It started with a frustrating work situation, was helped along by a bad haircut, and has become an experiment: the Barbie project. I work in a small office with two men and four women. For some months, I have been voicing some concerns about the increasing work load and the distribution of said work load, namely that the bulk of the increased work is falling upon my shoulders and that of my equally desperate office mate and only ally. Despite the fact that one of the women is quite incompetent at her job, thereby creating more work for the weary, and another one seems to have ample time to spend on facebook and online shopping, as well as popping out for an hour to get her nails or hair done, my attempts to communicate suggestions for change, my frustration and a lengthy business analysis of the increasing client base (complete with excel sheets and graphs) have fallen on deaf ears. Given that I haven’t recently won the lottery, I am stuck with the situation (at least temporarily). My chagrin seemed shared by the world at large, evidenced by some poignant graffiti I saw on my way to work.
“What can I be doing wrong?” I complained to my girlfriend. “It’s as if they only like submissive women.” It came to me like a bolt from the blue: they wanted Barbie! I laughingly said that I would try being Barbie and see how that worked.
Now, it’s not as if I am Rosie the Riveter, but my wardrobe tends toward neutral colours and sensible shoes. I decided that if I were to act like Barbie for a few days, I would need some cues to remind me of my role. The first step was to paint my newly bio-gelled nails a bright shade of pink. Wearing pink, in fact was key. And heels.
On my first pink wardrobe day I consciously modulated my voice a few tones higher and smiled a lot, finishing my sentences with the slightest bit of a question in my voice. I noted a small decrease in the level of antagonism from the men in the office and perhaps the tiniest hint of confusion at this change in attitude.
Then came the fateful bad haircut. I was trying to save some money by going to a salon school and a severly under-prepared student gave me a chop that looked like a cross between Peppermint Patty and one of the vintage Campbell’s Soup kids. I was aghast – neither my professional persona nor my Barbie image would work with that hairdo. It was a permanent bad hair day that wasn’t working for any kind of image besides prison inmate.
A girls’ night ended up with me telling of my plan and a quick makeover taking place, involving a long blonde wig and silicone breast enhancers stuffed in my bra, courtesy of the hostess. The reaction, lubricated by pink raspberry cocktails, was very positive: “Do it!” they urged. My sister, experienced in the ways of make-up and girly clothing, offered to help me with the project. We began making plans.