My Barbie phase was rather short. My Sesame Guy phase went on forever. Yes, Barbie could wear clothes– a ruffly peach ball gown, a fluffy blue frock. That was her main advantage. On the minus side, Barbie was always single, in her 20s, and she was only qualified for jobs like photographer or magazine editor. Sesame Guys were pilots, farmers, shopkeepers, bankers, wives and husbands. They were children, teenagers, and grown-ups, people sick and well and good and bad.
Most people called Sesame Guys “Little People.” The first set I had was a Sesame Street themed set (the Clubhouse), so we called them “Sesame Guys.”
These toys were the center of much that happened in the play lives of me and my sisters. At home, we amassed Main Street, The House, The Airport, The Circus Train, The Camper, The Swimming Pool, The Playground, and The Parking Garage (not sure what was so fun about that last one, come to think of it). To my great sadness, we did not have The Zoo, The Chateau, The School, Western Town, The Hospital (nah, that’s a downer) , McDonald’s, or The Farm. Those ones we experienced in the nursery at church, or at friends’ houses.
Now, to satisfy the same urge to practice and compare, I split a salad and potatoes and a bottle of wine and bread and butter with a friend, and tell stories about myself, and she tells me stories about herself. And we talk about famous people and what they have done or should do or shouldn’t do. And we talk about what we would do if we won a million dollars, or had to choose a college again, or if we got pregnant with quintuplets.
Shortly after my time, Little People gained a great deal of weight. At their svelte, early 1980s size, they could lodge snugly in the windpipes of children. It didn’t seem unreasonable to keep them out of the hands of kids small and dumb enough to try to swallow them, but the Fisher Price company took a different tac. Instead of their slim builds with mature features like shag haircuts and little caps, they blew up into fist-sized people who were clearly intended for little kids to throw on the floor from their high chairs and gnaw on, rather than the avatars they had been.
Now we tell stories about that one party that you don’t really remember, but I know you were there, or that time we went camping. And what you said.
We had one current Ken, and a duo of ancient Kens who were hand-me-downs from another family. The ancient Kens had 1950s hair, shellacked to their heads, and instead of the molded-on tighty-whities of present day, the ancient Kens had modest rises at their crotches, just a little hill, that suggested to our coven of sisters: boys have something there.
No one wanted to associate with ancient Kens. We didn’t have any clothes that fit them, so they sat around naked most of the time. Barbie went to work at “Cosmopolitan” magazine, the most glamorous thing I could imagine, and our Ken storylines had Ken changing names and personalities to make his various appearances.
Now I sit around a fire with friends and we talk about the people we have dated who didn’t like us, and we muse about what these people have in common, and why they are so foolish, and instead of the brown-paneled family room and the brown-paneled television console and the brown braided rug and the afternoon sun and the leftover smell of breakfast bacon, there is scotch and coats and clouds near and over a nearly full moon.