the Closet with Barbie
By Harlyn Aizley
players: Barbie and Ken; a GI-Joe whose muscular body twisted and
bent in all the right places; a Cowboy whose hair and handsome cowboy
outfit were both eerily a part of his body, plastic reliefs painted
varying shades of brown; a "Julia" doll, the only doll
of color -- aside from Asian GI-Joe -- and the only health care
worker; a small girl whose hair I cut short and declared "he"
or "she" as the spirit moved me. What I did was sit in
the closet and make them all have sex -- not just casual flings,
but heated dramas continuing from one day to another, involving
passionate triangles and tales of romantic tragedy, unrequited love,
illicit sex, homosexuality, heterosexuality, reversible transsexualism.
Objects from the dolls' dowries -- a plastic horse, a small nurse's
kit, a feather boa, a very tiny replica of a World War II machete
-- easily were incorporated into my play as, eventually, were other
objects not so readily available. The funny thing is, in the beginning
it wasn't even sex that I was after; it was a penis. The sex just
followed, as it usually does, once a penis is located.
it on my conservative father and the fact that I have no brothers,
that I didn't know what a penis looked like until well into my teens,
late teens. Late. As a preteen, I asked my mother to buy me boy
dolls, thinking that I might get to see a penis. And so I lay further
blame on Mattel and our repressed puritanical culture that
refuses to make dolls anatomically correct for my need to sexualize
every doll I ever owned.
Despite my ignorance, I had the evolutionary wherewithal to guess
that, whatever the details, penises most likely were more substantial
than the slight lumps Ken and GI-Joe sported -- the cowboy's anatomy
obviously remained a mystery, sealed as it was beneath his permanent
plastic clothing. If you want to see a penis, and you want your
dolls to be able to have sex -- real sex, not lump mashing sex --
then lumps are frustrating and entirely inadequate. I longed for
the facts, the secret to which all the boys around me (and most
of the girls) were privy. But mostly I longed for bulges. I wanted
my male dolls to bulge obviously and firmly at the crotch. I wanted
to be able to pull down their pants and find something there, taking
up space, an explanation for why boys' underwear was different from
my own. I wanted to see one damn it. And later in life I wanted
to have one, but that's a whole other story.
younger sister, Carrie, saw a penis years before I did. In fact,
the penis Carrie saw belonged to none other than our father. One
summer our family spent a week in a small and smelly two-room cottage
on Cape Cod. We all shared the bedroom, my parents on twin beds
and Carrie and I on cots. One afternoon Carrie innocently came in
from the beach looking for a towel. She padded into the bedroom
without knocking and immediately was witness to my father changing
into his bathing suit. He barked something at her and then chased
the stunned but smiling six-year-old out of the room.
soon as Carrie had regained her composure, she ran down the beach
to where I was playing, and chanted, "I saw Daddy naked. I
saw Daddy naked."
any older sibling used to the painstaking measures each parent takes
to maintain a semblance of equality between offspring -- cutting
perfectly symmetrical pieces of cake, spending exactly the same
amount of money on birthday presents -- I ran inside to claim what
I had no doubt was rightly my due, a chance to see my father naked.
get to see him too," I announced to my mother who stood guard
by the bedroom door.
you don't." I know now that this was one of those pivotal parenting
moments. "Go back outside while your father changes,"
the sentry said.
Carrie got to see him."
sister walked into the bedroom by accident."
then I can too," I said as I tried to storm by my mother to
reenact the incredible occasion. As if my father still were standing
there, mid-change, frozen in time until justice was served and balance
restored to our eternally symmetrical family.
not fair!" I shouted as my mother physically restrained me.
I had wanted to see a penis for so long. And to make matters even
more unbearable, as far as I knew, Carrie hadn't even wanted to
see one. Besides hadn't Carrie's faux pas broken the ice surrounding
the issue of Dad's nudity? Like what difference would it make if
another daughter saw him? Come on, the modesty gig is up, show me
my father came barreling out of the bedroom embarrassed and angry
-- not to mention, dressed -- and bellowed, "Outside! Now!"
And that was that.
the other hand, I was very well versed in the anatomy of women and
girls. I knew that girls had either bald or blond-haired vaginas
and that when you grew up they grew curly dark hairs in the shape
of a big triangle. (This hair color myth wasn't shattered until
one day in the locker room at summer camp when I saw that my friend
Janice, exactly my age, had dark down in her pubic region, the same
color as my mother's curly triangle; Revelation! The color of pubic
hair has nothing to do with age.) I had seen the Playboy magazines
owned secretly by the boys in the neighborhood, not to mention those
owned secretly by my repressed, conservative father. My mother had
showered and taken baths with us when we were very young. So I knew,
too, all about breasts and nipples, and their varying shapes and
it was because of my competence with female anatomy that I was not
as frustrated by the lack of detail among my female dolls. So none
of them had nipples, big deal. It made me feel superior, like I
was more knowledgeable than the doll manufacturers. Every so often
I would draw on a pair of nipples with a magic marker, but really
it hardly was an issue.
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