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Older than Barbie
Karen Paul Holmes

Photo by  horantheworld

Photo by horantheworld

Barbie turns 57 today chirps the morning news.
She was a copy of a German doll
based on a comic strip—a working girl who said,
I can do without balding old men, but my budget can’t.
Like hers, Barbie’s painted pupils glanced sideways at first.
But in 1970, she started looking straight at you:
Those sneaky eyes had to go said mothers
who finally accepted her giant breasts (sans nipples).
Perhaps Barbie even shaped the craze
for silicone implants, newly invented.

My Barbie had ponytailed titian hair, pearl earrings,
red bathing suit, red heels. She dated Dr. Kildare
because I couldn’t. Sometimes, my parents
gave in and let me stay up
to watch him in our tweed living room.

These days, Barbie’s un-human proportions
have been exposed: bowling balls on stork legs
and mosquito ankles, feet tiptoed—a real woman
would have to crawl, head dragging the ground,
neck six inches thinner than normal. But still,
she’s a role model for girls, and was for me, forever
dieting, squinting in the mirror to slim my thunder thighs.

And here I am comparing again. To say I’m five years older
isn’t fair: In 1959 Barbie appeared on the scene
already a bombshell, a Teen-Age Fashion Model.
So let’s say she was born a normal, fat baby during WWII—
making her several years my senior. Making it more
unfair that I crinkle, sag, and wane
in planned obsolescence, while Barbie will never suffer
arthritis or age spots. Her skin forever smooth
as my cup of anti-oxidant tea, boobs floating high
and firm, round like this sour grapefruit. 

Karen Paul Holmes has two poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, February 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014). She was named a Best Emerging Poet by Stay Thirsty Media (2016), and publications include Prairie Schooner, Tar River, Crab Orchard Review, and diode. Holmes founded and hosts a critique group in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains.