“Look at us.” Barbara pointed under the table of the Valentine’s hearts adorned Pasadena cafe, where our sneakers said it all; comfy, comfy… trendy. Mine were the trendy, semi-comfy ones.
My two women friends had, independent from each other, decided on casual shoes and loose fitting plaid shirts. My first thought was “perfect photo shoot.” Me in shiny Barbie pink between two “country” girls. So cool.
We laughed and went for it.
“You find this funny?” snapped my inner critic. I was “different”, played the rebel card again. What is my intention here; the old “look at me” or the new “If I can play, you can too…” ?
Why don’t I have a plaid blouse? I want to be relatable.
I did not see any judgment in the eyes of my friends, more I felt their permission to be who I am and right now my truth has something to do with Barbie. I did not judge myself as over dressed, too pink, too silly. I was okay. They got me.
It’s not easy being a rebel, its a dance between doubts and daring fun. Most of what I do is headed “women empowerement” so why the heck did I step into Barbie’s image at this time of my life? The doll of the 50’s was cursed to create girl’s eating disorders and self esteem issues.
I had been called a Barbie doll, seen as "an attractive but empty-headed young woman, especially one perceived as a willing sex object." I had no clue what a patriarchal mindset was and the words “sex object” were’nt in my vocabulary. I happily counted my whistling admirers and teased with my flirting power while as a good Catholic girl stayed a virgin until 18. I loved being a disco girl or be admired on runways. But incoherence piled up. I began to feel caged in.
My finally furious refusal to submit to society’s requests of what a woman should be became my first successful rebellion.
I turned my back on my “Ken” and went to college. Into jeans and tee shirts.
But Barbie the super pretty, skinny but curvy, super fashionable idol never really left; she critiqued, demanded, made me feel insecure and mirror obsessed. But my inner Barbie also inspired my to creative fashion choices and made me feel powerful in high heels on building sites I was the boss of. It’s not easy hanging with Barbie, its a dance between demands and daring fun…
She turned into sleeping beauty in the 90’s when I became a mom.
A few months ago she looked back at me in the mirror. Barbie? What are you doing here?
I had been experimenting with many different styles and how they made me feel for the last year; my practical research into my field of “fashion therapy.” Slowly the color pink had snug into my Ageless Rebellion IG gallery and I had been anti-pink for many years.
Pink made me think. Was this a sign that I had done enough rebelling? Was it time to be all I am, a Goddess? Or in my case, the queen of my middle name, Regina, given to me like a foreshadowing road map by my parents? I felt ready to own my truth.
To make a point of being READY I had changed my Ageless Rebel concept to ReBelle, from the NO of fighting against limitations to the Yes of owning my truth. Re Belle; liberating our unique beauty.
The Universe always listens to my “big” statements and answers in her weird encoded ways.
She sent Barbara Holmes, who goes by the name of Barbie, the real life blonde, fantastic midlife woman reinventing herself as a life style model and writer, short after ReBelle was born in May 2018.
Barbie on the right and me, the newly crowned ReBelle came up with the concept of “ReBelle Barbie” for a YouTube show about true beauty and how we deal with sexy, sweet, exuberant and giggly energies at midlife: what are our terms versus the ones of society?
What once was a rebellion against my inner “silly” blonde evolved into liberating the playful feminine; my true inner beauty does not revolt against Disney’s Belle, she’s takes what she wants from her.
“On the road to being a Queen you needed to be a warrior first,” confirmed the Universe, “now you need Barbie for your next chapter.”
My mom had been Barbie in all her negative connotations and a bit of a Stepford wife. As a kid I hated her demeanor. Now I felt deep sadness looking at the helplessness of my parent’s generation.
That’s my bigger picture; to discover if and where we are still caged in outmoded beliefs. Sorting out our inner role models and choosing what resonates with our true uniqueness turns playing with Barbie into a journey.
Consciously chosen outfits aren’t the final answer but part of our change; they are like flags displaying mantras of what women want. Outfits are messengers of our truth and confidence.
Badass woman power is a different story for each of us. A pink jumpsuit is a dare for me.
Mattel’s Barbie has evolved through women empowerment slogans and new body shapes (see below).
My pink jumpsuit girl reflects the doll society wanted me to be but now she has pushed up her sleeves against a past in which women were diminished for centuries and a present in which ageism rules.
And then I got it.
When you’re over 60, expressing your inner Barbie is a revolution.
For me - because I follow my outfit bliss not counting how many years I have collected and that my skin isn’t fresh like apples picked from daddy’s garden. Got crepey skin? So what? The “sheer” trend offers amazing long sleeve shirts to wear under any cute crop top and body suits are “le dernier cri” again - which reminds me of Jane Fonda and that I also do Barbarella. Feeling sexy with sixty? Damn right.
For society - because ageism wants us sexless; in uni sex sweats and on walkers.
When you’re over 60 even high heels are a rebellion.
I am not a very sexual person (and yes I take the missing hormones, more about that another time) but I love the fun of sexy looks and the deeper going enjoyment of sensual softness. No unisex for me.
Revelations via my “old fashioned” inner blonde Barbie so far
Silly is freedom
Eff it, I’m blonde forever
Innocent play with outfits is like meditation
Outfits talk, they’ve got messages for us
Finding our truth goes through experiencing our options
“Look at me” is a dare that empowers when we take risks
Every dare opens a new door
Ask me, because I am a woman and wise as a whip
Playing dress up can be the best empowerment tool
How we style our bodies is our art and true art always opens eyes and inspires
I shall treasure my body
I don’t want Ken but an empowered king would be okay
I love being the “girl” in the adventure of midlife power
I don’t know how long Barbie will be with me or if and what she has planned. Right now she rattles my norms. “The sixty year old Barbie…” is a test of my confidence and of how far I can go; in life, love and relationships. How real and how open am I? What does “sexy” mean to me, to you? How do we deal with ageism on a daily basis?
“You can’t possibly wear SHORTS!!?”, a woman friend snapped at me recently. Intimidated I returned the outfit; when we are on a new path, old fears shows their claws. I’m afraid to be “too much.” But midlife women are not demure anymore; together we ReBelle our inner Barbies.
“Girls just want to have fun” is so Barbie and was always foreign to me; to let go and be in the moment can be life changing though. Barbara, Loretta and Pat are joining me on a fun story telling outfit adventure. Check back for the amazing mutual inspiration.
Midlife women who play together empower each other.
“Okay, we’re done. Let’s go, Barbie…” I said with a sigh as the blog is finally finished.
“Do you have cowgirl boots?” my inner Barbie responds.
“Yes, I’ve got three pairs from my time in Santa Fe…”
“They will look so cute with your new plaid shirt.“
Life is a discovery of our truth and fiercely living it no matter if we need Xena, the warrior princess, the witches of Eastwick or a plaid-adorned cowgirl on the way.
Maybe you’ll see me two-stepping soon….
Quick info to Barbie’s extensive story
Sheela Goh, wordsmith, stylist, designer and forever fierce, commented on my related IG post, “Hey, Barbie can be a kickass rebel too.”
Barbie started her life with saying “Math is hard” and “Don’t ask me, I’m just a girl.”
In 1984 Barbie was sold with the slogan "We girls can do anything". "Day-to-Night" Barbie came with a briefcase, calculator, newspaper and business card. Mattel also released "She-Ra, Princess of Power", promoted with "The fate of the world is in the hands of one beautiful girl".
When sales of quirky dolls like ‘Bratz’ increased in 2001 and threatened sales of Barbie, women empowerment slogans were needed, punk up pretty Barbie!
Mattel started by literally ‘breaking the mould’ and widening the standard waist of Barbie to be more like an average female. Three new body types and seven new skin tones were introduced to reflect that “real” girls come in all shapes and sizes. Finally, big changes to their marketing campaign – a campaign focused on making girls believe they can be anything they want to be – You Can Be Anything campaign.
But as Jill Lepore says in a rather interesting New Yorker article about Barbie being a copy of the first born German Lilli, then fighting Bratz, her younger competition, “…corporations still own the imaginations of little girls.”
Our stories will take over.