she went to for tea last week. This was quite a big thing in some ways, because this was the first time that Meg had been invited round to one of her classmate’s houses for the afternoon. There’s always a slight concern for us – we know that Meg’s perfectly capable of behaving well, but we’re never entirely sure how the parents will react to her Down’s Syndrome. However, it all seemed to go fine, and Maggie and I breathed a sigh of relief when Meg was brought home with tales of having made their own pizza for dinner, along with lots of playing and dancing.
When I was walking with Meg out of the school gates earlier this week, K’s mum was there, in her car with her daughters, apparently waiting for us to appear. She leapt out of the car when she saw us, and with a beaming smile produced a Barbie doll. “Hi Meg,” she said, “you were having such a great time the other day, and we have a lot of Barbie’s, so I thought you might like this one!” K’s mum was holding out the doll, resplendent in a glittery dress, to Meg.
Well at this point you don’t really like to say “and what kind of role model do you think I’m going to let my daughter have? Don’t you understand that we are trying to create a society in which people of all shapes, sizes, ages and colours should be allowed to be seen as normal? Don’t you realise that society created all sorts of problems when it decided that the only acceptable form of beauty was that of a tall blonde with disproportionately large breasts and a waist the size of a skinny 9-year-old? Well do you? Do you?” Not if you ever want your daughter to go to a friend’s house for tea again you don’t.
The easy option at that point would have been to take the doll with thanks and tried to lose the thing later, but I also realised that if we accepted it then it would be almost impossible to explain to Meg later on why we didn’t think that having a Barbie was a good idea.
K’s mum turned to me and said, “I hope you don’t mind. Meg was telling us how much she loved Barbie and was going to get lots of Barbie stuff for Xmas.” Utterly untrue of course, but sometimes Meg will just come out with these things.
“I’m sorry”, I said, desperately wishing that Maggie had picked up Meg today and been the one to deal with this, “but I’d rather not take it.”
At this point K’s mum hadn’t a clue what was going on in my head and said, “Oh, she’s already got hundreds has she?” Her smile was still very warm and friendly.
“No,” I replied, trying to keep my smile as relaxed and friendly as possible, “we just don’t do Barbie.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said. Her smile was still there, but I was aware that none of her facial muscles had moved .
She was back in the car so fast, that I barely had time to say “I appreciate the thought…” before the tyres were screeching and the car was disappearing into the distance.
Sometimes it isn't easy being a Dad.