Age I got my first Barbie: 10
Barbies I owned: 3
Hours it took to get to the U2 concert: 3.25
I came late to the Barbie party.
I really liked Barbies and all of their accoutrements: the torn vinyl wardrobe, the vast shoe collection and the fun, open-air Jeep… but my mom was a Feminist. It was the ’70s, people, and Barbie was way, way too into her hairstyles. The only time I could enjoy Barbie and her carefree, California lifestyle was playtime in someone else’s split-level. There, Barbie and her clones were tossed neglectfully under the bed, at times headless… or worse, with a very bad haircut.
By the ’80s, I was almost too old for Barbies, but my mom had a change of heart. My sister asked for a Barbie, as if just asking can get you what you want, and… she got one.
Of course, I had to have one, too. My mom’s thought process about how her Feminist rhetoric had influenced me thus far probably went something like this:
“Well, I was trying to prep her for a career, possibly as a doctor or physicist, but she read Little Women and identified with Meg. She also skips around in circles and sings and likes to wade through muddy creekbeds. I heard her say recently that boys are better at math. I’ve failed. Heck, let her play with a doll that has no motivation other than a nice bra and her next date with Ken.”
By the time I got a Barbie, I was 10 and heading on to middle school in the not-so-distant future.
Mine was the prettiest Barbie, with waist-length, cooperative hair and a button on her back to make her arthritic, perma-folded arms move. But her face was kind, and she had a pleasant demeanor. She wasn’t one to cuss out the maitre d’, and she didn’t need a Ken in her life. She was happy with the journey, this Barbie was.
We designed Barbie mansions under the dining room table and spent hours getting her ready for parties. Sometimes it was a pool party, and she needed the perfect bikini and matching cover-up. Even though my mom thought heels with bathing suits were the dumbest thing ever, Barbie knew the right accessories could make her feel beautiful.
Perhaps best of all, we were happy with the process, the moments of anticipation while still inside the mansion. Her home and clothes and friends were all she needed to have a delightful afternoon. She never attended that party she was prepping for, but she was still smiling in her super-cool duds. She was a Woman Living in the Moment.
Fast forward to a couple of years ago.
My sister, a U2 SuperFan, was going to miss the concert in our town. She thought she could handle it, but she couldn’t. So she called me saying she had two tickets and did I want to go?
Well, sure. I never get out to concerts anymore, and I love them. Plus, the place where U2 was playing was only 20 minutes away. What could be easier?
I told her to meet me at my house around 5:30, we’d leave by 6, be there easily in the middle of the opening act.
We got there at 9:15.
I love where we live, but it’s not a city. It wasn’t ready by half for the excitement generated by the 360 Tour.
We got on the highway along with thousands of others in what became known (to me) as U2’s Highway Parking Lot Tour.
But this was the best part: I didn’t care. Then again, I wasn’t the SuperFan. My sister might have cared, just a smidgen. We got giddy, we waved at fans in other cars, we watched as people left their cars on the side of the highway and prepared to walk several miles.
They got there before we did.
We cranked up my satellite radio on the ’90s station and sang angry songs like, “You Oughta Know” and “Nevermind.” I found out that we both love Jane’s Addiction and that she knows all the words to “Jane Says.” She also adores the live version.
After three hours in the car, we parked at a doctor’s office, skedaddled over to the outdoor arena and sat in the bleachers on the most perfect autumn night in recorded history. Bono sounded great, and my sister was happy.
I try to remind myself daily that writing and running and raising children and becoming the person I want to be is a process. Even though there are goal races and novels to be written and levels to be achieved, my mom would be happy to note that Barbie set a good example. I can be happy on the journey, whether I make it to the party or concert or not.
But just in case, I’ll have on a nice pair of shoes.