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Barbie & Her Perilous Anatomy
By Bart Plantenga

I. Homage/Damage

I already knew back then that to relate to the world meant somehow being able to relate to Barbie. Barbie as plural & plenteous, aerodynamic & market omnivorous, perfect & ever young, tear-free & stringless. Moans of prurience tucked ever so snug into her subtle, yet universally recognizable, curvaciousness. Barbie as that pliant statuette sculpted from the demographic spec sheets at Mattel who dove so deeply into our collective memory like a handsome forefinger into the heart of our wallets. Barbie as sleek, smug & Ultra-EZ-Wipe-Clean amulet afflicted with muffled desire.

II. Brutal Yet Necessary


When I tuned in my red radio out of the white crepuscular hiss, that mist of noise, arose the voice of one Bikini Girl discussing the phenomenon of Barbie. She minced no phrase in describing her early conversion of Barbie into a "makeshift sexual device." & how Barbie was her first & how she imagined Barbie felt & how her "teen juices d'amour" matted Barbie's golden locks back & how these clandestine secretions gave Barbie's hair a strange sheen. & how this made Barbie look punk or flapper or attitude-enhanced & how this made Bikini Girl the envy of her classmates who dreamed of mauve boudoirs & dates with Kiss, & thought the mysterious sheen was Dippity Doo.
& then Bikini Girl inspired insomniac stay-at-homes to call in their Barbie tales, & youthful dabblings in Barbie Voodoo & copycat fashion. I called in too, muffling my voice in the warm blankets wrapped around me so that I could sound calm & self-assured. I owned up, neither contrite nor proud, to my own boyhood encounters with Barbie. I recalled how our pockets bulged with Silly Putty & pilfered things at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison. How Bamberger's doll aisle was set up-like a New York alley of skyscrapers.

How I picked Barbie up out of her cardboard coffin. How, with one rapacious thumb, I'd slid Barbie's chiffon Frozen Hawaii gown down to her knees, exposing her innocuous perfections. & then there were others. Others whom I liberated from their bathing suits, sun dresses & candystriped microskirts. & later doused in Barbie's very own Privilege Perfume. & I continued because there were so many Barbies! I pinned dress after dress down under their plastic protrusions (true to scale but untrue to our yearnings for anatomical precision).

& so we rolled down the aisles like hoodlum huns, like preparatory panty-raiders, splitting our spleens with swashbuckling glee. Jamey going gaa-gaa like a hyena addicted to his own cackle. & Alfred got so aroused that he five-fingered $295 worth of merchandise.

& then on to Skipper, Midge, even Honey West. & the Kens, who got off no better-not at all!-stiff slacks yanked down to their ankles to look more flasher than anything you'd ever see on tv. & I brandished a magic marker & took to Barbies' nondescript bosoms to draw in necessary aureoli & nipples as if surgically & symbolically dotting "i"s in a long life sentence about misshapen desire.

III. Heat, Flame Or Fire

That night I sat in my windowsill, fumbling with the tag I'd ripped from Barbie's gown, bedroom legs dangling into the dark midnight. I read it over & over; do not hold near heat, open flame or fire, overlooking the lignite brook threading through dark yard. I felt the breeze stir my balls & the hypothetical hair on my legs & I thought sex & leaping into the big dark, with nude photos of Candy & Barbie tucked into my underwear, were one & the same. I imagined the lawn dew as something good & necessary as it evaporated from my incandescent face in a hiss.

IV. Barbie's Bloho Adventure

We met by the torched vehicle on Stanton Street. The breadth of her every skittish step was circumscribed by her skirt style & anxiety. It had been many unforgiven years & just as many unforgivable fashion statements.

This was Barbie's first trip to NYC. Well, not her first-she'd often been chauffeured to the Mattel HQ on Sixth Avenue & had often dined at the Waldorf & clubbed at Stringfellows. But this was certainly her first excursion below Houston Street.

She did not understand why we'd met here. Why I gave her a bracelet of used crack vials & a necklace made of car window crystals. She did not understand my world of gallantry. Her world was still filled with award ceremonies, chivalry & runway knights in perma-crease slacks. She did not understand why I thought it important that I'd broken the side window myself & had taken nothing from the vehicle. She did not understand that the gesture was the gift. & this was disappointing.

She did not understand why boys & girls along the parade route of her life would stick pins into her. & why others had painted crucifixes where her genitalia ought to have been. & why still other others threw pocketfuls of baby teeth at her feet of indistinguishable digits. She did not understand that the world had become a place where there was ever less to win & ever more to lose.

V. The Beer & Barbie Devotions

I washed three weeks of dirty dishes piled in my tub for her, as Barbie (cat. # T34959687) recalled her early days of life in Taiwan, her fist around a colorfully unreal drink I'd prepared in her honor.
She made light of the massive configuration of Combat Roach Killer Discs glued to my morbid kitchen wall. "Three years worth," I tried to brag. A legacy of battles won & lost right there.

"But why cover a whole wall with them?"

"My way of keeping track of time."

"You know, this much Combat," she said, "can make you impotent."

& then I coaxed her into my tub of cheap, warm beer-"It's therapeutic," I said & made motorboat sputters to mock her eternal affections for the trappings of wealth.

"Yeah, right," she retorted, much less naive than adventurous. We floated there for a long time, unburdened of all weight & doubt. & I got drunk on her head by dipping her big coif of adjustable length hair into the cheap, warm beer & then sucking every inebriating molecule out of her big hair. Over & over. She said it was OK, something she could tolerate. "I've been through worse."

& this routine came to pass so that I could no longer drink beer in any other manner. This was how I got drunk. OK? & this habit managed to keep me out of many bars where drinking was still done in more conventional ways.

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