Take It from Barbie: You’re Never Too Old to Have Fun

When I saw the Barbie movie, I was pretty shocked by the plot twist that it was the mother, not the young girl, who had been playing with the doll in the “real world” all along.

Then I started to think: Why did that take me so much by surprise?

Luckily, that’s when my impeccable TikTok algorithm kicked in. One video in particular has stuck with me for weeks: a TikTok arguing that women “are expected to grow up and lose their imagination and childlike wonder,” while men can carry their childhood interests into adulthood.

I know men my age that still get together to play Fortnite, talk about anime and cartoons together, and have posters of their favorite shows and bands covering their bedroom walls, and they’re often not only accepted but praised for their interests. Man dominated comic-cons, man caves, and guy’s game nights aren’t given second thoughts.

As a woman that enjoys romance novels, teen drama shows, romantic comedies, and colorful clothing and decorations, I’m not always met with the same acceptance. Romance novels are seemingly always on the smallest shelf in the bookstore, romantic comedies were deemed as “chick flicks” often with derogatory tones, and the minimalist clothing and design aesthetic reigns supreme. Grown women who dare to have interests rooted in their inner child (think #AliyahCore) face unnecessary scrutiny and pressure to “grow up.”

I remember when I started to feel like I was too old for the things that I loved to do.

I felt like I was too old to be taking dance classes and ended with costumed recitals. I was too old to play with dolls and small trucks. I was too old to call my mom “mommy.” I had to be interested in makeup, purses, and dating. I shouldn’t be asking for toys but rather practical, grown-up things that maybe I didn’t even really want. 

Even watching Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, a bride in her 30’s picked out a fun dress and her mother expressed her dislike by saying “You aren’t a 22-year-old bride anymore” (which was especially scathing since the bride had a failed engagement at 22). 

Why does it seem like there’s an age limit for women to do things that they enjoy? Why does it seem like we’re forced to be grown ups more than men?

As women and femmes, we should be allowed to do things that both our adult selves and childhood selves like. We should be able to buy coloring books that aren’t necessarily “adult coloring books.” We should be able to listen to “girlie,” emotional music. We should be able to take interest in experimenting with our appearance. We should be able to like the things we like and still be taken seriously. 

I’ve been working on connecting with my inner child for a while now, and I know this work will be lifelong. I still feel silly when I spend an hour playing Animal Crossing on my Nintendo Switch even though I remember how much I loved my DS as a kid. I don’t have any game apps on my phone, I just recently stopped calling my favorite 2010s pop songs “guilty pleasures,” and my first adult ballet class brought on a bigger wave of anxiety than I had anticipated. But I’m trying, and I’m not giving up, which is all that really matters.

I don’t want to live in a world where my younger brother gets gifts and presents that support his interests in video games and anime—while I get cookware and office supplies to help me embrace housekeeping and “adulthood.”

Instead, I envision a future where women can be girls again. Embracing the joy, freedom, and levity that the “real world” tries to take away from us. A future that is just a dash more like Barbie land.