Beaucoup Barbies

Ever look back on your youth and realize what a misguided asshat you were? Recall memories that make you inwardly cringe? That’s pretty much how I feel about my entire 20s and 30s when it comes to men. Men I was romantically involved with, that is. I had tons of male friends who all thought I was cool beans; it was when I fell for a man that I became this f*cked-up Stepford, or Chameleon Barbie. You know Chameleon Barbie—she’s the girl who transforms into whatever she thinks her guy wants. The one who doesn’t have an opinion of her own or hobbies unless they’re the same as her love interest.

Yes, I am embarrassed to admit this was me. I attribute it to never having been involved in sports. I always hear how girls who participate in sports have more self-confidence, and they’re so busy with sports that whenever they get asked out by a boy they tell them to “Talk to the hand,” instead. I should have told more guys to talk to the hand, but I was too busy getting my nails done so my hands would look pretty for men.

I don’t know why I felt like I had to change who I was just to impress a man. I suppose I thought he wouldn’t like the real me. The trouble was the person he’d see wasn’t the real me, either. For instance, when I found out my college boyfriend had cheated on me I got it in my mind that what he really wanted was a California “model-type.” So I went out and spent over $300 on clothes I thought he would like—short skirts, skimpy tops, heels, and proceeded to wear them on all our dates (please don’t ask why I still dated him after he cheated on me—that’s a topic for another post). I wore each outfit exactly one time. I had to cash savings bonds to pay for the clothes. Why I thought I had to look like Bimbo Barbie to attract him, I’ll never know. I just thought that if he had cheated on me, he must have wanted something else.

Then there was the guy I dated in Washington D.C. who was involved in politics. The one who always seemed surprised when I said something intelligent or came out with a big word. “You know, you’re really smart,” he’d say, as if he couldn’t believe anyone who looked like me could actually put sentences together. So what did I do to impress him? I ordered a subscription to the New York Times and read it EVERY day. Didn’t matter that I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about politics, the fact that I had the paper when he visited me scored me major points as Political Barbie.

Shall I go on? I became the greatest Svengali of all with my son’s father. When we first got together, I honed in on the fact that he was without family and undernourished. So I became Caretaker Barbie, even though I hate to cook. I stocked my fridge with food to fatten him up and I cooked him dinner each and every night, proving to him that I was a nurturing female who would make everything better. Erase all those bad childhood memories and take care of him like his mother never did.

And I had the nerve to bitch years later that he never did anything for me.

Why, oh why do some women do this? Try to be something they’re not simply to impress a man? Men wonder why women change after marriage. Well, if they’re putting on a façade, I would imagine after many years it’s too exhausting to keep up. Case in point—you won’t see me walking around outside in skimpy clothing and heels, I will not engage you in a political debate, and I sure as hell don’t cook dinner every night, not even for my son.

There needs to be a balance between pleasing another while not losing oneself completely. It’s not good to become Submissive Barbie and “take it” like Anastasia in Fifty Shades of Grey if it makes you uncomfortable; nor is telling your love, “Get your ass up and grab it yourself,” when he timidly asks you to pass the salt. No one wants to be around Bitchy Barbie, either.



14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Grief Happens
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 15:17:15

    FAVORITE TERM EVER: “misguided asshat.” For what it’s worth, I played lots of sports and am still jacked up in the love department, though I agree it boosted my confidence in many ways. It’s funny to read this cause I’ve spent the week beating myself up for not squeezing myself into Cinderella’s shoes. I completely suck at pretending to be someone I’m not. I’m currently questioning my 13 year marriage, and a large part of me is convinced that hubby wants a Stepfrd wife. Please shoot me now. I suppose I could try on the Stepford Wife role for a moment but I’m afraid I’d quickly morph into Bitchy Barbie.


    • Tiffany N. York
      Jul 02, 2013 @ 19:25:47

      I will be crucified for saying this, but I think all men want a Stepford wife. Think about it. If I were a man who had to go to work all day to support his family, I’d want to come home to a clean house, prop my feet up, drink my scotch and soda, and ask wifey what’s for dinner. Who wouldn’t want that?

      Most men I’ve been with couldn’t stand my up and down moods, my sensitivity, my irrational behavior at times. They def couldn’t stand outbursts of any kind. I’m what you would call high-maintenance. I’ve never met a man who has said they wanted that in a wife. (Which could explain why I’m not married.)


  2. Cie
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 15:25:25

    The photo says it all, but glad you did. It’s been said that the last person a human wants to be alone with is themselves. Have something to do with it???


    • Tiffany N. York
      Jul 02, 2013 @ 19:31:51

      Well, I’m NEVER alone anymore now that I have the diva. I can’t even go to the bathroom alone! She seems to have become my wife (husband), bed companion (lover), daughter, best friend–all rolled into one.


  3. Valerie
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 17:16:25

    The Barbie discussion was right on target. It took me a long time to recognize who I really am, and not be what I thought everyone expected me to be. Your writing is amazing. I am really impressed.


    • Tiffany N. York
      Jul 04, 2013 @ 14:03:36

      Thank you. It has taken me a long time as well. I’ve always heard women say they’ve come “into their own” in their 40s or 50s, and I never knew what that meant exactly. Now I know, and of course wish it had happened a lot sooner.


  4. Damien
    Jul 04, 2013 @ 05:56:05

    Hm…this is very interesting. First of all, from a writing perspective, you need to exploit this idea. Acting like something you’re not is extremely easy to relate to. People do it all the time to fit in with others, or to get someone they want.

    One of the reasons it is such a universal theme is because it is in no way a solely female reaction. Men do this all the time to impress or win over the women they want. Men act like sensitive types, jocks, and debonair gents. You yourself have commented on this blog what kind of man you want, and if a man wanted your attention and knew you well, he’d try to morph to those parameters.

    I have acted like a total jerk to get a girl, because it was what she responded to, and yet I am not a total jerk. I have played a standoffish pony, a dominant lustier, and even a kid lover (still so much shame about that one!). So just as there are the misguided asshats (seriously, so jealous you came up with that) who are playing chameleon Barbies, there are just as many asshats playing chameleon Kens.

    Surely, I have found that confidence in being myself despite all the quirks, likes, and dislikes that come along with me is the best way to go through life, whether thinking romantically or not.

    Do you agree, dear Chameleon Barbie?


    • Tiffany N. York
      Jul 04, 2013 @ 14:21:01

      Absolutely and without question. Playing a part is exhausting and inauthentic, but I guess I always felt people wouldn’t like the real me. I suppose that’s what anybody is afraid of–men included, although what you said about men surprised me. Most men I’ve known have been very “This is who I am and if you don’t like it, there’s the door.” What you say makes sense in the cases where the wife says, “The second we were married, he changed. He doesn’t do anything nice for me anymore.” And I’m always like, “Wha-? How is that possible?” I’ll tell you how it’s possible. It’s exactly like the husbands who complain because their wives went down on them before marriage and now? Nothing. Nada. Zip. The ole bait-and-switch. Oldest trick in the book.

      I actually prefer men who have demons and scars and neuroses. It makes them more real (or makes me feel less fucked-up). But I’ve had it in my mind for years that men prefer low-maintenance women–stable, sweet, accommodating–and of these, I am none, so let the games begin.

      Oh, and don’t feel ashamed over pretending you’re a kid lover. I do that, too.


  5. Sam
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 09:41:29

    There’s a fine line here between being comfortable in your own skin and being self absorbed. I wonder if part of the journey isn’t learning how much you have to compromise yourself. Everyday we engage in behavior that is essential to making things function (obeying traffic laws, paying taxes, saying please or thank you, showering…) yet we aren’t doing these things because we have a deep desire to do so. Rather we do these things because there are consequences for not doing them and if we do these things others are more likely to do them also- making everything work smoother.

    I liked your real life stories, as part of playing devil advocate here, was the bigger problem that your efforts went unrewarded- meaning that the men were unappreciative and failed to (be faithful, recognize your intelligence, and play a male role). For example would you been content to continue playing Betty Crocker if he was bringing home bacon everyday, playing Bob Villa on the weekends, watching Teletubbies with your son every morning, and making your evenings an image of an exotic French movie?

    I don’t think the problem is that people shouldn’t change for others, rather you had better be getting something in return. That comes back to knowing yourself and being able to put a value on what the change will cost you in comparison to what you will be gaining. If you are unwilling to change that indicates the other person is of little value to you or the potential benefits are not valuable enough.


    • Tiffany N. York
      Jul 08, 2013 @ 16:19:29

      What about when one person does the majority of the giving and doing–isn’t it common for the other person to become comfortable with that? For example, a friend of mine cooked dinner for her boyfriend/future husband for years. She’d say, “For once, I’d just like him to take care of dinner one night. I don’t need anything fancy. He could make spaghetti, for God’s sake.”

      But he never did. Now this is something they fought about all the time, maybe the situation would improve temporarily, but then inevitably go back to being the same. I find couples tend to fight about the same crap throughout their entire marriage. But how do you not take advantage of your partner’s generosity and kind nature? Don’t we always eventually take our partner for granted?

      And what happens when the other person refuses to change? Or you find yourself giving more than you’re receiving? What then? Do you leave them? Put up with it and become resentful? Have an affair?


  6. Sam
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 14:53:01

    I think your scenarios fall into the dreaded, “You’re not in a real relationship if?”

    People do have a tendency to get comfortable and think their current situation is a right. I had a friend who got divorced after 12 years of marriage, the final straw was socks. He was a bit of a butt head and had certain things he was rather insistent on having done in certain ways. So his wife comes back from shopping and she had bought him new socks. He throws a fit as these are not the socks he is used to, she has purchased the wrong socks. At some point she is like talk to the hand- I’m out of here you neurotic psychopath.

    As she heads for the door he say, “That door only swings one way, you walk out and it’s over.” She walks out the door towards the car, he say, “No one leaves a relationship with me, get in that car and you’d better keep on driving.” She gets in the car and starts it. He on his knees begging, “Baby please don’t go, please don’t go, I didn’t mean anything I’ve said.”

    By the way he was the one that told me this story and he was rather humbled by events. No doubt he was in the wrong. So the question becomes who trained who? Her tolerance of his behavior allowed it to grow and ultimately kill the relationship, yet I don’t think she minded buying him socks.

    I recall hearing once that every relationship is like a set of accounts. If there are to many outstanding debts for to long the account needs to be closed. Taking people for granted is immature, if your dog will betray you and crap on the carpet you just cleaned why should we expect more from people? I think part of the joy in relationships comes from hopefully regular surprises, he cooked dinner tonight, she washed the car, ect… I know when something nice is unexpectedly done for me, I tend to feel an urge to reciprocate it. Yet expecting me to clean kitchen or call the dentist makes me resentful.


    • Tiffany N. York
      Jul 10, 2013 @ 21:50:53

      Yes, I have heard the checkbook theory before–that is, a relationship being a series of checks and balances. Sadly, your sock story is all too common, with socks of course being the catalyst for the demise of the marriage. Let’s face it, we all put up with some stuff from our SO, esp. in the beginning–stuff that may inevitably drive us crazy. It’s part of dealing with the idiosyncrasies of human beings. My question is: What do you do when you try and explain the things that are bothering you, things that NEED to change in order to make the relationship work, and the other person can’t seem to do it. What then? Do you walk, throw in the towel, call a lawyer?

      Seems like a lot of people put up with intolerable behavior for the sake of staying married, yet the ones who bolt obviously wind up divorced. Both options suck, imo. They say communication is key; however, many of my exes have been communication-challenged–when issues were brought up, they either became defensive or got mad and yelled at me. And nothing ever changed.


  7. Jen Anderson
    Jul 26, 2013 @ 06:39:47

    We do it because we think that getting a guy to like us is super important. Until that glorious day when we realize that it’s more important to find a guy that we like.


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