One of my regular activities has been to delve into my memories trying to find links as to why I like pretty much anything feminine. One that is found often is one of my first memories. I was around the age of four when this took place. This memory is one of the clearest I have. It may be so clear due to the fact that I have replayed it many times over, usually when I am stressed or when the holiday season is near. I also touch on a tag-along memory which is still a little vague but very dear to me.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least it is in my mind’s eye. It’s the early 1970’s. Outside, the house is lit with brightly colored lights. Inside is decorated with familiar Christmas decorations and smells of freshly baked cookies. Mom has just selected me to remove the last ornament from the homemade advent calendar wall hanging. It is bracelet charm depicting the baby Jesus. Mom helps me to safety pin it to the felt cloth Christmas tree on calendar. Dad gathers us around our tree. It is trimmed with a star, tinsel, icicles, lights and ornaments, many of which are homemade by my six siblings (my little brother wasn’t even a twinkle of an eye yet). The family then takes turns reading the story of Christ’s birth from the bible.
I am more interested in looking at everyone’s lists. I sneak back and forth from the living room to the kitchen retrieving list after list. In our family our lists are images cut from the newspaper ads or the Sears catalog and glued to sheets of paper. The lists are affixed with magnets to the refrigerator. One of my older brothers gets upset when I bring his list back to look at. I try to be as patient as can be, but curiosity gets the better of me. I return to retrieve my sister’s list from the fridge but this time I don’t go back into the living room. Instead I stare longingly at the pink Barbie Corvette, Barbies and other girl’s toys.
I remember getting caught trying to peel the picture of the car off her list. My punishment is to find the paste, repair the damage to the list AND to hug my sister AND say I’m sorry.
As the evening is comes to an end, it is time to place our stockings around the living room. We had no chimney so our parents had each child select a small area of the living room to lay claim to. On Christmas morning gifts left by Santa would be in the area claimed by each child. Some times there were larger shared gifts which would be left in a neutral zone. This year happened to have a couple larger gifts. My older brothers received a Hot Wheels Grand-Prix race car track set and a small number of cars. My sisters received some My-Size Barbies.
I had laid claim to a big blue lazy boy style rocking chair. Near the base of the chair (and the neutral zone) is where I discovered MY hot pink Barbie Corvette. It was more than likely bumped or nudged near my area. I was told MY pink Corvette belonged to my sisters. I cried long and loud in protest. I don’t know what the terms were which stopped my cries. All I knew was I was allowed to play with the car, as long as my sisters were playing too. I still insisted the car was mine and I was to share playing with it and my sisters were to share their Barbies with me.
My logic on this was somewhat reinforced when I wasn’t allowed to play with the Hot Wheels. Thinking about this now, it was probably a restriction due to the smaller cars being a choking hazard, but to me it meant the Barbie Corvette was mine and I got to play with Barbies.
My family’s tradition allowed for the Christmas gifts to be displayed/left in the living room under the tree for the rest of the holiday season. The children were allowed to play with the toys but instead of putting them away in our toy boxes, the toys could be put away under the tree. This wasn’t an issue until it was time to take the tree down and Oh! the fit that was thrown when MY Barbie Corvette was driven off to the girl’s room instead of mine. Over the next couple of years, each time the Corvette was brought out for play I stopped whatever I was doing and played with my sisters, the Barbies and MY car. I even remember times of begging to play Barbie.
My interest in Barbies and other feminine play was furthered when it was time to play dress-up. I don’t know who came up with the idea but my one of my two older sisters dressed me in a My-Size Barbie dress, had me dance with and kiss her My-Size Barbie. This happened enough for my older sister to come up with a feminine name for me (DeeDee, Diane, Deena or something. I now prefer to use the name Dana).
I know I continued to wear dresses during playtime as I still have an old Polaroid photo of me wearing a dress, some of my Mom’s heels with my sister showing me how to hold a purse. The dress in the picture was a blue taffeta trimmed in tulle. I remember wearing it often and calling it “My Make-It-Blue Dress”, naming it after the scene in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty where the fairies are fighting over the color of the dress using their magic. Changing it from pink to blue, and back again. I barely remember the dancing and kissing of the doll, but the feeling I felt wearing my dress, the calm comfort that comes from what has to be the core of my being, has been something I have chased my entire life.