Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Trailer Trash Barbie Repost

My box was Barbie pink and, therefore, more authentic.

When I was five and in first grade, my brother and I spent a few weeks of the fall in Utah. We stayed at my grandparents' home, and my Aunt Cristelle, who was a college freshman, was mostly in charge of taking care of us. My mom had been diagnosed with leukemia, and my father was flying all over the country with her, looking for the best treatment options.

We were in Utah for Halloween. In the area where we stayed, children didn't typically do the traditional trick-or-treat festivities. Instead, members of wards (local LDS congregations) organized "Trunk-or-Treat" outings, where ward members would park their cars in the parking lot of a church building in a somewhat circular fashion, and little kids would travel from one car to the next yelling "Trick-or-Treat!" and collecting loot. (My Aunt Cristelle said that the purpose of Trunk-or-Treat was for the local predominantly Mormon population to avoid giving out any candy to non-Mormon heathen children. There's probably far more truth to her assertion than I realized at the time.) My brother and I were cynical even at the age of five. We knew that what we were doing was not really trick-or-treating, so we pointedly hollered "Trunk-or-Treat!" at each car. Some people thought it was cute, but most found it more than a little obnoxious.

Costumes weren't much of an issue at the Trunk-or-Treat gathering because it was quite dark. I wore another cousin's old Pocahontas costume, but it was three sizes too large, and I spent roughly half of my "Trunk-or Treat" time tripping over the hem. My brother was Darth Vader without a mask, because Mormons frown on masks. The ban on masks has something to do either with Satan or with some mob that chased Joseph Smith out of Missouri in the early years of the church or something of a similar nature (I can't always keep my knowledge of LDS lore straight), and even if it's the most benign mask in creation and one advertises one's identity while wearing the mask, masks are still inherently evil. If you didn't know that, I'll pardon your ignorance, as there are many bits of information to which a person is not privy unless he or she has a very close association with Mormonism.

After the "Trunk-or-Treat" event, neighbors of my grandparents were having a Halloween party for their children and were kind enough to invite my brother and me. My brother remained in his store-bought Darth Vader costume. My Aunt Cristelle wanted something a bit less run-of-the-mill for me. The little girls were asked to dress up as their favorite Barbie dolls. Someone was Ballerina Barbie. There were multiple Cheerleader Barbies and Cinderella Barbies. Someone else was Teacher Barbie. At least three girls came dressed as Mommy Barbie. (This was, after all, in Utah.) There was Gymnast Barbie, Veterinarian Barbie, Race Car Driver Barbie, Babysitter Barbie, and too many more to remember. (There was, unfortunately, no polygamous Barbie. The party happened before Warren Jeffs and his offshoot group hit the news in a major way.) I don't think anyone forgot my Barbie incarnation, though. I was the one and only Trailer Trash Barbie at the party.

Cristelle needed a pair of jeans that she could cut off really short into Daisy Duke-length shorts for me. This wasn't easy, as I was considerably underweight and hadn't quite grown into size 3t clothing. My aunt finally found a pair of size 6-9 month jeans (babies wear diapers under them, so in my undies I was actually able to button them) suitably tight on me to resemble Daisy Duke shorts, and she cut them very short. She took a T-shirt that my 2-year-old cousin had outgrown. She printed across the chest of it with a Magic Marker bold letters, "Don't Stare! Grow some of your own!" Then she put a swim suit top on me and stuffed it liberally with facial tissues before putting the shirt on me. She found a package of candy cigarettes at a novelty store, which she rolled up in the sleeve of my t-shirt. She put one of those flat cylindrical bubble gum containers into the back pocket of my shorts so that it would resemble a chewing tobacco container. She applied several fake tattoos to my arms,legs, shoulders, and bare midriff, all pledging my true love forever to different boys. She did my hair and makeup a la Jonbenet, complete with fake eyelashes, except with a pink tint to my hair. She found some tacky 3-inch gold plastic heels in which I could barely walk. She painted a CD holder box Barbie pink, and lettered "Trailer Trash Barbie" in bold white letters on the pink background just above the cut-out space in which I was prominently displayed. She gave me numerous keys, which she told me to hand out to all the boys at the gathering except for my brother. I had no clue as to why I was handing out keys to little boys, and I didn't understand why the adults at the party looked at me scandalously and spoke to one another in hushed tones as I obediently did as I was told.

Predictably, almost everyone in attendance at the party was horrified. My grandparents had gone out to dinner, so they never even saw me in all my glory. People in the neighborhood and the ward probably murmured about it for weeks (Mormons are big on murmuring), but no one had the nerve to actually mention anything to my grandparents, who were pillars of the church beyond the local level. My Uncle Michael, who lived at home while attending BYU just prior to getting married, snapped a few pictures of me in costume. Then all was forgotten.

A great deal happened in the months immediately following Halloween. My mom got much sicker. I became ill. I was made well enough to donate bone marrow to her, but then got sick again, and I spent many months recovering under the care of my parents' closest friends, who lived in Florida and were an MD and nurse practitioner. Eventually both my mom and I were well again.

Some seven or eight odd years later, when my parents, brother, and I attended a family reunion in Utah with my dad's relatives, someone put a DVD of old photographs into a computer projected onto a wall screen, which the adults were watching. Then out popped the picture of me as Trailer Trash Barbie. My parents at first didn't recognize me until my brother graciously pointed out that I was the little slut [his precise words]. My mom was speechless. My grandparents were practically apopleptic. My dad's face was ashen. Everyone wanted to know the how's, why's, and most importantly, the who's of the situation. As evil as I've always been considered by that half of the family, even they knew I had been incapable at the age of five of pulling off the Trailer Trash Barbie look unassisted. It was easy enough to blame Aunt Cristelle since it really was her doing, and especially since she was over two thousand miles away.

Cristelle and her husband didn't produce any children for the first nine years or so of their marriage, so my dad plotted during that time to take compromising pictures of their cocker spaniel. Then they brought the delightful if misnamed Blitzen Manx into the world. My dad had great plans to take all sorts of perfectly legal but incriminating photos of the kid. My mom, however, opposed the plan on the grounds that Blitzen Manx already had two-and-a-half strikes against him just from having been give such a ridiculous name, and that, furthermore, Cristelle and Mendel are so utterly clueless both as parents and as human beings that they'd probably like the would-be incriminating pictures and either proudly post them on Facebook or use them in their Winter Solstice greeting cards. If the kid turns out normal and someday seeks a conventional job, he deserves not to have any potential boss come across complete and utter digital ignorance when his name is googled. My dad says my mom is a total buzzkill, but he doesn't wish to poison my cousin's future, so he thus far has not yet retaliated.


  1. If I had seen that costume, I would have thought it was priceless. Your Aunt Cristelle sounds like a hoot!

  2. Actually the real reason for trunk or treat is not to not so they don't give out candy to "heathen" children. It's to get the "heathen" parents down to the ward house where they can get your name/address, either from you or your mormon neighbors, so the missionaries can do a follow up visit. After all, if you brought your children to trunk or treat, you must be interested in joining the mormon church.

  3. That certainly makes sense. EVERYTHING is a missionary tool for Mormons.

  4. Cristelle is a bit of an air-head, but she's worth a million laghs and is a genuinely good person.


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