Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Barbados, Brits and Barbie Freedom

(Writers note: A version of this post also appears at BlogCritics online magazine. You can access it here.)

Forget the hot dogs. Forget the parades. Forget the fireworks.

Although Fourth of July preparations and celebrations are well underway, I decided to declare a different kind of independence this year.

Barbie Freedom.

Yep. Barbie Freedom. After spending six days out of the country…Whoa, missy, I’ve waited 52 years to say that. It makes me sound so, well, cosmopolitan, my dear, and now I have my first official stamp on my nifty passport to prove it.

My recent trip to the wonderful Caribbean island of Barbados, billed as only 21 miles long but a “smile wide,” got me to thinking about things. (And, Jeez Louise, we all know what happens when that happens.)

Apparently relatively few Americans vacation in Barbados compared to Europeans — particularly the British. So I, along with one of my BFFs and my two daughters, had the pleasure of meeting quite a few Brits and participating in a rather loosey-goosey cultural exchange, in which we dispelled rumors that Texas was just one big, vast desert like in the movie Independence Day and offered such travel hints as to never eat Mexican food north of the Red River.

In return, a very lovely couple on their honeymoon explained why the Brits eat beans in the morning, while a group of young men provided my daughters with an entirely new slang vocabulary along with hand gestures. Don’t ask.

But the most important cultural lesson didn’t occur over afternoon tea. Instead, it occurred on that Caribbean beach. Surrounded by Brits, I felt good sitting on the beach for the first time in a gajillion years, and it wasn’t because I was wearing my sporty tankini supposedly designed to hide a multitude of what our fashion magazines term “problem areas.”

No siree, Missy. That was not the reason.

Everywhere around me were women wearing two-piece bathing suits, regardless of age and regardless of size. Hails bails, most were even wearing bikinis of the itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie-yellow-polka-dot-bikini type. One woman who tipped the scales upwards of 250 pounds was wearing a string bikini, and no one (except my friend and I) appeared to notice.

Now either the Brits are too polite to gasp, or they feel very, very comfortable in their own skin.

My friend noted that Americans seem to be the only ones who are so image-conscious, and who, despite steadily weighing in heavier and heavier on the scales, still yearn for that skinny, mini, photoshopped, wrinkle- and cellulite-free Barbie body.

She’s right, you know. I still have boxes of my childhood Barbies stashed in the attic in various stages of undress and sporting various non-Mattel-sanctioned avant-garde hair-dos guaranteed to forever ban me from entry into the Barbie kingdom and the world of cosmetology.

This epiphany comes as Barbie celebrates her big 5-0 birthday this year. I must say, she looks spectacular, but then again, she always looks spectacular, while I — now 52 — never, ever, (did I say ever?) looked that good at any year in my lifespan. At this point, I don’t think even plastic surgery could propel me into the spectacular world. Let’s face it, nothing short of a complete, all-out, full-body transplant would help.

Now there was a time, a pre-Barbados-meeting-the-Brits-time, when I would have pined away about all of that nonsense. But watching all those British women secure in their own skin made me comfortable in mine.

For that, I could hug each and every one of them.

Except I know better about that hugging thing.

Instead, let’s just fire up that barbecue, and while you’re at it, toss on an extra hot dog for me.

4 comments:

Father Ronaldus said...

When was Texas depicted as a desert in Independence Day?! The only thing about Texas I remember is when they nuked Houston. Now the Area 51, Nevada scenes were pretty deserty.

mybellringers said...

I don't believe the movie does depict Texas that way, but for some reason that's the image some of the Brits had of Texas… a sort of a hot, vast desert wasteland like in the movie.

Rhonda said...

Thanks to my husband I knew the Brits ate beans for breakfast, but why? My friend, your a hooty hoot! I laughed so hard when I read your blog. I just wished I had been there to see it first hand.

Your hall buddy,
Rhonda

mybellringers said...

Perhaps some of our British or more enlightened friends can tell us the origin of serving baked beans for breakfast. I did not ask. A quick search of google didn't yield much except that the beans were a later addition to a "full breakfast," and a full breakfast originally was a way to get rid of leftovers from the night before. But I got that from Wikipedia so who knows?