I spent two hours lost in my small backyard garden, fertilizing and watering trees, trimming plants, and harvesting strawberries, basil, and tomatoes. I loved the feel of the moist dirt under my fingers, the sun on my arms, and the smell of the earth. I smiled at how much joy I felt, paused for a breath, and looked up at the pepper tree. Its soft lacy branches hovered over me and waved gently to provide some shade. Through her golden-green branches, the soft blue sky smiled, and the wind sent the smell of sweet peppercorns.
Later that night, I saw what I hadn’t noticed during the day: scratches on my arms and itchy raised red bumps from outdoor mosquitos and gnat bites.
My husband and I heard so much hype about the Barbie movie that we donned some pink and went off to see it. We both enjoyed the brightly colored ride, that went way beyond a rom-com or a Mattel toy movie. It starts in matriarchal Barbieland, where female imperfection does not exist, men are accessories, and weirdos, who don’t fit the narrow mold, are outcasts.
My favorite part of the movie was when Barbie takes off her high-heeled shoes and the heels of her feet are still lifted. Then she plants her heels down so her whole foot is on the earth. The earth sends back to her body a message of confusion and ambivalence. With her feet now on the ground of reality, rather than up in the ego image of being 100 percent perfect and happy all the time, Barbie settles into a scary time of looking at life more deeply. She contemplates death, gets depressed, and feels lost, vulnerable, and scared.
She and Ken head to the real world, where Ken feels empowered for the first time, soaking in aspects of the patriarchy, which he brings back to Barbieland. He takes over and installs the Kendom, where women are inferior, and men are superior. Still, Ken has no job, wants Barbie’s love, and can’t get it, so he isn’t happy. He creates a cult of toxic masculinity, another image-driven identity, as unfulfilling as perfect Barbie.
A woman from the real world, played by America Ferrera, delivers a long, powerful speech about the binds of perfectionism expected in American society for women. “Don’t be fat, but don’t be too thin, but be healthy, but be thin…”. I got a lump in my throat, identifying with the pressures that we women feel to produce, perform, look perfect, act friendly, and set boundaries - but not too assertively, for fear of being labeled difficult.
Barbie hid inside an image of glamour, sweet friendliness, and being likable.
Ken wanted love, but when he couldn’t get it, grabbed power.
Neither had what females and males needed to be happy:
Finding something meaningful to do,
And opening yourself to love.
Once you place your bare feet on the cool green grass, the smell of truth rises to your nose.
Only when you inhale life as it is - the joys, scratches, bug bites, and courage to pursue your dreams, will you ever feel non-plastic.