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Dear Weird Barbie,

I’ve seen videos of what the others look like. Heard rumors. A lorax, a pair of arms and legs sticking out of a Corona Light can, a head poking out the top of a Jollibee doll. I regret that I wasn’t more creative with you. I should have taken more chances, tried more things.

I know you can be blonde sometimes, or sport neon pink streaks, a chopped bang, maybe a mullet. You could have tattoos drawn on your face with Sharpie or painted nails (well, more accurately, painted fingers). You might bend your legs in ways Barbie would never dream of.

I apologize because I don’t remember much about what you looked like. I know you were blonde and, at one point in time, had all of your limbs attached. I do remember cutting off your hair with the kitchen scissors. I took one look at your newly shaved head and stuffed you under the couch cushion because I was too embarrassed to face what I had just done.

I remember the few times I set you up with Ken on the floor and left the room, watching from behind a cracked door to see if you would move to touch his hand.

You lived in a clear plastic bin that my mom kept in the corner of the living room. You, Ken and a small dog all face down with a handful of dried-up fruit flies and the occasional cockroach. You had a pink Vespa with your name on the side. A rectangular bed that my sister mistook for a coffin. You owned a bottle of sunscreen that I was obsessed with, a helmet I never let you wear. In your dream house, a bin with no lid, you only saw the sunlight when my sister reluctantly agreed to join me, join us, and play.

Before I cut off your hair, I enjoyed rubbing your head on the carpet and watching the static take over. You looked disheveled always, and I loved you for it. I would do the same, and together we’d sit on the floor and I would run my hand over both heads, marvel at the prickliness of us both.

The first time I chewed on your head, I remember being surprised by how hollow it was, so malleable in my mouth. A thick plastic, tough, squeezed between my teeth. Each time I spit you out, a different part of your face was caved in. But this was why I cut your hair off: I couldn’t fit your head in my mouth otherwise.

At the time, I preferred Bratz dolls to Barbies. They were angrier, more opinionated. They were messy and got jealous of people they loved and held grudges. As someone who never really felt like they knew how to play with dolls “correctly,” Barbie seemed untouchable to me. She was beautiful and pink, someone so perfect that the only thing I could think to do was mess her up.

You, Weird Barbie, gave Barbie — gave me — permission to be all of the things she isn’t: off-putting, awkward, a hodgepodge of colors and feelings that some might see as a failure of “femininity” but I experienced as an opportunity to see the world a new way. You allowed me, vicariously at least, to feel the breeze through a half-burned piece of fabric that used to be a shirt and bob in the Jacuzzi unsupervised for more than an hour.

You break the mold, literally and figuratively. The result of “playing too hard,” you embody the passion rooted in emotions otherwise difficult to access, especially for people who are struggling to figure out how they can exist in the world.

And while you may not be a staple of my coming-out story, you could be an honorable mention. You are everything that I loved, and still love, about the innocence of experimentation, which after all is just the space not to know who I was, or am, or want to be.

Weird Barbie, you might be buried outside, on the shelf at Goodwill, or even still at home, tucked away under years of accumulated dust bunnies and unidentifiable insects. Wherever you are, before Mattel tries to capture your homemade magic with a Weird Barbie of its own, I want to say thank you. Thank you for letting me be myself before I had the language for it: queer, expressive, curious, anarchistic. Thank you for letting me fail, and fail beautifully.

Sincerely yours,
Allison

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