Barbie’s New Home

Barbie thinks she smells curry
By Adrienne Vasanti Salgado and Ian Iqbal Rashid

Share Article

1.

Barbie is unhappy. She knows her rights. She knows what was hers to expect and enjoy. A house, grand and uneventful. Predictable. Barbie would have been happy there. A house flashing with laughter and mirrors, burdened only by big armchairs and oversized cushions for her hard little bottom. Burdened only by last year's colours. But Barbie wouldn't have minded. She's polite that way.

Big floppy flowers that last and last and last. Like daytime in the summer, Barbie knows what to expect. But look at what has happened. Things aren't what they used to be. Change. Barbie has been thrown into the face of change, like a petal into a big wind.

2.

Dark and smiling and noisy. Very dark. This family is much different from Barbie. Different from Malibu Barbie, Barbie's unduly tanned alter ego. This family is even darker skinned. A house full of mocha coloured children. Different.

But then all children are different from Barbie. They don't, poor dears, enter the world fully formed like she does. Little globes of cobalt blue knowing for eyes. A little whim of a nose. Children change all the time. Grow and change, develop spots and unfortunate pendulous breasts, or worse still, no breasts at all: those little girls who demand brassieres and waste money. And the big ones who refuse them, costing nobody anything. Except modesty. And who profits from a lack of modesty? Barbie's breasts on the other hand do have a price. Envy. Envy and nineteen dollars ninety-five.

Image

3.

Barbie's new 'friend' is a boy. (Barbie never has owners, only 'friends,' she is built that way, quotation marks and all.) And even more unusual, he's a little brown boy. No chance for envy here. Or is there? Something splits the air when his big cow eyes look her way. Barbie stares back at him constantly, her gaze steadily forward, her smile gripped into place by a round of determination in her cheek (do her nerves show?). Barbie stares steadily forward. She longs for eyelids.

At night he holds her to him with love. She is as close to his mouth as saliva and she is frightened. She doesn't recognise. She knows what men are, their inevitability, it's been built into her. By men themselves. But this boy is different.

Men are supposed to be dark. Tall, dark and handsome. But this dark? And everything is exposed in this boy. Where are the shrewd eyes, the lecher's mouth? Where are those crinkling saran wrap words, those looks of sweetness with worrying hints of dislike, ebbing into speculation, flowing into promise. Barbie knows what she knows. And she knows what to expect. This...this is something else.

4.

Everywhere the smell of curry and hope. Hope permeates the air like the source of a scent beyond view. The child plays with eager fervour. Barbie's roles are not unfamiliar: movie star, spy, stewardess—oops, flight, attendant—but such elaborate fantasies, no easy narratives here. Plots from old films, dancing and singing numbers (in so many languages) and then, even worse....Twisted, shapeless romances. Unrequited love stories in which Barbie has to figure prominently. Not a wedding in sight. (A shame because Barbie comes with a full-length gown made of synthetic lace—highly flammable, but children should not be playing with matches, should they?) Barbie knows only to be Barbie. To be dressed swiftly, propped up, to twirl. This is different.

The boy's sweat glands are beginning to change. Curry and hope and a man's sweat. Barbie knows only to be Barbie, she's not up for much more. She has always been grateful about her lack of genitalia, no smelly orifices to confuse her. She is grateful now. She remembers to smile with even greater urgency.

I know what I know, she thinks. And that is all.

Image

5.

Barbie is concerned about her little fashion purse. And her little mini dress. She is being carried from room to room, naked. No purse, no dress. She is more than concerned (dark eyes surround her). She is distressed. The fashion earrings that she has been given are wrong. Meant for someone else. A different outfit, some other girl. Hoops as big as slave bands, flashing a lethal light across the dark walls. If she could perspire, Barbie decides, she would now. She must leave this place.

6.

Hope and exercise, plans for improved status. Life here is unified and over-real, exhausted eyes and tough feet. Barbie wants out. She is plotting. A tight-lipped, pink faced girl comes to visit the big eyed boy. They play all the wrong games but Barbie is aware of being stared at hard and with envy. Sneaky eyes which Barbie recognises. Oh, she knows this girl. There is something here she can work with. She will not have to wait long. Soon, she'll be whisked out. Leave behind a trace of her cool, slick surface and the smell of marigolds. And a brief, tearing sensation that will last long after she has been stolen away into a peppermint scented pocket and whisked down a stairwell. Barbie knows what she knows. And that is all.

Frieze and handprint design by Sherazad Jamal.
Redux Handprint
Adrienne Vasanti Salgado
Adrienne Vasanti Salgado is an illustrator based in Scotland.
More
Ian Iqbal Rashid
Ian Iqbal Rashid is a London-based poet, screenwriter and filmmaker. His films have screened at festivals from Sundance to Toronto and been distributed theatrically. He is the author of three award-winning volumes of poetry.
More
[smartslider3 alias="evergreen-ads"]