Better Barbie This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

I don’t have any alumni ties to Brown, though it’s possible I could be the long-lost granddaughter of James S. Miller. Never have I sailed the Pacific Ocean on the back of a humpback whale, nor can I wrap sushi with the skill of former Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. I haven’t done much research regarding podiatry, and chances are I will never win the Michigan Mega-Millions lottery. I am, however, the proud owner of a Little Mermaid Edition Barbie.

At some point in almost every little girl’s life, she becomes engrossed in the Pepto-Bismol-pink world of Barbies, a place I entered at the age of seven. My sister, Hannah, and I decided to take our collection of 11-inch plastic friends for a dip in the pool one sweltering summer day. Hours of giggling resulted from tossing the Barbies as high as we could into the air and watching them dive gracefully into the waves. Three … two … one, I launched my Little Mermaid doll in the same fashion as Apollo 11. We watched her rocket into the sky. I glanced at my sister, who was scrambling through her scorecards to make sure she had the well-deserved “10” ready. My eyes returned upward, anticipating the gymnastic stunts Barbie would undoubtedly deliver to her enraptured audience. Where was she? The crowd was growing restless. Had she landed on the moon?

Utterly bewildered, we combed through the freshly mown grass and woods, but unfortunately, our search bore no fruit. After a moment of sorrow, our tiny attention spans directed us to a different game, and our minds fluttered away.

Over the years, I encountered many of my own quirky adventures. As a field biologist intern, I camped for 15 days on an uninhabited island, purified my own water, surveyed the endangered Piping Plover, tested the water quality of lakes, and found my way out of 70,000 acres of northern Michigan wilderness. My view of the world broadened through travels and encounters with the Costa Rican, German, French, and Australian cultures. I won varsity letters, had my poetry published, and volunteered at a local hospital, and as I grew older, the mystery of the once-beloved Little Mermaid Edition Barbie faded into a misty memory.

One recent fall day, rainbow-colored leaves swirled through the air and the chilly breeze carried its pleasant scent, an amalgamation of bonfire and pumpkin. Upon the rooftop was not good Saint Nick, but rather my dad, cleaning the leaves off our house. Tied to the branch of an ancient oak tree, the tire swing moved my body in a pendulum motion. My dad approached with something dark in his hands. “Eh … does this belong to you, or Hannah?” he said with a look of perplexity painted on his face. I couldn’t believe my eyes: It was the Little Mermaid Edition Barbie! The poor girl – she was an absolute disaster. I affirmed my ownership of the traveler, and took her battered body in my hands.

Nine years had passed since I had seen the almost-world-renowned Olympic diver. I recalled that summer day and smiled as memories flooded my mind. She looked as though she’d been struck by lightning a few times, weathered heavy monsoons, and held onto the gutter for dear life during tornados. Her mangled arm appeared to have been mistaken for a worm by a ferocious momma bird. Leaves, dirt, and other debris were entwined in her once shiny, cherry locks. Her attire was tattered – she seemed to have fashioned herself a Tarzan-esque ensemble. Her ingenuity was impressive; it reminded me of an experience in which I had to craft socks out of a garbage bag and medical tape, then wear them for three days in pouring rain. Nevertheless, one thing stood out as I ogled my long-lost friend: her face.

She wore a radiant smile, a look of contentment, self-confidence, and accomplishment. With head held high and a positive attitude, she had battled life’s unexpected challenges. She knows now what it means to strive and succeed. I realized the world of pink doesn’t fit someone with so much potential, so much passion for learning, so much heart, independence, and creativity. I looked at her and saw myself reflected in her sapphire eyes.

Like her, my dreams lie far beyond those of a Stepford wife, and with the ability to bend and not break, I am ready to step out of my plastic box society, through the Van Winkle gates, and into a world of endless possibilities. I crave the works of Thoreau and Emerson, not mall directories or grocery lists. I desire adventure and the opportunity to study new cultures. I long to write what I want and voice my opinions with my whole heart behind them. And as the Little Mermaid Edition Barbie sits on my shelf, next to musical and athletic trophies, behind silly pictures of friends, and alongside books by Maya Angelou and Lewis Carroll, she reminds me of myself. For this ambitious girl, pink is not enough; she is ready to dive into Brown.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2008 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.

Join the Discussion

This article has 136 comments. Post your own now!

Deej6595 said...
Nov. 30, 2012 at 3:16 pm
Getting ready for the future. This is a good theme. It may even inspire me to write my own Barbie story!
Dignified Fallacy said...
Sept. 27, 2012 at 4:07 am
Well, it really shouldn't matter how amazing the essay is, all the person did was correct them. this site isn't about getting praise, it's about critique and I don't think the other person said anything that was insulting or rude. 
pensive said...
Sept. 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm
Can I be honest here? I was bored. It's like you're trying to point out all your accomplishments over and over again. The thing about the Barbie felt kind of forced, too, as if the doll didn't really have much importance to you, and the whole essay was just a set up to talk about how much "potential" you have. It would feel a lot more genuine if you actually talked about yourself as a person. 
maizyiscrazy said...
Aug. 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm
So while there has been a lot of condradicting ideas about the "plagarism" of this essay, it is definitely not copied word for word. In the book "100 Successful College Application Essays," Jamie Metzl's essay to Brown has to do with a seven inch Godzilla, and the first paragraph is remarkably similiar. To be fair to the author though, this essay does have some very unique touches that do make the essay its own.
potterfan said...
Jun. 7, 2012 at 8:48 am
You are a master of syntax and imagery. I found myself laughing and marveling in the clever allusions and intricate descriptions of everything. Please continue writing, your style is so unique. Go Brown! 
peach<3 said...
May 29, 2012 at 9:16 pm
I believe that a woman can still be feminine and "pink", and at the same time be smart and strive to achieve great things. This message implies that a woman can either be smart *or* pretty, but I believe that she can be both. The essay, however, is well written, although I don't agree entirely with the topic.
RachelCookie said...
May 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Wow... this essay stood out to me so much because at first it seemed so irrelevent; the title drew me with its unusual title. But once it connected the Barbie's part in your life back to your current lifestyle, and how it has influenced your decisions... I was amazed. So simple, yet so powerful.

Every aspect of this essay is striking, no matter what way you look at it - except for one. I hate to say it, but I've read the book '100 Successful College Application Essays' myself, and this... (more »)

peachybeech said...
Apr. 29, 2012 at 8:59 am

This essay is magnificent! From the more serious, informative moments to the little quips of humor sporadically sprinkled throughout, I was left feeling extremely impressed. You have a masterful method of crafting your words. Amazing job! 


doom.doom.doom.911 said...
Apr. 27, 2012 at 9:09 am
that was great. i hope you get in to brown and hope these people who continue to insult you quit. they really shoudl get a life. continue writing, you are great at it! keep on, sister!
icecreamgirl15 said...
Apr. 22, 2012 at 6:28 pm
oh my gosh... that was incredible! if you do't get into Brown, they have problems
jakedawggg said...
Mar. 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm
Masaharu Morimoto is not a former Iron Chef he is still one and is still on the show. Even the new ones. Recently he did a battle. Sorry but you are missinformed.
doom.doom.doom.911 replied...
Apr. 27, 2012 at 8:59 am
you just read that amazing essay and all you do is correct her? that's so wrong.
Crazy Vanny said...
Mar. 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm
The most impressive part for me is the ending. I love this essay! It really makes me think!
Caravana said...
Feb. 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm
great job! I love how you used your own personal experience to provide a deeper meaning. This essay really made me think and I could really relate with the childhood memories :)
SoulStar said...
Jan. 6, 2012 at 9:15 am
I think it was inspiration she didn't write the essay out of the book verbatim she just used some of her own words and she didn't make the same comparisons
Mimi said...
Dec. 1, 2011 at 7:59 pm
I love your essays. they rock. keep going
pollito replied...
Dec. 2, 2011 at 12:47 pm
Sonn :DD
FreeToDream_FreeToSing_Born2BeFamous18 replied...
Dec. 9, 2011 at 11:49 am
This Is EXACTLY What Writing Looks, Sounds And Feels like lol WAY TO GO!
writersblock said...
Nov. 13, 2011 at 11:30 pm
I absolutely love the essay! There is so much imagery and your play on words is incredible. After reading the essay, one simply must smile at how well BARBIE was portrayed. HOWEVER, although I personally have not read the book 100 college essays or whatnot, I read the excerpt and I really think it is an exact plagiarism. I'm really sorry to say, but it is disappointing to know that the magazine actually allowed your essay to be written. 
Sarahhhhhhh This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm


Plagarism is disgusting. 

Alright I'm done. 

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