Welcome to my first post, just one in a series about writing, motherhood, and the curiosities of family life.
I’ve been writing since I was about five, though thirty years passed before the first novel came together. Three books have followed that – but it took me a long time to see a thread in my work, which is the breakdown of families.
I’m not sure if I should blame this obsession on my parents, who parted ways, interestingly, around the time I started writing – or if perhaps I should blame it on my oldest sister, who hogged the typewriter long before I could type and churned out melodramatic stories about a man whose wives kept dying.
Later I borrowed greedily from those stories, and took them in all sorts of scandalous directions. The man buried the wives in his backyard, and he had children from all of them. The wives died in every delicious way I could find: they caught horrible diseases or they hurtled over cliffs or they slipped and fell on train tracks in their high-heeled shoes.
Later still – and for hours on end – I would play with my barbies, alone in my room. Often I didn’t want friends to come over and interfere with the storyline, because my barbies got up to all sorts of things that weren’t really suitable for sharing. Ken was a constant philanderer, but it wasn’t his fault. The evil Casey, who wore a tight blonde wig and whose head sat too far down on her neck due to a crack in the plastic, drugged him into submission. Barbie thought he was cheating on her, but technically he wasn’t, because he had no idea what Casey was doing. He was out of it. There was room for a happy ending.
All of this is a bit worrisome for me now. I have a daughter, age five, whose imagination seems grander yet than mine. Already I’m amazed by where it takes her – and also by her own awareness of it. She’s aching for a brother or sister, which isn’t in the cards. Once we told her that that was the great thing about having an imagination – you could call it up whenever you wanted, and your world expanded. I had several imaginary brothers who were highly preferable to my two sisters at times. They liked me. They carried me around on their shoulders. But our daughter had already moved past that. “I hate imagination!” she shouted, “because imagination always goes away!”
How can you argue with that?
And finally, speaking of barbies, New York Times Magazine ran a piece a while back about a jeweller who uses barbie parts in her work. Ken’s head dangling from earlobes. A brooch made of multiple delicate Barbie arms. A bracelet of lipsticked lips set into silver cups. A necklace of Barbie breasts. Check out Margaux Lange’s site to see Barbie anew.