Week 7: "When you live for someone you're prepared to die"

"When you live for someone you're prepared to die"

My Barbie doll didn't wear a dress. She wore a black wetsuit that was so much a part of her identity that it was painted right on to her skin. She had plastic pink flippers and a pink one piece bathing suit that complimented her immaculately applied makeup. (Waterproof mascara, no doubt.)

She was supposed to be a whale trainer at SeaWorld, but I decided that she was a marine biologist named Sandy. This is exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. That is, before finding out that in order to be a marine biologist, I would have to be able to both swim underwater and dissect animals. The horror.

Sandy's hair was a frizzy mess from too many undersea adventures. She bore the scars of deep teeth marks on her thigh from when the dog got hold of her. I later explained her injuries as a shark attack. She was so brave.

The girl across the street – Nicky - had a very different idea of what the perfect life for her doll entailed. Her Barbie (actually named Barbie) was a party animal. Her favourite past times were trying on different outfits and dancing to Ace of Base and Michael Jackson with every handsome Ken doll we could find. There was actually only one of these so he was forced to take on many different identities.

Barbie didn't want to collect data with Sandy on endangered sea urchins, because she didn't want to ruin her hair. Sandy was stuck trying on stupid ballgowns that clashed with her wetsuit. I felt sorry for her.

Eventually, it was decided that both Barbie and Sandy would marry Ken. (As mentioned, we only had one boy doll between the two of us so it couldn't have gone any other way.) The sisterwives both became pregnant.

I declared that their lives were over and everything would now be boring. Nicky tried to convince me otherwise, but having Barbie and Sandy carry around toilet paper bundles (babies) had no appeal for me. Sandy abandoned her nameless bundle to Barbie and took off on an adventure to never be seen again. Perhaps she had postpartum depression.

Twenty years later, I still look back on this and wonder what made me feel so opposed to the idea of motherhood, even then. Women with babies come into the restaurant all the time, eyes full of expectancy. They seem to be waiting for the waitresses to coo and exclaim over their sleeping infants. It seems almost cruel to purposefully deny this and pretend that the car seats they've towed in don't even exist. When forced to acknowledge them, I have to ply my lips into a tight smile that I can only assume makes me look like the Grinch. I should really be kept away with a ten foot pole as to not traumatize entire families.

Two and a half years after Sandy's fatal aquatic downfall, my sister was born. I was twelve. Mum, busy with the dishes tried to hand Sydney's flailing, screaming body to me.

“No,” I shook my head. “I'm busy.”

“Nichole. She's just a baby.” Emphasis on the word 'baby'. “ Why do you hate her?”

I didn't hate her. I was terrified of her.

I held her anyways, her body red and hot from screaming. Her face perpetually tear strained. I was told she had collic, but I didn't know what that meant. Just that no matter what I did, it would never stop her from belting out her misery and disrupting everyone within earshot from whatever they were doing.

My mother quit her job to become a stay at home mom. The neigbourhood that we lived in had deteriorated and was now no place to raise a baby. We moved to Strathmore – otherwise known as The Middle of Nowhere. Our famous house parties stopped. Family friends visited less and less. On the few occassions that they did, they'd wink at me and make comments about how I'd found myself a new job as a built in babysitter. I'd shut myself in my room until well after they'd left.

Sydney, now eighteen years old, delights in these stories. “I was just a baby,” she says. Emphasis on the word 'baby'. “I couldn't help it.”

“I know,” I say. “Neither could I.”

She laughs. My sister laughs as easily today as she cried when she was a newborn. Her eyes are full of mischief and humor. “Tell me again about when you had to tow me to the hospital in the red wagon.”

“When you jumped off the sofa and split your lip?”

She nods.

“Alright. But you should send off your tuition deposit first.”

She's been accepted by two different universities to study biology.

Sandy would be so proud.

This is such a great slice of nostalgia! I had one Barbie myself; she was brown haired, as mom was not so fond of Barbies in general and so conceded to the fact little girls have them, but refused a blonde one. At one point, mad at my mom, I buzzed her hair off (my mom was also brown haired and blue eyed, and from my 2 foot tall vantage looked awfully tall and skinny). I was very young, preschool or so, so I had no conception of "punk rock Barbie" or "butch daddy lesbian Barbie" so she was just... bald. Later on my friend and I would play with Barbies, and I had no idea what to do. I just clutched W's Barbies in a hand and did whatever she directed me to (which actually characterized most of our friendship, sadly enough). Then my aunt got me a Barbie when I was 11 or 12, and a dog immediately ate it. My cousin had literally boxes full of Barbies, got the special one every Christmas and all. I just never understood playing with them.

Just a few years ago, the Pox told me about an article she'd read, where what you played with could point to whether you'd have children or not as an adult - kids who played with dolls were more likely to be parents; children who played with stuffed animals were more likely to be childless. I overwhelmingly played with stuffed animals, and despite my lifelong belief I'd end up having kids of my own, I've done a lot to avoid getting pregnant... so perhaps it's coded in me, somehow, as evidenced by my childhood.

Anyway! Just some sharing, and thank you for sharing your memory!
"She bore the scars of deep teeth marks on her thigh from when the dog got hold of her. I later explained her injuries as a shark attack. " Good call :)
I knew from a very young age I didn't want children. Babies are boring, though older kids are good in small doses :)
Ah nostalgia... Thank you for sharing this! The binary of memories of the past and the vignettes from more recent memories worked very well.

In a similar vein, I was never really fond of playing the game "House". Nor did I ever play with an Easy Bake oven. It just didn't appeal to me.
I hated "House"! I always opted to be the family dog. It was an easy out for still being included, but not doing the whole gross family thing. I remember all the other girls used to fight over who got to play the part of the baby, which I found completely revolting.

Didn't have an Easy Bake oven, but I did have a Creepy Crawlers thing. (You know where you bake a bunch of different insects/monsters?)

What did you actually play with?
Oh man! Barbies! Mine were almost all hand-me-downs from my cousin, but my best friend and I played with them as older children (like more 10-11) in the river, swimming, and they had glorious epic adventures which may have been loosely based on bad western romance novels that we both delighted in and made fun of at the time. And now my daughters have inherited most of the same set of them. I really enjoyed this!
This was absolutely hilarious. Sorry for my belated response. When I initially read this comment, I thought reenacting the bad western romances was the best thing ever. Especially imagining these from an eleven year old's point of view.
I LOL-ed at 'Sandy abandoned her nameless bundle to Barbie and took off on an adventure to never be seen again.' This was a Fun read. Liked the co-relation you drew from the prompt. Nice work!
Thank you! haha. Was a bit worried about the response to that line. There's a few parents participating in Idol and I wasn't sure if they would be horrified beyond repair. Particularly with the reference to postpartum. Eek!
Yeah? She came with an orca whale that sprayed water. They were the best. ;)

Thanks for taking the time to read/comment!
I absolutely love this! I think it may have to been wrong to burst into hysterics at this..... Sandy carry around toilet paper bundles (babies) had no appeal for me. Sandy abandoned her nameless bundle to Barbie and took off on an adventure to never be seen again. Perhaps she had postpartum depression.

My husband (I'm certain- yep, he did) just gave me the side eye! He thinks I'm bonkers, I keep chuckling. This truly was an enjoyable read. Sounds like you and your sister have a functional relationship to boot!

The Barbie section though...just priceless. Well done fellow Norbie! Thanks for the laughter! Peace~~~D
hahah I'm glad that people seemed to find that bit funny. I certainly did, but wasn't sure if it was too insensitive. As I usually write for myself, participating in Idol is making me reconsider different lines as to how they'd be read from a broader audience than my usual readership of like, one - two people. It's definitely been opening my eyes a bit!
Hah great story! I loved your reference to the dolls being "sister wives". Made me crack up. I watch a number of trashy shows, and that one happens to be one of my favorites. I don't really like babies either. I'm still unsure if I'll ever have kids, but I have to say I don't really enjoy them until they're about five or six years old. You are a very welcome edition to Team Norbert indeed : ).
That's what I always say as well. You can't even begin to reason with babies. That terrifies me.
"Sandy was stuck trying on stupid ballgowns that clashed with her wetsuit." BWAHAHAHA!

This was great - I didn't see the ending coming at all, and it tied up so perfectly. Well-written and so engaging!

(I'm also a baby-disliker :) )
Baby-dislikers unite! (I can imagine the feedback creating that Facebook account would get already. The horror.)
I later explained her injuries as a shark attack. She was so brave.

LOL. I can't quote all the lines that made me laugh. There were too many :)

I loved this. :)

Which is probably not what you expected, but the ending just killed me.

I would have to be able to both swim underwater and dissect animals. The horror.
I fully understand both issues here.

I love the dog bites that became shark wounds, and my Barbies wore a lot of pretty clothes but also made heavy use of the pop-out camper and rode around in the Tonka dumptruck I'd asked for and wanted as a kid. No idea why, but I did, and I used it. I thought playing "house" was the most boring thing ever, and I still do, though I'm so glad I had kids and have loved raising them.

Before my own kids, though, I thought babies were terrifying. My lasting impression is that they would get unhappy and cry, and there was nothing I could do to fix that. And that I might randomly break them. Our own kids did not cry a lot, and you get over the "breakage" fear with the attraction of merciless snuggling.

“Tell me again about when you had to tow me to the hospital in the red wagon.”
You were awesome. Just saying. :)
One of my favourite comments on this post. So sweet.

I had my Barbies ride around in my cousin's Ninja Turtle Van or the Ghost Buster car that I had asked for. The doll house that my dad made me was home of Barbies, Power Rangers, Creepy Crawlers (remember those?) and an assortment of others. Sounds like we would have gotten along!
That was a lot of childhood memories that came flooding by. I had a barbie too when I was younger ... But for some reason just kept it on my shelf to be sitting pretty. Maybe I could not connect with her being just pretty and all. :P I thought it was awesome the way you linked this with the prompt. Well Done.
You ended up being a good sister, after all, despite your inclination otherwise, to have influenced her into such a cool field, and to have her take such delight in you. She's fortunate to have you. ;)
hahha. I'll be sure to pass this message along to her. "YOU ARE FORTUNATE TO HAVE ME, YOU KNOW." ;)
Play is so important in developing who we are as human beings. Yes, it can reveal things about us as children, but it can also be the time we discover goals and dreams. I love that your Barbie became Sandy and had adventures and a great career. I mean, of course she did - you were already you, even then. And Sandy was sort of you - well, at least according to one theory of play.

I also like the subtle implication that Sydney kind of took Sandy's place. What need you a doll when you have a real baby?

This was the song that sprang to mind here - not a perfect lyrical match, but some similarities.

Ahh! I was so excited when you posted this. I haven't heard this song in forever. Love that it made you think of my entry.
Our Barbies would've been great friends.

I don't know if the image will show 'cause I'm just linking it from somewhere else.

I asked for the pineapple-shaped shaved ice maker so I could make my own slushees out of kool-aid, but I got the doll instead. I think her name was Kyra, which I don't recall ever changing. She was Barbie's Asian friend, and she became a window to other Barbie-opportunities for which I didn't usually care unless we were pretending to be radio dj's with my keyboard and talkboy, but most girls weren't really into that for very long. I made her an apartment on my bookshelf. Sometimes Batman came over, but that didn't work out because he was so much shorter but far too arrogant given the situation. Too bad our Barbies never met.
I wanted this Barbie -so badly- but never got her. If we'd been friends at that age, I would have been infinitely jealous.

Your description of Batman KILLED me. So funny.