Malibu Barbie and Me.

malibu PJ

It never occurred to me that Malibu Barbie (and her cousin PJ, I had both) may have inspired me as a child.

She had my ideal life. 

Well, kind of. The upkeep must have been an effort, all that sun-kissed skin and keeping Surfer Kens at bay. But, oh, she was special. 

One Christmas, I was given a tanned doll with impossibly long legs, inflated chest, long blonde hair and a ridiculous waist.

I adored her on sight. It's summer at that time of year in New Zealand, so it wasn't as strange a choice as it seemed. 

She came with tiny sunglasses, a swim suit and a towel.

There’s a lot that could be said on the subject of Barbie, and here’s a link to her herstory.

Back then, all I knew was that she was my favorite toy. She also had delightfully bendy legs because in those days, her limbs were made of wire, covered in rubber.

I would wrap tin foil around her and pretend she was a mermaid when I was playing in our Para Pool. Awesome fun. 

The next Christmas my auntie Maryanne gave me a set of Barbie clothes - beautifully packaged and a complete outfit with tiny high heels and possibly a hat. 

They were expensive; I know this because I overheard her talking to Aunty Jeannie in the kitchen in Tauranga. 

Maryanne, an excellent sewer, and my most glamorous relative because she had been an airhostess, started her own business making Barbie clothes and selling them to a local store. This was before mass production and before New Zealand started getting regular shipments of lower priced goods from overseas. 

My friend Debbie also had a Barbie. Hers came in a wedding dress I think. Yes, well.

Her mum was also an excellent sewer. She also made us Barbie clothes, gorgeous little halter tops with little hot pants, inspired by Abba. We used to sing "Money Money Money," not understanding a word of it on cushions, always fighting over who got to be the blonde one. 

Dolls in those days didn’t have their ears pierced, so I stabbed mine with needles  and made her earrings out of beads and wire. Quite smart when I think back to it. Even then, I was interested in accessories.

The main reason I loved Barbie, to be honest, besides the fact that she was waterproof, was her clothes.

Sure, she went on lots of adventures. But it was the dressing up that I really enjoyed. Though occasionally she would take a gallop on a straw horse called Tonga (it was written on his side). Thinking back, it was a souvenir my grandfather brought back, but it made an ideal steed.

Barbies always came with a particular outfit, and a particular personality/career/lifestyle based on how they were dressed.

I wanted Malibu Barbie's life. I had no idea what Malibu was, it didn't matter.

But you know what? We were both made for the beach. My happy place is hot sand, maybe a cool breeze, the ocean, despite being unable to tan, with a real female body and my blonde hair is thanks to my hairdresser. 

Hey, Malibu Barbie. You know what? Today, you and I would get on great. Well, being realistic, I'd be following your Instagram. But you were a great friend and horseback rider, made an excellent Supergirl, mermaid and fashion designer and rock star. I still like horses, mermaids, comics, singing, fashion and the beach. 

I just looked up PJ, my favorite and I can get a vintage one of her...for $249. Hmm...maybe not. I think I'll save it for when I can travel again, to a real beach, much as it would be fun to wrap tinfoil around her and play with her in the bath. 

So, what were your favorite toys? Think back. They had messages and clues for your grown up self.

Would they still play with you now? 

Ps. the photo is of Sunsational PJ, by my PC and with my Hawaiian wallpapered cupboard in the back. 

Aroha, Erin.


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