My bright green dress sported a delicate lace bodice with dainty layers of material cascading below the waistline – had the dress been white, it might bear a slight resemblance to that infamous dress worn by Marilyn Monroe as she stood over that gusty street grate in New York. The summer had been kind, delivering balmy temperatures and blue skies that rivalled the South Seas. I was thrilled to ditch my jeans and long sleeves for the feminine flirty summer dresses that adorned beachfronts and patios. On one particular morning I was feeling pretty good and looking forward to showing off my newly acquired item from my summer wardrobe. My hair was lifted of my neck in a high ponytail, my face fashionably covered by big sunglasses, my lips painted with a rose-coloured hue, and my short stature slightly elevated with the help of some copper wedged sandals. I swept into the office like Scarlett O Hara and was enthusiastically greeted by one of my co-workers who blurted out “Wow, you look like Barbie”.
It was a flattering compliment. I returned home, relaying the amusing story to my better half, who, with a mischievous grin, immediately pronounced, “Arthritis Barbie”. After a bit of thought I realized they were not too far off the mark…there were days I felt like those synthetic dolls, lifeless and frozen. I had fond memories of playing with them in my childhood, plastic models of chastity, their heads crowned with long flowing hair that framed a picture of contentment on their frozen face. They were always fashionably attired, and had a variety of clothes from which to choose. It was the plastic toy that stimulated the imagination of millions of little girls. We styled and brushed her hair (some of us even cut it, not realizing it won’t grow back), we shaped and cast them in theatrical dramas, emulating the things we saw on television or the actions of our mothers, aunts, sisters and grandmothers. Their arms and knees were constructed of malleable plastic to bend their elbows and knees; when I think back now, I believe they had more flexibility than I do in the morning. They were given identities with different personalities – some were actresses, some were singers, but not once did I ever associate their graceful bodies with the painstaking bumbling movements of arthritis.
I wonder how that advertising campaign would go: Arthritis Barbie, coming soon to a Rheumatologist near you. Nope, I’m not convinced…it’s just not in her genetic make-up.