When I was little I played with Barbie and was overly excited when my neighbor got a Ken doll for her birthday. Somehow it made more pieces fit as we played with Barbie’s plane, camper, condominium and car. I found this display of Ken dolls in an antique store; I never realized there were so many different versions of Ken, but it makes sense as there are so many different versions of Barbie.
Seeing all these different versions of the Ken doll made me wonder about the messages and expectations we have for the men in our own lives. Do we expect them to be cool all the time like surfer Ken, or ride a white horse and save the damsel like Storybook Ken? Maybe he has to be a great dancer like Disco Ken, or smart and business savvy like Business Ken? Does he have to have a vast wardrobe, one that always compliment’s what Barbie is wearing? Maybe we need him to be upbeat and perky like Cheerleader Ken, or athletic and the one who always scores the winning point like Sporting Ken? Ken was always the perfect match for Barbie.
Does he always have to smile, have perfect hair and fit in perfectly with what Barbie is doing? Does he cook and clean, build things and do his own taxes? Can he speak multiple languages, pick locks, crack a safe, and stop the bad guys from robbing a bank? Does he enjoy walks on the beach, quiet evenings watching HGTV, tear up in chick flicks and know all the rules of any sport? Can he arm wrestle and then bottle feed a hungry kitten? Does he enjoy making things, fixing things, can he provide technical support for all computer problems, and knows how to do the laundry without turning everything pink? And of course he loves poetry, supports the arts, knows how to rap, and can sing a mean round of karaoke. Whew! All those expectations to live up to, if I were Ken I would be exhausted, confused and a bit schizophrenic.
I don’t remember learning what men should be like from playing with Ken; I learned that from the men in my life – my father, teachers, neighbors, coaches, and men from church. They were real people who lived real lives and had real traits I could see by the way they interacted with me. I learned what to expect by watching how they treated the women in their lives, how they handled their families, and how they cared for their homes. I learned different things from different men, and figured out what I expected by putting all the pieces together for myself.
I am blessed by the men in my life, and have learned lessons I would have chosen not to learn from other men. I’m sure we could all say that. The important thing is to focus on the lessons, learn them, then let the bad parts disappear like one of Barbie’s ever missing shoes. You know the one, the high heel that feel off somewhere between the living room and basement never to appear again. Life is about choosing to allow people to be themselves, learn how to communicate and love them so they can love you back. If we expect them to be perfect then we had better get busy being perfect too; and what a rat race THAT would be, yipes!