I received my very first official Barbie doll on my 6th birthday.

It just wasn't Barbie. It was Skipper, her little sister, but I didn't know any better. Sure she seemed kind of short compared to the Barbie knock-offs I was used to, but perhaps it was because this was the real thing. It made sense.

We celebrated my 6th birthday in Miami during a visit to my grandparents and my mother's brother's family... (and to go to Disney World, my father's favorite place to go). It was that uncle, my uncle Joe, that got me the Skipper.

My uncle Joe always got me the best toys on Christmas and my birthday. He was the hero that showed up one Christmas eve with a Cabbage Patch Kid when parents everywhere were out for blood. He got me the Beat It Michael Jackson doll when all stores only had the crappy Grammys outfit one.

I would not expect less from him. Of course HE got me a REAL Barbie!

To say I was pleased to have a Barbie would be like saying a fat kid is simply "pleased" to be offer a second piece of cake. I was ecstatic.

I don't remember anything about that birthday or what else I got. From old photos I see I cleaned up in the presents department, and that my cake had most awesome Disney characters one could use as toys... but none of that sticks in my memory. But I do recall ripping the paper containing my Barbie. I remember seeing the yellow box with the distinctive Barbie-esc script. (I couldn't read yet, but I recognized the logos and artwork from TV commercials.) I remember yanking her out of the packaging and discovering she came with a giant yellow skateboard. That was it... I spent the rest of the trip playing with Barbie.

She slept with me. She went to the pool and in the bathtub with me. She went to Disney World with me. Barbie was my pal.

When we got back home, this new found kinship with this plastic bombshell continued. By now though, her cute purple outfit (A pink bathing suit, with purple shorts, and a purple skirt) were getting a bit boring. I was able to convince my mom she needed a few new outfits, so off to OddLots we went.

That was when I got my first clue all that was not well in Barbieland.

The clothing we picked up were knock off fashion doll clothes that were meant to be used with Barbie. The problem was... they didn't fit. The dresses were too big. Now, being knock offs, my rationalisation skills kicked in BIG TIME. Of course they didn't fit. They didn't even come with shoes! They were not official Barbie clothes. Duh.

That excuse was blown out of the water when the very next week my mom was kind enough to buy me a REAL Barbie outfit at Woolsworth, after I explained that Barbie needed new shoes and the other outfits didn't come with any. And wouldn't you know it... the dress was too big as well. If that wasn't enough, the shoes not only did not fit... they were the wrong shape! See, my Barbie had flat feet, unlike my cheap fashion dolls that stood on their tippy toes. I figured it was BECAUSE she was real. Something was wrong.

I continued to stew about this until spring, for that was when all the kids in the neighborhood took to playing outside. That's when the bottom fell out.

I brought my Barbie out to play with the older girls down the block who had pretty much every Barbie thing you could think of. They had the Dream house, the camper, the horse, the Corvette, and of course Ken. When playing with them I was always relegated to being the next door neighbor, since I didn't have a real Barbie and only real Barbies could live in the Dream house. I figured this was it! I was in the house when I showed up with my Barbie.

Then I was told that my doll was not Barbie. It was Skipper, Barbie's little sister.

I could live in the Dream house, but no driving the Vette or camper. I couldn't ride the horse because I was too young. I couldn't go to the ball, because it was past my bedtime. It was worse than being the neighbor! At least the neighbor was allowed to borrow their clothes.

When I got home I took a good hard look at "Skipper."

She was still the doll that hung out with me during my 6th birthday when I had no children my age to play with. She was still my friend. Who cares if her REAL name was Skipper. In my bedroom, she was still "Barbie" to Mego Spider-man who kept asking out for dates even though she was taller than him, and she was still "Barbie" to John Travolta who didn't care how short she was, because he was into short chicks.

And she was still "Barbie" to me.

She'll always be Barbie to me.

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