Better than your Average Barbie

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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 in my life have I sailed the cerulean Pacific Ocean on the back of a Humpback Whale, nor can I wrap sushi with the same perfection as former Iron Chef, Masaharu Morimoto. I haven’t done too much research regarding podiatry, and chances are I will never win the Michigan Mega-Millions lottery. I am, however, the proud owner of The 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 ripe age of seven. My sister Hannah and I decided to take our small collection of eleven-inch-tall plastic friends for a dip in the pool on one sweltering, summer day. Hours of giggling resulted from tossing the Barbies as high as we could into the air, and then watching them tumble gracefully into the aqua waves. Three…two…one, I launched my Little Mermaid doll in the same fashion as Apollo 11. Hannah and I watched with sheer awe as the doll rocketed into the sky. I glanced at my sister, who was scrambling through her scorecards, to make sure she reached for the well-deserved “ten”. My eyes returned upward, waiting for the much anticipated gymnastic stunts Barbie would undoubtedly deliver to her enraptured audience. Where was she? The clock ticked impatiently and the crowd was growing restless. Had she landed on the moon?

Utterly bewildered, we combed through the freshly mown grass and the bug-infested, sticky 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 with thoughts pertaining to everything but our lost companion. As the tomorrows became yesteryears, I encountered many of my own quirky adventures. As a field biologist intern, I camped fifteen days on an uninhabited island, purified my own water, surveyed the endangered Piping Plover, tested the water quality of nearby lakes, and found my way out of 70,000 acres of Northern Michigan wilderness. My view of the world broadened through unique travels and encounters with Costa Rican, German, French, and Australian cultures. I had won varsity letters, gotten my poetry published, and volunteered at my local hospital, but as I grew older, the mystery of the once beloved Little Mermaid edition Barbie faded into a misty memory.

Rainbow leaves swirled through the air and the chilly autumn breeze carried a 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 manner, and my dad walked over, 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 could not believe my eyes: it was the Little Mermaid Edition Barbie. The poor girl--she was an absolute disaster. I affirmed my ownership of the recently discovered traveler, and took her battered body into my hands.

Nine years had passed since the last time I had seen the almost-world-renowned Olympic diver. I recalled that sizzling summer day and smiled as cheerful childhood memories flooded my mind. She looked as though she’d been struck by lightning a few times, survived 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 previously shiny, cherry locks. Her original attire had been tattered, and she seemed to have fashioned a Tarzan-esque ensemble. Her inventiveness 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 to me as I ogled my long lost friend: her face.

On it was a radiant smile, a look of contentment, self-confidence, and a sense of accomplishment. With a 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 glanced at her and 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 look at her and see 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 more than ready to step out from my plastic box society, through the Van Winkle gates, and into a world of endless possibility. 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 trophies of both musical and athletic persuasions, behind silly pictures of friends, and alongside books of Maya Angelou and Lewis Carroll, she reminds me of myself. For this ambitious girl,
p i n k is not enough, she is ready to dive into B r o w n.





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