Friday, October 07, 2011

COLUMN: Barbie

This may come as a horrible, horrible shock to many of you, but I was kind of a weird kid.

Like every aspiring nerd, I used to be crazy for comic books and constantly begged my folks to take me to Dave's Book World in Galesburg for the newest issues. But it wasn't Batman or Superman or The X-Men that I was after. No, when I was a kid, there was only ONE comic book hero for me:


My hero didn't need a silly bat suit or a bite from a radioactive spider to fight crime. No, Richie Rich fought crime with little more than keen intuition, unending amounts of cold hard cash, and an alarming sense of entitlement. Richie spent most of every issue making horrible puns about his sickening level of wealth (example: Having saved the day, Richie and his friends are riding in a convertible in a ticker tape parade while crowds of people throw spare change at his head. Caption: "Put your hard hats on, everybody! They're throwing COIN-fetti!" Cue crazy laughter from 8-year-old me.)

The moral is: You always win if you're a nice guy... but having a butler, a robot maid, and a diamond plated dollar-sign shaped swimming pool doesn't hurt, either. Richie Rich was pretty much THE worst fiscal responsibility teacher on the planet, and might be the very reason why I live near the poverty line due to spending every dollar I earn on ridiculous gadgets and toys. I hoped that with the decline of Richie Rich comics, perhaps today's youth might have a better understanding of the value of a dollar. I was wrong.

As you may know, my girlfriend frequently babysits a pair of precocious siblings, ages 6 & 8. I like to refer to them as my "practice children" -- around juuust enough to give me a taste of what fatherhood would be like, yet thankfully they return to their nana every day before I've had a chance to accidentally inflict any permanent emotional scarring.

The other day, we took the girls to Incredible Pizza. The next night, they wanted to go BACK.

"I wish I had the money to take you guys there every day," I said.
"Well, go get some!" replied the 8-year-old.
"How do you propose I do that?" I asked back.
"Go to the money machine at the gas station and tell it that you need money!" she said.
"How does that work? Will the money machine just give me money anytime I want it?"
"Yep," she affirmed. "Just go, 'Hey, money machine! Give me money please!'"

There's no learning the value of a dollar when you believe that ATM's are magic money machines that disperse unending amounts of dough to anyone and everyone in need. So if Richie Rich isn't to blame for this generation's lack of fiscal appreciation, who is? I'm pretty sure I know.

I'm lookin' at you, Barbie.

I always thought she was a nice girl. I mean, sure, she's taken some heat over the years for her impossibly hourglass figure and her perpetuation of female stereotypes, but personally, I always thought Barbie was a pretty hip chick. And I suppose Ken's a tad bit Aryan and has a slightly alarming "buddy" named Allan (Google it,) but all in all, Barbie seems to have her act together. After all, she must do SOMETHING productive with her life to afford the mortgage on that Dream House, right?

Then I checked her phone. Specifically, the toy Barbie phone that the 6-year-old brought over the other night. Aww, cute, I thought at the time. A little play cell phone that looks like an iPhone, and when you press the buttons, Barbie talks to you. Super cute, right? Until I started to pay attention to what Barbie actually had to say. These are actual lines that Barbie says to your child:

"We're going to have a blast together!"

Well, okay, Barbie. I'm down for hangin' out, as long as we keep it on the cheap. I've got a house payment due this week.

"Let's go shopping together!"


"Do you want pizza for lunch?"

Well, okay, I suppose I can buy you some pizza.

"Want to get some ice cream?"

Jeez, Barbie, aren't you a little full of pizza? I mean, you've got to watch your figure, right?

"Let's stop for a snack!"

Barbie, you might have what's called a binging disorder. I'm starting to get a little worried.

"Let's go shoe shopping!"

Umm, I just spent my last $30 on pizza and ice cream, lady.

"I know a great boutique!"

Boutiques are PRICEY, Barbs. Can't we just go to Wal...

"Let's pack for a picnic at the beach!"

We live in Illinois, Barbarella. The nearest beach is, what, the Indiana Sand Dunes? That's about $100 in gas round trip + food + expenses...

"Hotel reservations - how can I help you?"

HOTEL?! You can help me get away from this spending succubus is what you can do...

"Let's find a tour bus!"

WHO are you dating? The guy from the Monopoly board? No wonder Ken left you for Allan...

"I'm all ready for our flight!"

Barbie is the devil.

"Don't you want to upgrade to first class?"

AAAAAAAGH! RUN AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For the rest of the night, the 6-year-old waltzed around telling Amy & I that she needed to upgrade to first class, despite not having any clue what it meant. I should have told her that it meant eating her vegetables and opening a savings account.

Maybe I wasn't as weird a kid as I thought. Compared to ol' Barbs here, Richie Rich is a fiscal planner. He was just guilty of HOARDING money, not SPENDING it. I don't want to live in a world where I could surprise my daughter with a trip to Disneyworld and have her pout because I had the gall to fly her there in coach.

Thanks a lot, Barbie.

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