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Material Girl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   The only item I ever stole was a pink and purpleBarbie dress.

Recently, I have realized that my seemingly ridiculousaction was a significant part of my childhood. As a 10-year-old, I was fascinatedwith dressing and re-dressing Barbie. I delighted in changing every detail of heroutfit, from her poofy pink dress and silver purse to the pointed shoes andplastic earrings. The highlight of playing Barbies with friends was being able touse their precious accessories.

My Barbie buddy, my best friend, seemed tohave everything the perfect Barbie needed. One day, I decided I wanted a dressshe owned - it was a short, light purple dress with two pink straps and amatching pink sash. When my friend left the room, I grabbed her treasure andstuffed it into my pocket.

What intrigues me now is not the fact that Istole, but that I owned the same dress - only mine was faded. When I took it, Iwas blind to the multitude of dresses I had. I thought it unfair that my parentswouldn't buy me the whole rack at the toy store - I wanted more.

When Ilook through my boxes of Barbie gear these days, I am amazed and shocked by thequantity of shoes, furniture, dolls and, of course, outfits. There are weddingdresses, prom dresses, New Year's Eve dresses, dresses that convert from long toshort, work dresses and party dresses. In keeping with the times, Barbie hasadded Calvin Klein jeans and soccer uniforms to her wardrobe. Nevertheless, thefact that Barbie owns every fashionable (and sometimes unfashionable) piece ofsize zero clothing remains unaltered.

I never consciously compared myselfto the blond doll who wore too much purple eye shadow, but her materialistic lifeinfluenced my childhood. Barbie sent the message that I should have it all.Sometime after I buried my Barbies in the closet corner, I understood theimmensity of what I had been given. First, it was Barbie this and Barbie that,and then it was the hundreds of dollars spent on oily stickers and Fuzzies.Finally, it was the shirt I wore only once and the 10 identicaltank-tops.

Most of the time when I played with my Barbies, I did notcreate a story. After I finished constructing my elaborate Barbie house andchanging her apparel multiple times, there was no time left to go to the partyfor which she had spent hours dressing. Barbie never had much of a life. She hadplenty of things, but I doubt she enjoyed herself. She didn't talk on the phone,watch movies with friends, go kayaking, write stories or even laugh. Barbietaught me how to match clothes, braid hair and accessorize. To discover the realjoys of living, I had to look away from this material girl and find a role modelin someone who was not as perfect as Barbie, but much happier.

She wasunder five feet with short dark hair and a size 7 body. She had never been amodel, a rock star or a cheerleader. She had studied, traveled, married andsettled down in a house without a swimming pool. She wore peach cardigans andkhaki pants and didn't understand why I had to buy clothes from GAP and AmericanEagle.

She was my mother. She placed fruit and carrots on the table when Icame home from school each day, and pulled the comforter down so it didn't covermy head each night. She was loving and quiet, though certainly not a Renaissancewoman. In my mother, I saw joy. Her presence made me smile, and I longed to gainher patience. My mother had been through standardized tests and fiercecompetitions and learned that they were not worth the stress. She looked at mewith faith, and I knew her expectations were high, even though she didn't demandsuccess on Wall Street or admission to Harvard. She wanted me to embrace life. Mymother looked down on materialism and up at spiritualism.

It was becauseof my mother's passion that I learned to appreciate the beauty of spider webs andsunsets. I learned that time is better spent with friends than hunched over anSAT book. I went on my first roller coaster, screaming halfway and laughing therest. I talked in front of hundreds of people and realized that it wasn't soterrible. I looked at life and smiled.

My mother did not speak perfectEnglish. She was not a leader, she was not unusually outgoing or talented. Shespent much of her time cleaning, cooking or driving me around. And, she did notlook like Barbie in any way. But, my mother provided me with a living example ofa satisfied woman, a woman I could admire and love. She instilled in me a firethat continues to burn today.




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






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