Beat it Ken, I'm with Joe now
It occurred to me the other day that my love of playing with Barbie was finally paying off. All those years of making up stories were coming in handy, now that I was writing romance novels. It's funny how things work out that way.
I played with Barbie much longer than my friends. They moved on to other things, but that didn’t stop me. I loved that I was in charge. I could make Barbie say or do whatever I wanted.
The day I got a Ken doll was memorable. I no longer had to be a single woman, I now had a boyfriend - I mean, Barbie had a boyfriend. As exciting as it was to have a man around, the initial attraction wore off pretty quickly. Ken was just too much of a pretty boy for my taste.
Ken was tall, he had great posture, and big feet. His bright blue eyes and gleaming white teeth were particularly striking against his perfectly tanned skin. All admirable qualities, I guess, but he just didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t into his blonde hair, but it wasn’t just that. He was too clean or something. And why was he wearing that dorky neckerchief?
Anyone could see that Ken was going to be a success. He had a permanent smile pasted on his face, like the world was his oyster. He was going to become a bank manager, a real estate mogul, or a politician. He came from a solid, upstanding family, probably had a trust fund and a membership at the tennis club. I knew I was supposed to like Ken. They created him to be Barbie's ideal mate, but I couldn't sustain a relationship based on that, so I dumped him.
But by then, Barbie kinda liked having a man around, so I went in search of someone to fill Ken’s man-sandals. Who I found was so much better - my brother’s G.I. Joe. Ken was now just a fading memory, a mistake from my past.
Joe was everything Ken wasn’t. He was a manly man. He wore fatigues and black army boots. He had a scar across his cheek and bristly brown hair and a beard. He was sort of dark, maybe a little dangerous. Barbie got all tingly when Joe came to pick her up for a date.
Joe was mysterious. He didn’t have a big goofy grin on his face like Ken did. You could stare into his eyes for hours and still not know what he was thinking. There was no telling where he came from, who his parents were. If asked, he’d only give you his name, rank, and serial number.
Ken could only bend at his knees so dates with him involved standing or sitting. The only affection Ken could give was an awkward, stiff-armed hug - very unsatisfying.
Joe was bendy. His ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck could move. Barbie could get into all kinds of trouble with Joe.
The only problem was my brothers didn’t like me borrowing their toys, so dates with Joe were often cut short. That was probably for the best. Barbie was sort of naive back then and Joe was a man of the world.
Writing romance novels is a lot like playing with Barbie, except other people get to hear what’s going on inside your head as you play. Pretty terrifying if I think about it, but it’s so much fun I can't stop.
In my novels, my female characters are a lot more confident than Barbie. They don’t change their clothes obsessively while waiting to be picked up for a date. They're ambitious, they have important jobs, and a lot more attitude than my Barbie ever had.
But you’ll probably notice that my taste in a leading man hasn’t changed much. Maybe he won’t have a scar across his cheek. He might be wearing cargo shorts and hiking boots instead of camouflage and army boots. He might be wearing a suit or even wrapped up in a tuxedo. But no matter what he’s wearing, underneath it all, he’ll be a manly man. He’ll be the kind of guy who could throw you over his shoulder and save you from a burning building. And best of all, he’ll be perfectly bendy.