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Happy 55th, Barbie! Now for goodness sake, eat some carbs.


HIDDEN beneath the younger daughter's bed is a box filled with sinister body parts.

There's Barbie Rapunzel's head, yanked from her neck for some longforgotten hair-dressing game, a shiny, pink arm separated from its body and a removable heart which slots in and out of a weirdly-flat Barbie chest.

All that time I thought the daughter was playing nice games with her glamorous plastic friends, she was acting out open-heart surgery fantasies or beheading in the name of hair trends.

We can't give these dismembered parts to a charity shop or, as Barbie -makers hope, pass them on for future generations to dress.

The army of dolls that arrived at our house down the years, from Christmas to birthdays, doesn't look as good as it once did and appearance is all, as every Barbie knows. Turning 55 next week, the plastic icon has revealed, through her spin doctors, that she has that spooky, eating-disorder figure to get her clothes to fit.

Barbie wasn't designed this way to convince generations of women the ideal look is wasp-waist, pneumatic boobs and cocktail-stick thighs. No, she's here to show us girls how to be our own woman.

Having two daughters who, as little girls, hankered after Barbie and every accessory ever made for her, I've always felt a little uneasy.

It wasn't just the hours spent removing tiny plastic shoes from the hoover nozzle or ripping up carpets to find lost earrings the size of sugar strands. No, it was the smug look of the woman that got me down.

Raised on a pair of 1970s Sindy dolls - who were bad enough but at least vaguely human-shaped - I was unnerved by Barbie who clearly had eating issues and a Stepford mentality.

There's something about her creepy little smile and blank eyes. Nothing, but nothing, has the power of Barbie to divide and rule.

When I announced, "I hate Barbie", the daughters were having none of it. Beside her I was a mere shadow, someone who failed to match bags with footwear. What did I know? Don't be fooled by her emptyheaded gaze, Barbie is a formidable woman to take on. She even has her own Wikipedia page and more spin doctors than the Prime Minister.

With her 55th birthday on March 9, it's time to remember, this is a girl who defies time and progress and her body ain't changing however old she is.

"Barbie's body was never designed to be realistic," Kim Culmone, vicepresident of design for Barbie, reassured in a recent interview with Fast Company Design.

"She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress."

Us girls can only dress and undress with ease, you see, if our legs are the breadth of tooth floss and our waists the width of our necks - necks that aren't large enough to hold our heads up, but never mind that.

Then there's Barbie's proportionally freakishly vast chest and washboard stomach. Were the makers to move her curves around Barbie might look, well, more like the human form, and we can't have that if we want to convince girls they need to emulate aliens, or even get dressed.

The website has shown that, were she a real person, Barbie would have to walk on all fours due to her tiny feet. She wouldn't be able to raise her head from her neck and her mini-waist would leave space for only half a liver and a few inches of intestines.

This is not a woman you want to take to the pub or walk to work with.

Researchers at the University Central Hospital in Helsinki say that, with vital statistics estimated at a 36in chest, 16in waist and 33in hips, Barbie would lack the 17-22% body fat required for a woman to menstruate.

We can dump that pink stroller rolling around under the daughter's bed then, the one Barbie never had arms long enough to reach. The baby that sat in it would have torn her in two had Barbie ever given birth, but then again, Ken never looked up to the task, so I'd always suspected she was adopted.

So now my daughter is 14, what to do with the Barbie leftovers, the bikinis and motorbike gear, the vet's bag and evening gowns gathering dust under her bed for the past eight years? Should I keep them all for future generations? "Did you really look like that?," descendants might wonder.

No, we'll assure them, um, actually some of us did, we'll admit.

For those who think Barbie is just a benign being, a doll for girls to create fashion fantasies with - enter Blondie Bennett and Sarah Burge, both of whom have re-created their bodies to emulate the plastic goddess.

Blondie has even had hypnotherapy to make her 'brainless like Barbie' after spending PS25,000 on breast enhancements.

The 38-year-old Californian has dedicated her life to transforming herself into the doll, even having weekly hypnotherapy to train her to be more vacant.

Spray tans, Botox and lip-fillers help keep up the appearance and she hopes happiness will follow.

"When people ask why I want to be Barbie I think "who wouldn't want to be?"," she's explained.

"She has the best life. All she does is shop and make herself look pretty - she doesn't worry about anything."

Well, no, except being shut in a toy box, but let's not let small matters like breathing crush the women's dream.

Then there's Sarah Burge, the British mother of three, dubbed the "real-life Barbie" after having plastic surgery reportedly worth PS500,000. She even gave her seven-year-old daughter Poppy vouchers for plastic surgery.

Sarah defends her life choice saying: "There's nothing wrong in using her (Barbie) as a role model when it comes to looks, as well as attitude to life."

It's all enough to make you want to throw your toys out of the pram and into the nearest nuclear reactor.

"Let's bin Barbie," I tell my daughter.

But she's having none of it. Dangling one of her brood with its glossy hair now fuzzy with use, I have to admit our Barbies looks a bit more like the 55 years she'll be next week.

Barbie, it's time to admit it. A woman of your age can't go around dressed like that. Your shoes have broken enough vacuum cleaners. It's time to grow up and eat some carbs.


Were she a real >person, Barbie would have to walk on all fours due to her tiny feet
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 26, 2014
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