Growing up as an only child in a small town, I had a phase during which Barbie was my best friend, role model, and confidant. I hoped someday that I, like Barbie, could be a veterinarian-slash-astronaut, live in a dream house, and ride horses at my stables on the weekends — when I wasn’t flying somewhere lavish on my pink jet. For better or worse, I wanted what Barbie had.
Those days are long gone, but I still couldn’t help but be intrigued when I heard the news that Mattel was launching a “Barbie Wellness Collection” to help “introduce girls to the benefits of self-care through play.”
As a journalist who’s been covering health and wellness for a few years, my first thought was: Wow, finally I beat Barbie to a trend. My second thought? If they’re selling a yoni egg accessory, I’m out.
Still, when I saw the actual Barbies. I was transported back in time 20 years, and I could just see myself in a Walmart aisle, crying to my mother: I WANT ONE.
The new collection is chic — if a little surreal. One very specific doll called “Breathe With Me Barbie” caught my eye. Her legs bend to let her sit cross-legged on the floor in a meditation pose. She’s wearing sick, cloud-covered PJs that I myself would love to own. And get this: When you press on her necklace, she will guide you through one of five meditation exercises.
“The collection teaches girls daily routines that promote emotional well-being and includes three key themes: meditation, physical well-being, and self-care; because Barbie knows to be one’s best is to give yourself the best care,” Mattel explains a press release obtained by Cosmopolitan.
The other dolls are cool, too. Barbie Fitness Doll comes with a yoga mat. (Knowing Barbie, I assume it’s Lululemon.) There’s Barbie Spa Doll, who loves to “soak away the day with spa and bath products that include a rubber duck, magazine, bath brush, towel, box of bath bombs and candle.” As a New Yorker without a bathtub, this Barbie just made me jealous.
Reading up on these new, Goop-ified Barbies brought me back to the old days of wanting to be Barbie — a phase I thought I’d moved past. It made me wonder if Barbie was doing what she’s always done to me and other kids: setting unrealistic expectations for what life is really like.
That’s not all bad. After all, kids shouldn’t have to worry about what happens to your bank account when you impulse blow thousands on a wellness retreat to the Maldives. And if Barbie can really encourage some kid to sit down and follow a guided meditation, more power to her. But there is something about living the “dream life” that stays with you and warps you a bit.
That’s why I’m a little concerned about Barbie’s new foray into wellness. Self-care doesn’t have to mean going to the spa, hitting the gym, or even paying $95 annually for a meditation app that you’ll quickly forget you ever downloaded, as Cosmo points out. But Barbie makes life seem so simple, fun, and decadent. Can it be those things? Yes. Do we need to feed kids a message that self-care looks a certain way or comes with expensive bath bombs, at an age when they’d be just as satisfied playing with the box Barbie came in? Probably not.
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