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Science experiment creates Floozie Barbie

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When we were little tykes, and Mama was about three seconds from double homicide, Brother and I would get dropped off at Grandmaw’s, where we could run amok willy-nilly without getting on anybody’s nerves, since the supervision was right around zero percent. Grandmaw worked long hard hours in the cotton mill, and she napped a lot. That was just fine with me, because if she was asleep, I could do my experiments.

I was a mad scientist kind of kid, and since Mama laughed and laughed when I asked for a chemistry set, I made my laboratory beneath Grandmaw’s bathroom sink. Mama knew her children well enough to keep anything that might explode, erode, or corrode out of our reach, but Grandmaw’s bathroom cabinet held all sorts of things that a young scientist might need.

My work focused on my fascination with all that hair with which Barbie dolls come equipped. Most of the ones that I had were blonde, but there was one who had dark brown hair, and it was my scientific goal to turn her into a blond like her friends. I would get a mixing bowl from the kitchen and sneak off into the bathroom and gather my supplies for scientific exploration. I mixed samples of different cleaning and beauty agents, and had brunette Barbie sit by the bowl and lean back comfortably while I tried my formulas on her. I think the closest I ever came to success was a combination of Listerine and Comet. She wasn’t blonde, but she was a fresh-smelling, little-less-dark brunette!

If Mama knew of my bathroom beautician adventures, she didn’t let on. She never said a word about Brunette Barbie coming home with wet hair that smelled like Mr. Clean and Pond’s cold cream. What ended my chemistry career wasn’t a fire or acid-eaten linoleum; it was something called a “Floozie.”

One day we were at Rose’s department store, and a brand-new Barbie had just come out! I told Mama that I would be so good! I wouldn’t try to teach the cat to swim anymore, and I wouldn’t show any more of my friends the Encyclopedia Britannica volume that had a series of layered clear plates illustrating the systems of the human body, all the way from bones to nekkid skin! Why, if I got that new Barbie, I would never stay up way too late reading and be too tired for school, and I would learn to do math!

Mama fought hard. Barbies weren’t cheap, and she was a student, and Daddy was in the youth of his career, but she had only just stopped fielding calls about why my friends were all begging for Encyclopedias, so she relented, and I got the doll.

All was well until I overheard Mama talking to Grandmaw about a lady who lived down the street. I loved her kids, but Mama said the lady was a “Floozie,” which apparently meant “One whose hair is very blonde, except for a two-inch wide strip right where it parts that is very dark brown, and who wears hot pants.”

I thought she was the coolest lady I’d ever met, and as mysterious and glamourous as Mata Hari! She could cuss out all four of her kids without taking the cigarette out of her mouth, and sometimes she wore shirts that showed her belly button! She had blue eyeshadow that Mama said made her look like a sick parakeet, but I figured she was a movie star in hiding.

Pretty soon after I heard Mama call our neighbor a floozie, I had the opportunity to do some science at Grandmaw’s. I set up my laboratory and started digging through the goods under the sink. I’d used most of the things in sight, and so I dug around a little deeper. I patted around blindly in the dark reaches of the cabinet until I came up with a little round tin of black shoe polish.

Brunette Barbie gasped. New Barbie looked at me, with all her beautiful pale blond hair cascading down her oddly triangular back. I was careful. A washed nail polish brush made the perfect tool, and I ever so scientifically gave my new Barbie doll dark roots. She was glamourous. She had the eyeshadow already, and wouldn’t you know, I had a halter top and teeny tiny shorts in the bag of Barbie clothes I’d brought to Grandmaw’s with me. I had made Floozie Barbie!

Mama was aghast! She was livid that I had ruined the expensive doll and mortified that I had overheard her talking about the neighbor. Grandmaw got a lecture too. She locked the cabinet, and for a while, I spent my days trying to create hybrid azaleas by luring bumble bees to the different varieties in Grandmaw’s yard.

That’s how we learned that I am very allergic to bees. Ahh, the joys of Scientific Method!

 

Pepper Ellis Hagebak spends her days framing other people’s artwork, and her evenings immersed in the beauty of words.