When I was little, I begged my Mom for a Barbie. Every Christmas I waited with bated breath for my Grandparents to arrive, knowing they’d bring me a beautiful, expensive, finely crafted Madame Alexander doll. I loved those dolls and still have them, but I didn’t really appreciate them. I played with them, brushing their real hair until the style was unrecognizable, wrinkling their finely made clothing, and tearing their delicate silk stockings. I enjoyed those dolls, but I failed to value them for their true worth. I really wanted that cheap Barbie.
Finally one Christmas, because my Mother loved me despite my snubbing her lessons on value, I got my wish. I was really into gymnastics that year and was thrilled to get a Barbie gymnastics set along with the doll! The set included a bar I could snap Barbie’s wrists into and a crank that, to my delight, made Barbie spin wildly around the bar.
I wasn’t the only one delighted either. My brother was fascinated as I flipped Barbie around and around. I was definitely showing off a day or so after Christmas as I spun her faster and faster until the spinning became too much Barbie’s cheap plastic body gave up. Her torso, head, and legs in one entity sailed end over end out of the living room, over the banister, and down the stairs to the basement below. My brother and I sat wide-eyed and then collapsed in laughter as we tore our eyes away from where Barbie had disappeared to the bar where her skinny plastic arms, stinking out at weird and slightly sick angles, were still snapped into those wrist braces. No matter how we tried, like Humpty Dumpty’s men, my brother and I could not put Barbie back together again.
It was the last Barbie I ever got. I may have half-heartedly asked for another at some point, but disillusionment had worn away the allure, and I now value that moment with my brother and the way we laughed together far more than that Barbie.
I learned about value that day, but it is a lesson I need to remember now as I enter the world of dating after divorce. As Catholics dating after divorce, it is especially important to figure out what we are asking for and who we want to imitate, which brings back lessons taught by Barbie.
All my friends had Barbies, and I did feel a bit alone when they talked about wardrobes and dream houses, cars, ranches, and boats. I even felt a bit alone when their Barbies had date nights and marriages and eventually children with Ken, but I also knew I had something better in the dolls my Grandparents had brought even if my peers didn’t understand, even if I wasn’t allowed to show off my dolls on the playground, even if I had to learn to appreciate those dolls for their true worth.
Today, as Catholics dating after divorce, we have plenty of Barbies to model ourselves after. Society has plenty of emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually thin, plastic, cheap women and similar men who follow after them, but most of these relationships, even those that appear spectacular today, will not last. Like my Barbie from 30+ years ago, they will end leaving pieces of lives sticking out at weird and sometimes hurtful angles, especially when children are involved.
In contrast to what the world offers and settling for Barbie, why not turn to the Mother of Christ as a role model for your dating experience? Tomorrow is the Feast of the Assumption, the day Catholics celebrate Mary being called to Heaven. It is also a perfect day to celebrate the role model Mary offers Catholics considering dating after divorce.
While on the Cross, Jesus gave us His Mother. It is from our Mothers that we should learn what is valuable, calling us to study what Mary most values: the Lord above all, then her family including her cousin Elizabeth, her husband Joseph, and other faith-filled people.
Mary didn’t concern herself with plastic living. She had no extensive wardrobe but is simply beautiful. Mary didn’t have a dream house, a car, ranch, or boat. Instead, she gave birth in a stable, rode on a donkey, and had a Son who occasionally worked as a fisherman on someone else’s boat.
Mary wasn’t trying to attract several men, and yet the Lord gave her adoring crowds and one man perfect to Love and marry her, one man perfect to Love and care for her Son. Joseph is no Ken. Like Mary, he is not plastic but real and valued. Joseph could be angry and afraid, but he was also Good and strong, loyal and faithful above all, earning him respect from his little family and from generations to come.
Mary knew she did not have to attract a bunch of men to find the right one for her. Mary knew she did need to chastely, humbly, and patiently trust in the Lord and be her own beautiful self; the Lord would provide the right husband for her.
If you are a Catholic dating after divorce realize that there will be many plastic Barbies attracting many plastic Kens. Those showing off on the playground may not understand, but, in the long run, you will do better to put the Lord first and to be discerning and apply Wisdom, patience, and Love to your dating experience and to your entire world, just as Mary teaches us to do.