Growing up poor makes you creative. Forced to find our own fun diversions while other kids were playing with their Ataris, my sister and I invented lots of games and activities. One of my favorite memories is the covered wagon we rigged up with coat hangers, old sheets and our poor dog, Rocky, as the horse. We were watching too much Little House on the Prairie, obviously.
One of the other projects I enjoyed as a child was making doll clothes for the rag-tag band of Barbies that I owned. We pilfered most of these from yard sales and my favorite was my Midge doll. She was my muse. Not many people know about Midge; she was usually in Barbie’s shadow. Barbie’s great but she’s not such a great role-model. She’s just too perfect. Young girls can’t live up to her standards. Veterinarian one day, teacher the next, then supermodel. How does she have time for it all? And that body… well, it defies gravity.
Midge was real. (As real as a plastic person can be, that is.) She was a kind of everywoman, with a smattering of freckles, a snub-nose and a tangle of red hair that flipped out at the ends. She was perky and cute. What she lacked in sophistication, she made up for with personality. In all of the coloring books and ads, it’s Midge with the sassy look on her face and the gleam in her eye. I guess I relate to that. I’m seldom, if ever, the most beautiful woman in the room. I’ve always relied on my wit and intelligence to carry me through life. That’s what happens when you’re awkward as a child – you learn how to adapt to whatever life throws at you. You know how to chop and change.
Many of my friends are Midges. Even if they blossomed later in life, they usually didn’t start out privileged that way. One was self-conscious of her buck-teeth and grew up just as poor as I did. She now models. One was extremely tall at a young age and is now a statuesque beauty who is proud of her height. One was a tomboy and didn’t wear makeup until she was in her twenties. One was chubby as a child and is now a personal-trainer. One was petite and always mistaken for being much younger than her age. It serves her well now! I love it. None of us depended on our looks to get us by and neither would Midge, I’d imagine.
There was quite a controversy about Midge in the early nineties. She turned up pregnant (even though she was married) and there was an outcry from the public. Mattel discontinued Midge from production and we haven’t seen her since. Vintage Midge dolls are now collector’s items. They sometimes go for thousands of dollars. Even though my daughter doesn’t play with dolls, I wish Mattel would bring her back. Barbie is pristine, beautiful and perfect, but give me moxie any day!
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be pretty and glamorous; I enjoy dressing up and being a girl just like most women do. But there’s something to be said for making personality a priority. Magazines and movies paint an unrealistic portrait of what a modern woman should be. Somehow, we are supposed climb the ladder of success, be sexy for our men and raise happy, healthy children all while looking like a drug addict. Who can attain all of that and maintain their sanity?? I sometimes look like a psychotic cave-dweller going to the grocery store. Something’s gotta give, people.
I guess the point of this blog is to love who you are. I adore the Lady Gaga song, ‘Born This Way’. It really brings home what I’m trying to say. I never want my daughter to feel like she needs to change who she is. I love her attitude; her ears that stick out ever so slightly, her blackened fingernails from playing in the dirt. I love that she can hang out with the boys, that she can make anyone laugh with her absurd sense of humor. I’m not trying to turn her into an idealized image of what I want her to be. I see this a lot in my peer group. It makes me sad. It will always lead to rebellion or a crushed spirit. Neither is good for a child’s self-esteem. We need to give our daughters the gift of self-expression.
Let’s start a movement. Let’s bring back Midge.