Growing up, I was always a Barbie child. I owned a million Barbie dolls and, as I was also an avid fan of horses, had enough plastic horses of reasonable colouring or purple unicorns with sparkly hair for each doll.
Every day my mom could walk into my room to find me sitting on the floor (littered with doll accessories) talking to myself, making up the dialogue to that day's story line.
I was obsessed with the Barbie movies, the classic tales of Barbie of Swan Lake, Barbie in the Nutcracker, Barbie as Rapunzel, Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper . To this day I am still a fan of those four movies that defined my childhood.
Imagine my devastation when I entered middle school and started associating with Barbie-haters. I couldn't understand it. Barbies were awesome! They had been such a big part of my life; where was this argument coming from?
The doll is unrealistic, some classmates pointed out. Her neck is so long it wouldn't be able to hold up her head. Her legs are twice as long as her arms. She is constantly standing on her toes, ready to walk a mile in heels.
I didn't care. Barbie was my old buddy. I had her back no matter what.
Middle school was the introduction of Persuasive Writing, and Barbie was a common topic. I was constantly being told during public speaking presentations that the molded plastic toy had a negative impact on the self-esteem of young females who grow up wishing they had her features, which are impossible to achieve naturally.
They mentioned Barbie's shoe collection, an assortment of high heels; her closet, home to rows of neatly hung party dresses that accentuated her long legs; and of course, the typical long blond hair and blue eyes the iconic American Barbie first sported.
Another point being brought up was the fact that Barbie existed to please Ken. I was particularly angered by this fact because I had never owned the Ken doll and when I went on play dates with a close friend of mine who did own a Ken, our story line always involved Ken getting lost in the woods, or stuck in the toilet or trapped underneath the couch.
I don't believe that Barbie had a huge influence on my appearance, my eating habits or my overall lifestyle, despite having spent countless hours playing dress-up with her.
Frankly, I had black hair that I had no desire to dye blond and brown eyes that would never turn blue. At that young age, I didn't even notice that Barbie's limbs were sufficiently longer than mine, nor did I try to change my eating habits to achieve the doll's body - I loved food way too much.
My closet looked nothing like hers; the only thing that touched my feet were socks and sneakers and the only dresses I wore were forced upon me by my mother, who seemed to like dress-up even more than I did, though her creations were far from Barbie's typical outfits.
My love of Barbie seemed out of place in my tomboy-like behaviour - I expressed no interest in clothes or makeup; all I wanted was to run wild on the playground, after which I would return home and play quietly in my room, alone with my dolls.
I think I was lucky. I had a strong family that taught that body image didn't matter; therefore, I just didn't care. The purpose of Barbie dolls for me was simply to create stories with them, an outlet for my imagination.
I still have all my Barbies. My four favourites currently reside on the bottom level of my shelf, each of them seated on a purple unicorn.
Grace Chen is a Grade 12 student at Dr. Charles Best Secondary.