So there I am, tearing down the high street in my beloved grey marl sweats, and me, I hear a small shrill voice calling. ‘Hel-lo-hoo!’ This voice, it’s tiny, it must be way off, yet it seems right in my ear. ‘Hel-lo! Ari-el! Hel-lo! Help me!’
Me, I come to a standstill, scanning around the street, somewhat confused. People scurry by in their shopping trances, not-there there, all caught up with important nonsense, the glorious a-void-dance we all do so well. Me, I want to do that dance, but the voice, it tells me, ‘Over here! I’m here!’ And frowning, no choice, I follow its apparent direction. ‘Yes, here! This way!’ I’m getting to wonder if this is a ghost. Either that or I’m truly off my trolley—because I seem to be the only one who hears the ethereal call. Tugged by it still, I crash through the door of a busy bakery.
‘Ariel!’ the voice cries triumphantly.
And hark at this! Me, I realise I am mad—bewitched you might say. And it’s wonderful! I am under the influence of a lean, long-legged blonde. A doll with boobs.
Absolutely: it’s Barbie.
There she sits, on a shelf by the window, surrounded by buns, donuts, éclairs, in a little frilly apron—some sort of shop mascot. People queue up, ordering doughy goods, while Barbie, her wide staring eyes stare at me.
Oh, what big eyes you have! I think to myself. All the better to see you with, my dear!
‘Hello’, says Barbie. ‘You found me at last!
To be sure, when she talks, Barbie, her mouth, it doesn’t move. This is not Toy Story. There she sits, smiling. Her lips apart just so.
What BIG teeth you have! I think, saying to her, ‘Hi.’
And she says, ‘My teeth are not big! Wrong story! Seriously, too much big bad wolf, Ariel—you’ve got to quit—all this spying on him is getting to be something like stalking and—’
‘—Blimey,’ I tell her. ‘Okay, Barbie, none of your business. That wasn’t meant for you; it’s an Ariel-to-Ariel ism. What are you, anyway?—telepathic?’ Barbie laughs. ‘This is awesome!’ I add. And believe me, awesome is not a word in my vocabulary. Barbie laughs again.
‘I’m glad you could come,’ she says. ‘Buy a bun and dance with it. Avoid no more! Abundance is the way to go.’
I smile. ‘I like the void. It has its merits. Space and all that. Is that what you got me here for? To buy buns? How much do they pay you?’
‘No. I want to tell the world a thing or two, and you’re the one I’ve picked to do it for me—you get me? Because I’m a doll.’
You don’t say? All the better to sally with you, my dear!
‘So shoot,’ I tell her. ‘I’m game.’
‘Fact is, I’m fed up with being an ideal,’ says Barbie.
‘Yes, that must be a trial,’ I say sarcastically.
‘Be serious, Ariel. This is a serious issue. I’m a toy! I’m fashioned sexy and it’s very confusing. The messaging—you know, people are making lewd videos with me. I’ve seen them on You-Tube. But I’m straying… Point is, I need some form of humanity. Something that smashes the ideal. Women don’t have bodies like mine. My body is misrepresentative.’
‘But you are a doll, Barbie.’
‘I’m unrealistic. An unrealistic ideal!’
‘True. You are pretty ridiculous.’
‘Hel-lo!’ she says.
‘Well you said it!’
‘No,’ she says. ‘I said unrealistic!’
‘Yes, your feet are too tiny. And so is your waist—and your hair is—come on, it is—it’s way BIG—it’s fracking ridiculous! Hydraulic!’
‘Unrealistic,’ she states defiantly. ‘What I am, is a plastic ideal. And I’m sick of it. I want to be a woman.’
‘Great,’ I tell her. And I find myself thinking ridiculously: Oh, if only I were a doll! No real life: an un-breathing plastic ideal. How ideal! And then, desperately, I yell in my head: What is it I want?! And I get to thinking that when I was an ideal, all that time ago—when he, that un-man, was into me —it wasn’t so hot, he never really saw me—because ideal women—idolized, whatever—they have nowhere to go except down. A long long way to fall. To Barbie I blather, ‘So you want me to tell the world how fed up you are?’
‘I want to live,’ cries Barbie.
This takes me by surprise. ‘I want to live?’ I echo mournfully.
‘I want body fluids. You, Ariel, you have them, you own up to them! Your stuff of life.’
‘I want to accept myself. Accept yourself, Ariel, y’hear?! Look,’ Barbie says, matter-of-fact. ‘What you can do, what I really want is for you to make me a gusset. What is it you say about it—in your Introduction? That the gusset carries an awareness of the life-cycle. It suggests the state of becoming blemished, by it’s very existence, it’s very purpose—that’s what you say! It represents reality! The opposite of the ideal—oh shame, embarrassment, pain—give them to me!’
Me, I think to myself: You want those things?! Girl, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
‘I do,’ she answers. ‘I know perfectly well what I’m saying!’ She’s inside my thoughts again. ‘It’s called being alive! You, Ariel, you feel! You dare to feel! You’re brave! Don’t you see? For all the pain, it’s wonderful!’
‘You shouldn’t do that, Barbie,’ I tell her, dazed. ‘It’s rude to stalk my thoughts. My thoughts are my thoughts—they’re not for you to mine.’
Barbie, she ignores me, she cries, ‘We can do it, Ariel! We must survive loss! The loss of idealization! The loss of your loves. Oh make me a gusset, Ariel! Let me live!’
Me, I smile ruefully, nodding. I realise, Barbie, she’s a bit of a sage. Ridiculous, but true. And why not? ‘I get you,’ I say. ‘I really do!’ Given half the chance, we’re more than meets the eye. Ideal women do not actually exist. We all spill! To be judged ideal is a camouflaged curse. ‘Blimey, for a moment I was actually willing myself to be you.’
Barbie cries. ‘If I could only be you…’
‘Be me? Why would you ever want to be me?’
It’s ridiculous, but there are tears in my eyes.
‘Oh Ariel, you’re alive! Stop the avoidance! Dance with a bun! Make me a gusset! Avenge me, Ariel! Give me life! Only you can do it!’
I smile with wet eyes. ‘Barbie, I’m going to do it! I’ll do it.’
‘That’s awesome!’ she says. ‘But look, I haven’t got any knickers. You’ll have to get me some—’
Me, I reach up and grab Barbie from the shelf. I turn her upside-down, inspecting her bare plastic bottom; it’s obvious there’s quite a lot missing down there. Barbie, she’s yelling, ‘No! I don’t mean literally! Get off! Ariel, stop it! Put me down! I’ve had enough humiliation!’
‘Sorry, sorry!’ I murmur, up-righting her, holding her ‘perfect’ little body at arm’s length.
At this stage, the shop assistant, she clocks me playing with Barbie, and she’s heading over, red-faced: ‘Oi you! Oi!’
Me, I tell her quick, ‘I was looking for her stamp of authenticity!’
‘She’s real alright,’ Shop Woman says, demanding Barbie with her open hand. ‘Can I help you? ’
‘Have you got anything wheat-free?’ I ask stupidly.
Baker Woman snatches Barbie from my grasp, checking out her pert posterior, her smooth un-crack. ‘If you’ve damaged this Barbie, they’ll be trouble! You’ve no right! She’s our lucky charm.’
‘She’s fine,’ I say. ‘Too fine. That’s her problem.’ As Barbie is plopped back on her shelf, I smile, adding decisively. ‘I’ll take a bun! A sticky bun.’
And to Barbie, I say, ‘Sorted! Let’s give you some real taboo. Let’s give them all a bit of a stir, shall we?! You may not have a cu_t, but I can fix things for you! I will! I’ll give you something that speaks of life, of humanity, something that every person must face. A stain. I’ll avenge your plastic ideal. ’
And I do. And this is that.