Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Barbie Culture Shock

Walking home from school one day, I dragged my backpack on the floor behind me. I walked up the steps to my front door. I opened the door and skipped into my kitchen to find my mom putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
She smiled, “Hi Sair-Bear, how was school?”
“Good,” I said shifting from one foot to the other. She pulled a small rectangular box, wrapped in pink shiny paper from behind the cabinet.
“Here’s a little present for you,” she said, gently handing the small surprise over to me.
I squealed, I had the best mom, she gave me just-because-presents, which are the best kind. I grabbed it out of her hand. I dropped to the floor and ripped the paper off of the box.
“A Barbie!” I giggled, barely able to contain my surge of excitement.
I turned over the box to see which Barbie I would be showing off to the other girls at school. I already had quite a collection: Skipper, Asian Barbie, Hawaiian Barbie, Artic Barbie, African Barbie, and Ken of course. I didn’t play with most of them though. They were not like the ones the other girls at school had. The girls only had the original Barbie with blonde hair and blue eyes, which was the one I had been eyeing for months.
In the front window of the box was Asian Barbie. My smile faded into a frown.
“So… what do you think?” my mom asked, “She’s a new one.”
I grunted a little. I got up onto my feet and clenched my fists. I took a deep breath through my nose and exhaled. “I don’t want her!” I screamed. “I told you I wanted the other one. I want one like everyone else, I want a blonde one!”
My mother looked at me with glare of disappointment.
I ripped off the top of the pink box, swept Indian Barbie’s head off her neck and tossed onto the floor.
I started to walk out of the room. “Saira come on,” my mother said, “Hey, I’m talking to you… get back here young lady…not everyone wants the blond Barbie and most people like Barbie’s that look like them,” her voice trailed off as a slammed my bedroom door shut.
I never took the rest of Indian Barbie out of the box. My mother and I never finished out conversation about all the different types of Barbie’s and why I was so obsessed with the blonde one. But sometime after my Barbie blowout my family took a trip to visit my dad’s side of the family in Pakistan.
We flew in to the hot sticky city to attend a wedding of a distant cousin. We had to wear shalwar kameez, which is traditional Pakistani attire. The outfits were made out of the softest sheer material and were littered in sequins. The wedding was decorated with bright colors and everyone was singing and dancing. I had never seen so many Pakistani’s; I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people that looked like me.
I watched the women with their thick gold jewelry, dancing and laughing. I saw a little bit of myself in these women and for some reason that comforted my insecurities of being different. I didn’t have to hide my features or try to accentuate features I didn’t possess. All most all of them had big ear lobes, large almond eyes, and brown skin, just like me. They looked nothing like the girls back home- or even Barbie. The world suddenly got a little bit bigger.
I turned to my mother to share my newfound realization. I looked at her and found that she was the one who stuck out. She was the only one with light skin and light eyes, but she didn’t seem to mind. She embraced the culture and the people because they were different from her. I think she liked that. I think that was the lessen she tried to teach me. She knew I was insecure about being one of the only minorities in a predominantly white suburb. She gave me the Barbie’s to show me that there are different parts of the world and each part has different people. But it wasn’t until I visited the part of the world where I am from that I finally understood: sometimes it is great to be the same and sometimes it is great to be different.

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