October 1, 1998 Much like every other Baby Boomer girl, I grew up playing with Barbie. My first – and still my favorite – was the classic titian ponytail. Much like my own wardrobe, we rarely splurged on store-bought Barbie clothes – my mother sewed them. And, unlike little girls today, I had one Barbie and probably a Ken, Midge and Skipper too. We spent hours playing the Barbie board game, trying not to get stuck going to the prom with Poindexter. Feminism was far in the future, as a casual perusal of the rules and goals of the Barbie board game make abundantly clear.

Barbie Characters

When I left for college and my parents prepared to move to San Diego, they asked me what to do with my dolls. “Give them away,” I said cavalierly, confident that I was far too sophisticated to ever miss them.

Barbie Images

I was wrong. As an adult collector, you could argue – as my long-suffering husband does – that I spent a fortune trying to reconnect with those dolls I so casually gave away. After years of being oblivious to 11 inch fashion dolls, in the mid-nineties I browsed a Barbie Bazaar magazine while shopping for toys for my children at FAO Schwartz  – and I was hooked.

Barbie image

Naturally, I didn’t collect in moderation – I don’t do anything less than obsessively. Meeting Chris Varaste was a lucky fluke.  He was writing a book about Barbie (Face of the American Dream) and many of my dolls were immortalized in photographs for the book.

book cover

With affection, I call Chris my “idiot savante” of the Barbie world. He knows which shade of eye color appeared which year and which ones are rare (example – say what color and year). Thanks to his eagle eye and willingness to curate,  my collection was elevated in class almost instantly.

Chris and I last Christmas with Miss Zelda
Chris and I last Christmas with Miss Zelda

Neither of us are as mad about Barbie as we were then although she’ll always have a place in our hearts – how could she not, being an American icon? More important, Chris has a place in my heart. We’ve talked about far more than Barbie over the years and he’s proven himself to be as trustworthy as I intuited on the day we met – nineteen years ago today.