Art © Pam Stephan
Barbie has been around since 1959 but she has yet to develop any sags, bags, or wrinkles. Indeed, no matter what time or what day it is, Barbie always looks flawless, confident, and ready to handle anything. Now a group on FaceBook is asking Barbie to think of going bald - in order to help out girls who have suffered from hair loss due to cancer treatments. The group also sees the bald beauty as a coping aid for children whose mothers have lost their own hair to chemotherapy.
Mattel, makers of the iconic doll, have indeed made at least one Bald and Beautiful Barbie. She was made for a four-year-old girl who had lost her hair to chemo. Jane Bingham and Beckie Sypin started the FaceBook page as a way to lobby Mattel for a Bald and Beautiful Barbie - and that page now has over 133,000 "likes" from supporters. Bald dolls are not without precedent - my mother gave me baby dolls who were hair-free (as some real babies are), but Barbie has always been crowned with a variety of luxuriant hairstyles. Barbie has always been a fashion plate, and has often taken on good causes. She's been loaded with accessories from head to her tiny little toes, and accompanied by boyfriends, sisters, and girlfriends. Barbie, you might say, has a wide social network and a great support team. She never lacks for company or for clothes!
And Barbie's "mom" had breast cancer - that's inventor Ruth Handler - so you know that Mattel understands how chemo and hair loss can impact a child or a woman. Ruth Handler also invented a realistic breast prosthesis, "Nearly Me," which was a great improvement over the models available in 1970, when she had her mastectomy.
Children do have a hard time coping with the changes that cancer and its treatments bring to the body. The loss of health, energy, and hair - often a defining part of a parent's -- or one's own appearance -- is a jolt to the secure, normal world we are used to living in. How often does a child sit near a parent and play with their hair, or try to style their own hair like Mommy's? Sue Glader, a breast cancer survivor, wrote the book "Nowhere Hair" to help her little boy cope with her sudden hair loss. Teresa Miriam Van Hoy lost her long brown hair to chemo, which upset her sons - they felt lost without her lovely locks. Likewise, headgear such as wigs, scarves, and caps can cause confusion for a young child as their parent copes with physical changes and side effects. We don't realize how much of our visual identity is contained in our hair, until we lose it -- and that seems more so, when it is lost to disease or chemo.
Bryan Stockton, Mattel's CEO, hasn't responded to the request -- some call it a demand -- for a Bald and Beautiful Barbie. It's not unusual for the company to make short-run collector's edition Barbies. From what I understand, Mattel hasn't turned down the idea -- and they haven't said yes -- yet. So sit tight -- if Mattel doesn't come up with a Bald and Beautiful fashion doll, then we may be seeing Bald Bratz or a Disney princess sporting a bare head -- by next Christmas!
So what do you think? Would having a bald doll help a child cope with their own, or a parent's chemo hair loss? Or would it cause confusion and sorrow? Let me know by leaving a comment.
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