Last week I was on a work trip east of the mountains in Wenatchee, WA. (I’m the Director of Market Development at KING 5 Media Group, a TEGNA Company – yes, that was a shameless plug. I’m in sales. It’s what I do). After our 2020 presentation to a regular client, but before my colleague and I jumped back in the truck to head back to life in the Emerald City, we popped into a few small stores in downtown Wenatchee. Small towns need love. Next time you pass through one, put your phone away, pull out your wallet, and just spend 30 minutes in little America. You’ll be glad you did.
My colleague was more interested in checking out motorized bikes. (Plug for Arlberg Sports here). The shop I was more interested in was the Antique Mall of Wenatchee. That’s where I found this little gem for only $2.00! My oh my! How time did fly. It was dated 1993, the year I graduated from high school. (Go Tigers!) Flipping through it, reading over each page, I had to chuckle at the days I dreamed I’d be “this” girl. A business gal on the go carrying the latest tech gadgets who goes from day to night, yet still finding time with friends and to make time to volunteer for those in need. (Because duh, she’s Barbie. She can do it all! Right Mrs. Appleberry?!?!)
Want to see more of the hidden gems I spotted in downtown Wenatchee? See full gallery at the end of this blog.
My mom didn’t let my sister and I have Barbies when we were little. I suppose if I’m going to write about it, I should probably know and explain why. Honestly? I don’t really remember. Does it really even matter? She was the mom and No meant No! (Or at least I took the no’s seriously when I was a kid. By the time I was a teenager, “No!” seemed optional. Still sorry about all that mom! xoxo) If memory serves me correctly, I believe that she didn’t think Barbie was a good example. Maybe later I’ll ask her about the details of why she thought that and write about that too. But we have a story to get to people, and if you know me, you know I always take the long way to get to the point of my storytelling. Come on. Stop and smell my wrapped in plastic story details. (That sounded better in my head…this is why I don’t have a book deal.)
Back to Barbie…I would envy friends and happily play with theirs (and NOT tell my mom) when I was over at their houses. But back in my own home, left to my own devices, I was too busy watching the Goonies over and over again (be kind and please rewind), playing with my dad’s Atari (my first love was Pac-Man) or coloring and designing clothing with my fashion plates or turning our ping-pong table into a decorated mini-house with room extensions made from TV trays, card tables, and blankets. (And YEAH, that’s right people. PING PONG. I said it. PING PONG PING PONG PING PONG. Stand down Table Tennis freaks.)
It was later in life, my mid 20’s to be exact, when I had my very first job in advertising sales in my small hometown of Centralia (Shout out to you Chronicle!) that my paths crossed with Barbie’s once more. Three words that changed my life. Working. Woman. Barbie. She was everything I wanted to be and more. I found my first Working Woman Barbie at a toy shop in the Centralia Factory Outlets that I’m pretty sure no longer exists. (Thank you, Amazon. You killed Toys-R-Us too. Just own it. And don’t worry, I’m not so mad I’m going to do something crazy like cancel my Prime account. You own me.)
Very Busy Barbie (the book) was taking me back to the early days when presenting to clients was new and organizing sponsored events was a newly acquired skill. I just like that, I had to meet Working Woman Barbie again. There is so much I want to tell her. The things I had seen. The things I had done. My professional accomplishments and triumphs. The good, the great, the sad, and the ugly cry bad. But first, let me paint you the picture of my 20-something single-mom dream girl Barbie.
Working Woman Barbie game in a pink box with a sticker on the outside that said, “I really talk!” Mic drop! That’s right people! Working women have voices and they aren’t afraid to use them. Go on with your teeny tiny plastic stilettos Barbie! Want to know the things she said? OH Yeah you do, because they were epic. On the backside of the magenta box, they don’t bury the headline. Clear as day it says, “I say lots of cool things!” Things like: “I love going to work!” (There’s an easy to push button in her back) “Making money is fun!” “I have email!” Marketing at its finest.
Working Woman Barbie did it all. She makes time to meet up with her friends. She checks her email! She thinks computers are COOL! She can’t wait to go dancing with Ken tonight. And that’s not all…that business suit? It’s…REVERSIBLE! Oh yeah, that’s right. Turn that skirt inside out and now you’ve got that sparkly Carrie Bradshaw ready to hit the city day to night look. And if the night turns back into day? Good 20-something Working Woman Barbie will just reverse that skirt back to its original business ready self and be the envy of all gathered around the water cooler to talk about the antics of night before.
What else did I love about this working gal? The laptop had teeny tiny pages you could switch in and out that showed different bar graphs and presentations Barbie was working on. I do love a good spreadsheet. It reminded me of when I got my very first Mac iBook. It was white and I would go sit in the local Starbucks, pre-free WiFi days, sipping my coffee, just staring at the screen hoping someone would spot me being a “working gal” on the go. (I wasn’t actually working on anything other than trying on various wallpaper skins and organizing my email inbox.)
Working Woman Barbie had a phone with the long antenna that was at the ready to talk business at the quick flip of the wrist. She had her cup of coffee with her name engraved on the side in a stylish, cursive, hot pink font. And not only was she on the COVER of Working Woman magazine, she even came with a CD ROM with directions on how to design your OWN magazine. Be still my magazine loving heart. Although I was working for a newspaper at the time, my first love in media has always been magazines. (You know, after I broke things off with Pac-Man.) The irony I didn’t realize, then in my mid-20s, was that just one decade later I’d be running Seattle’s largest (at the time) lifestyle magazine. Working Woman Barbie could do anything she put her Working Woman Barbie mind to. Just try to stop her. I dare you.
Don’t you DARE take my Barbie!
Speaking of dares, here’s where things with my first and only Barbie, acquired in my 20s, go a bit sideways. Some of the best people in my life, my entire life, I have met via various places along the pathway of my career in advertising and media. David Dean will always be included in this list. David Dean is my first ad (short for advertising) buddy of all ad buddies. He sat directly across from my cubicle, and we would exchange client war stories, share good ideas, talk parenting pains, and make jokes, many times at each other’s expense. The more extreme a joke or a prank, the better. I loved that guy. I still do. (Shout out to ya Double D! Much love for you and your fam!)
I like to surround myself with like-minded, creative, overachievers. David Dean was no exception. And he has a laugh that starts at the bottom of his toes and radiates all the way out of his head and echos off of his thick, ginger colored red hair. He knew how much I loved my Barbie. Everyone in the office admired my Working Woman Barbie displayed proudly on a shelf in my cubicle. He knew where the “joke” boundaries were, right David? We could make any joke but not at the expense of our family, our loved ones, which to ME included Working Woman Barbie. (I mean, duh David!)
Upon returning from vacation, my Barbie had gone missing. All I knew is that I was gone and then I was back. Barbie was there and then she wasn’t. What was left in her vacancy were tiny little milk cartons (think elementary school lunch size), distributed on EVERYONE’s desk in the sales and marketing department, with her photo pasted on the side and the words “MISSING! If seen, please call (with whatever my phone number was at the time.)” Sadly, cell phones at the time didn’t have cameras in them, so I have no other documentation of this clever pre-Pinterest prank with the exception of the visual image that is SEARED into my memory. OMG POOR BARBIE! Can’t the woman work in peace?
There was also a letter on my desk, written in cut out letters from the newspaper (yes, the one we worked at) basically saying if I ever wanted to see Barbie again, I needed to place $500 Monopoly dollars on the copy machine by the end of the day or that day would be Barbie’s last. And then there was a photo of kidnapped Barbie with frazzled hair and tiny duck tape across her tiny, painted lip mouth. She seemed to have misplaced her clothing to boot. (IF all of the sudden you are deeply offended by this story, GET A LIFE! This is an adult, humourous prank. Things like this WERE, and still are, funny in the mid 2000s. Don’t read too much into it. No Barbies were actually hurt in this prank.
After dramatically walking around the office waving my hands in pretend disgust (but really in admiration for a prank well-done), I thought to myself “Self, what would Working Woman Barbie” do? And she whispered with her tiny plastic, painted lips in my ear “Steal his clients!”
And she whispered with her tiny plastic, painted lips in my ear “Steal his clients!”
Hell yeah Barbie!!!!!! Now you’re talking my hot pink, perfect outfit language! I promptly spent the rest of the day packing up and moving David’s ENTIRE DESK. Yes sir. All of it. All his paper files (this was back in the day, everything was paper). I took his chair, his laptop, his lamp, his phone. Not so much of a paperclip was left. Just a simple letter, written in cut up letters from the newspaper (that we worked at) that said “Return my Working Woman Barbie to the copier by the end of the day or you’ll never see your clients or their paperwork again”. And within hours, without the involvement of HR, Barbie re-appeared with a freshly waxed lip. (thanks to that duck tape, she saved time and money on a lip wax job, thanks David! Working Woman Barbie is a multi-tasker!)
Get to the point Bryson!
Why do I share this hot pink, Mattel tale with you? For a variety of reasons really. I learned that there are lessons in my early career that taught me how to be the business woman I am today. I learned early on to laugh with my co-workers vs. fight with them. Don’t just say you’re on the same team. BE on the same team. Learn from each other. Have fun with each other, it makes the work days go faster. Challenge each other to be better, even if it’s just to have a better office prank. Work will always be work but it can fun too.
I learned that even when Barbie looks like she has it all and she can do it all, she can’t. (Except for that day to night look, there is NO reason she can’t nail that.) But seriously, without the love and support of her colleagues, friends, and family, Barbie is just alone staring at a screen with pie charts and a cup of cold, office brewed, bland flavored, generic coffee. That’s not a life. I learned that I have a voice and I’ve learned (and continue to work on) the appropriate time and place to use it. Working Woman Barbie says is right! “Making Money IS FUN!” “Don’t forget to check your email!” “I’ve got to prepare for a meeting!” These are real working life lessons. Simple and to the point.
I’ve learned that looking back isn’t always painful. The “memory” gems are there, you just may have to look for them. You never know when they’ll pop up. Like say for instance in an antique shop in Wenatchee at the end of a work trip? You have to know where you’ve been if you want to figure out where you’re going next.
What does your inner Working Woman Barbie want out of life?
After posting a pic of “Very Busy Barbie” (the book) I got multiple messages on Instagram asking, or shall I say, DEMANDING that I bought myself that “Very Busy Barbie” book for $2. Regretfully, I didn’t. But a 4 hour drive and a few hours later, eBay solved that dilemma for $4 with free shipping. If by chance you follow me on social, then you know first hand I am truly a real life “Very Busy Barbie”, blond hair and all, just living my best life in the best ways I can, learning from my successes, my mistakes and mishaps along the way. Always pushing myself professionally.
With nostalgia getting the better of me, I also decided to search for Working Woman Barbie and just like that, multiple sellars lined up under my fingers just waiting for me to push move to cart in my eBay app. You see, I passed Barbie on to someone else that needed her more when I left that small newspaper in Centralia, headed to the big city of Seattle to take on the Seattle Times, and then Seattle Met magazine, and now KING 5 NBC. What’s next? I don’t know, but why not the world?!?!? Barbie has been a groundbreaking figure for women since the very beginning of her career. Don’t believe me? Check out the documentary “Tiny Shoulders, Rethinking Barbie” and tell me I’m wrong.
Playtime is never over
Am I sad I didn’t get to play with Barbie when I was a kid? Nope. Not in the slightest. I had a great childhood where I was encouraged to use my imagination and creativity on a daily basis. I was taught early on if I was feeling sorry for myself, for whatever reason, to go help someone else first. That it was impossible to feel sorry for myself and help others at the same time. I learned we have to work before we play.
I’ve had many female role models in my life, my mother at the top of that list, that have played a part in the crafting the woman I am today. You are all great! Stay at Home Barbie – I know the struggle is real. Teacher Barbie, I don’t know how you have the patience. Doctor, Nurse, and Vet Barbie, thank you for doing a job I could never do. Military, Police Officer, Firefighter, and First Responder Barbie, I admire your strength and courage! Scientist Barbie, I can’t wait to see the cures you help find. Artist Barbie and Actor Barbie, I live vicariously through you. Salon and Stylist Barbie, you help us all look good. Chef Barbie and Barista Barbie, you know I’d be lost without you. Financial Advisor Barbie, give me a call. And all you other Barbies out there I didn’t call by name? I see you. You matter. Badass Barbies know that bad days are eventually followed by good days. Hang in there. Badass Barbies know how to stand on their own two legs with or without a Ken in their life. I’m still very much a “Working Woman Barbie” in progress, patiently waiting for them to come out with chubby, Sober Barbie that isn’t afraid to talk about her mental health issues or her curves or her entertaining internet dating stories.
And while a hot pink box can’t contain me and will never define me, I thank you Barbie for letting me try on as many personalities as I want until I find the ones that feel right to me. I’ll happily continue to explore all of the opportunities and the accessories that life has to offer.