Stifler’s Mom: “I got some Scotch.”
Finch: “Single Malt?”
Stifler’s Mom: “Aged eighteen years. The way I like it.”
from American Pie
Once again I am reminded of my age. Barbie, that would be the doll not the D-list actress Benton, turned fifty this month. Has it really been thirty some odd years since my foray into the world of all things Barbie including but not limited to: the red corvette, airplane, metrosexual companion Ken, and my personal favorite, the Malibu dream house? It has been that long and while Barbie has always been reduced to a punch line over the years, recently she has had to endure a new tag line as she passes beyond middle age: the cougar.
Everyone from Jay Leno on the Tonight Show to the random idiot with a camera and computer to upload videos to Youtube, have been parodying Barbie, imagining her as a woman on the prowl looking for fresh meat in men half her age. She is armed with a case of Botox in one hand and a martini in the other. The beach house comes complete with her own shirtless cabana boy.
Given the stereotypes I grew up with, my mind goes to that dark and cynical place. How did Barbie afford the house in Malibu and the corvette along with all those stylish outfits on a stewardess’ paycheck? Back in the late seventies of my childhood, Barbie clung to the professions still mainly inhabited by women, ones considered low on the food chain. These were the days before political correctness, before “flight attendants” and “nurse practitioners.” And, while she worked, in my mind she was still an adjunct to a man.
Much like Leno’s portrayal, that Barbie of my youth would have turned into the female equivalent of the aging lothario, a Stifler’s mom or Mrs. Robinson. I envision her divorced from her second husband, left for a new trophy wife, younger and firmer without the emotional baggage that comes with age and alcohol. She still looks great in lycra, no cottage cheese on the thighs to speak of but now there’s a hint of a muffin top protruding above her designer jeans which no amount of Pilates seems to eradicate. Elective surgeries have always seemed like an option until she realized that the stock portfolio she thought would last a lifetime may not even keep her in Manolo’s until her dying days. Recession is a bitch and at fifty, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Keeping up with younger men requires routine maintenance and a disposable income.
I am sure those self-proclaimed cougars, and there are those out there, would take offense at my overactive imaginary rendering of post-menopausal Barbie. They see themselves as women who have been given a bad rap. According to one Web site, aptly named The Real Cougar Woman, a cougar is “sultry, self-confident, and has the power to stop men in their tracks.” While this may be so, and in no way a bad thing, as women do we really want to be projecting an image of ourselves as carnivorous animals looking for prey? Replacing one stereotype for another only changes the game it doesn’t even the playing field.
And, as for Barbie, so what if she is a cougar at fifty. She has weathered worse storms in her life. I would prefer to think of her as forever young, riding in her red corvette down the road with Ken at her side. At least in my world, she was always in the driver’s seat, calling the shots, making the plans. Perhaps amidst the pink hues of the Malibu dream house, there were shades of cougardom to come. Depending on who you talk to, that might not be such a bad thing.