For a long time I didn’t think Barbie had any relevance in the life of an African girl. Her looks were idealised Caucasian, a sharp contrast to what African beauty is about.
I feared my 7-year old would compare her too tall, chubby body to Barbie’s skinny one and not see the beauty and grace that I see when I look at her. That she’d compare her curly brown locks to Barbie’s flaxen ones and wonder why she doesn’t have hair like that.
“Forget Barbie; she’s not a model of our type of beauty,” I’d say to her.
So I discouraged her from playing with Barbie dolls, although I did have to cave in and buy a number of fairytale videos starring the skinny, blonde one. And last week I caved in again and bought a chapter book titled “Barbie and the Pharaoh’s secret.’
The book fit in with baby’s passion for Egypt. The child loves stories that come out of that country! If it’s about mummies, pharaohs and tombs, she wants to watch/read about it. She even found a step-by-step description of how to embalm a body for mummification. Urggg!
Six chapters into the book and I’d found the second reason to justify the purchase. In the book, Barbie is a journalist. The way she lands the assignment in Egypt and the way she collects information for the story is unrealistic. She has more time to tour the place, more resources than an ordinary journalist on assignment would have. Still, the book does give an overview of what a journalist does.
Now baby has an idea of what it that I do at my day job. I used to tell her that I’m a storyteller, only I tell true stories about computer shops.
When baby discovered the Internet and search engines, she surfed to the online publication I write for to see what kind of stories we published.
“The magazine you work for is really boring,’ she said.
Now that she’s reading Pharaoh’s secret, she’s no longer dwelling on the look and feel of a site intended to be read by business people.
“Do you find out a lot of secrets about people when you do your job?’ she asks.
It’s a nice change going from being plain boring mummy who should really dump her more boring job to being a mysterious journalist who knows more than she’ll ever disclose.
The illusion won’t last long of course. And I’d rather be plain mummy to her, but it’s interesting to watch he perceive me with new eyes.