(While on vacation Art Buchwald received limited immunity, and the special prosecutor has allowed him to reprint some of his favorite columns.)
I have nothing against toy companies. They have a right to live just like everybody else. In their own way they bring happiness to the hearts of our young ones, and they give employment to thousands of people all over the country. It is only when they try to bankrupt me that I feel I should speak out. If my situation is duplicated around the country, every father who has a daughter between the ages of 4 and 12 is going to have to apply for relief.
This is what happened.
Our 7-year-old daughter requested, four months ago, a Barbie doll. Now, as far as I'm concerned, one doll is just like another, and since the Barbie doll cost only $10.95 I was happy to oblige.
We brought the doll home and I thought nothing more of it, until a week later my daughter came in and said, "Barbie needs a negligee."
"So does your mother," I replied.
"But there is one in the catalogue for only $10," she cried.
"The one that came with the doll."
I grabbed the catalogue and much to my horror discovered what the sellers of Barbie were up to. They let you have the doll for $10.95, but you have to buy clothes for her at an average of $12 each. They have about 200 outfits, from ice-skating skirts to mink jackets, and a girl's status in the community is based on how many Barbie clothes she has for her doll.
The first time I took my daughter to the store I spent $20 on a dress for her and $45 to outfit her Barbie doll.
A week later my daughter came in and said, "Barbie wants to be an airline stewardess."
"So let her be an airline stewardess," I said.
"She needs a uniform. It's only $8.50."
I gave her $8.50.
Barbie didn't stay a stewardess long. She decided she wanted to be a nurse ($8), then a singer in a nightclub ($15), then a professional dancer ($12).
One day, my daughter walked in and said, "Barbie's lonely."
"Let her join a sorority," I said.
"She wants Ken."
"Who is Ken?"
She showed me the catalogue. Sure enough, there was a doll named Ken, the same size as Barbie, with crew-cut hair, a vinyl plastic chest and movable arms and legs.
"If you don't get Ken," my daughter cried, "Barbie will grow up to be an old maid."
So we went out and bought Ken ($11.95). Ken needed a tuxedo ($18.95), a raincoat ($9), a terry-cloth robe and an electric razor ($9), tennis togs ($6), pajamas ($5) and several single-breasted suits ($49).
Pretty soon we had put up $600 to protect our original $10.95 investment.
Then one evening my daughter came in with a shocker. "Barbie and Ken are getting married."
"Who's paying for the wedding?"
"They'll need a house to live in. Here's Barbie's Dream House."
"Thirty-seven ninety-five?" I shouted. "Why can't they live on a shelf like the rest of your dolls?"
The tears started to flow. "They want to live together as man and wife."
Well, Barbie and Ken are now happily married and living in their dream house with $3,000 worth of clothes hanging in the closet. I wish I could say that all was well, but yesterday my daughter announced that Midge ($10.95), put out by the same toy firm, is coming to visit them. And she doesn't have a thing to wear.