Dear Barbie –
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Let me start bluntly: Honey, you have got the life.
It is always summer in your world, your weight doesn’t fluctuate, you wear the crème de la crème in fashion, and, according to what you write in the book Barbie Loves L.A., “I don’t perspire – I glisten.” By the way, the little Pucci number you’re wearing in front of the Hollywood sign in that book makes me green with envy.
But I digress.
I’m here as a professional and an observer of what you’ve been doing for 50 years and what the possibilities are now, in this moment, as you ponder whether or not to take Ken back after a seven-year split. Barbie, this is your chance to be the woman who is the antithesis of what pop culture is showing today’s woman to be – gold digging, snarky, unforgiving, petulant, back-stabbing, insecure and obsessed with status and surface.
Let me be clear. I’m not here to tell you whether or not to give Ken another shot. That’s not the role of the coach. My job is to get you thinking in new ways so you can make a more informed decision grounded in emotional intelligence and love. Making a decision about entering or re-entering a relationship is a significant moment in anyone’s life, but in yours … well, talk about pressure. The eyes of the world are on you.
In this time of watching shows like The Bachelor or some variation of Bravo's “Housewives” series where women triangulate and manipulate or get starry-eyed over a fairy tale they’ve conjured up in their head, how about you stand up for decency and saying what you mean? How about you look at the all of this man and not what you think he could do for you or your image?
I know it’s a lot to put on a doll, but what I’m looking for here is either a joyful reunion with a man you care about or a compassionate, forthright letdown. You could teach us humans an awful lot if you go there.
Back in 2004, you ditched Ken and took up with Blaine, an Australian native boogie boarder whose “fave saying” was “Dare me?” It must have been exciting to be with an adventurous guy after hanging out with agreeable Ken. So why even consider Ken now? Something must have shifted for you. We know something has shifted for Ken, at least according to what I read on CNN.com in 2006.
“Ken has revamped his life -- mind, body and soul,” Hollywood stylist and Mattel consultant Phillip Bloch said in a statement. “Everyone knows how difficult it is to change, especially when you’ve lived your life a certain way for more than four decades.”
Barbie, in a span of a few days, the needle on the very public Love-O-Meter that Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT) has created for your fans has gone from hovering between “let him down easy” and “it’s complicated” to “give him a chance.”
So how about you? Where are you leaning? Have you learned anything about yourself since 2004 that makes you feel like this time it might work with Ken? If you decide to go back, do it for the right reasons. If you decide it’s not a good move, then be sure-footed in that choice. You were kind of dismissive in 2004 and it would send a better message if you acted in a loving and compassionate manner regardless of your decision. This is a man with whom you have history. That’s meaningful.
I know this isn’t easy, given your history. Back when you emerged on the scene in the late 1950s and exploded in the 1960s -- according to M.G. Lord’s Forever Barbie, The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll--your creator, Ruth Handler, was looking to create a doll that “would be forever independent, subservient to no one.” With Betty Friedan making a big splash right around then, it all made sense, even the fact that Handler was resistant to giving you a partner at all.
Add iconic Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown’s bestselling Sex and the Single Girl into the atmosphere and it’s no stretch to see why you became an alternative to the married housewife role for many girls.
“Brown’s Single Girl did not live in the world of ideas, where a looker like Robert Browning would fall for a lump like Elizabeth Barrett,” Lord writes. “She lived in the material world, where beauty was the decisive weapon in the everlasting battle for men.”
And while that is unquestionably still true in a way it always will be, we have turned a corner, Barbie. Do we want to “battle” for men or attract them for the right reasons? Do we want our beauty to be a “weapon” or an asset we’ve cultivated inside and outside? Maybe you could be a symbol for that.
Look, we’ve all seen the gestures Ken has made (As an aside, I have to tell you, I tried the Magnolia Bakery cupcake he had created just for you and it’s delish) and he’s proven himself a romantic who misses you. I’ve even life coached him and tried to explain what women worth pursuing really want from a man.
Barbie, I suppose what I’m trying to get you to think about is whether you’re one of those women worth pursuing. Why should he want to be with you? What are you bringing to the relationship? Ken used to be what Lord describes in her book as “a lackluster fellow, a mere accessory.”
That was then, this is now. Rise to the occasion of the more aware times we live in and acknowledge that.
“People project fears and prejudices onto [Barbie],” Lord writes “When a person talks at length about Barbie, one usually learns more about the speaker than about the doll.”
I guess that means you’ve learned something about me today, Barbie. I’m a coach with a bigger vision for humanity than what we’re fed in so much of pop culture. I want you to represent.
As your Web site says, “It’s Barbie’s world. We just play in it.”
Use that power wisely, doll. We can all be better from it.