Does Barbie Need a Man?
"My Barbies need a man," says my four–year–old daughter Hannah the very first time she lays eyes upon Groom Ken. There he stands, all boxed up and ready to wed, on the shelf at Target. "We have to get him."
Truthfully, her Barbies kind of do need a man. She has seven, nearly all inherited from the older girl next door. One is Bride Barbie, complete with a wedding gown and veil, tiered cake, and ready–to–toss bouquet. Because Hannah is enchanted with all things marital, her Barbies have been marrying each other for some time now. When they're not having weddings or changing their outfits, they are busy being doctors—Hannah's other great obsession—and conducting emergency surgery on each other.
I don't buy Groom Ken, though I'm sure he'll be in my cart soon enough. The truth is, I have some mixed feelings about bringing him home. It's not that I think that a Barbie without a Ken is like a fish without a bicycle. It's more that Groom Ken is a reminder that we are fast approaching the point when Hannah will need to navigate a world in which Barbie almost always marries Ken instead of another Barbie, a world in which her two moms don't quite fit.
For now, as far as Hannah knows, my partner Jane and I are just as married as the moms and dads of her friends. The fact is, I have a hard time imagining anyone being more married than we are after nearly 25 years together. So yes, I tell Hannah, Mommy and I are married. It's the truth, legal or not. And it's what I want Hannah to absorb: Her family is all right. Her family is normal. Her family, in fact, is really pretty dull.
I realize, of course, that we are exceptionally lucky. We live in Golden Valley, a Minneapolis suburb that is home to an unusually high number of gay and lesbian couples. The other parents in our neighborhood seem unfazed by our presence. We live in a county where I was allowed to adopt Hannah as her second, legally recognized mother. We send Hannah to a preschool that has an explicit nonbias policy and a rainbow flag hanging in the corner of the room, where she can dig in the sand with other kids who have two moms, should she choose to do so. But I also realize that we have carefully made choices—about where we live, where we work, and who we socialize with—that protect our relationship and our family.
Reprinted with the permission of the Greater Good Science Center.
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