I have managed to protect Nat from Barbie exposure for nigh on six years. But yesterday, the day before her sixth birthday, we were playing at a friend’s house and that friend had a big sister with a Barbie.
Nat was drawn to the Barbie with some kind of bizarro 6-year old homing instinct and immediately began stroking and combing her long, yellow, plastic hair in a trance-like state. The older girl, E, had only just found the Barbie herself, her father having hidden it with other objectionable toys given to his children by others, in a secret cabinet. E’s mother rolled her eyes. “it’s like crack,” she lamented.
E herself is a half-Southeast Asian, half-white girl with parents in an interracial marriage. Her hair is straight as a stick, but she longs for African American hair. Her mother told me that she wanted braids with beads and when she saw Nat’s locs (Nat and E’s brother are in the same class and she is at the same school a couple of years ahead of them), she wanted some, too. Her mother said “honey, it would just take a very long time for your hair to lock. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you.” All the same, the kid was as enraptured with Nat and Selina’s hair as Nat was with the newfound Barbie.
I was watching Nat, trying to downplay the whole thing, yet squirming with unease internally, when little E took the Barbie from Nat and declared, “I know, Nat! Let’s put locs in Barbie’s hair!”
“Okay!” said Nat. And off they ran to E’s room.
I was never so grateful to a child in my life. Here’s hoping this relationship sticks over the years.
And no, I have no idea how one goes about locking Barbie hair, but I’m sure where there’s a will, there’s a way.