The dolls were dancing for Prince Eric, and whoever was deemed to be the best would marry the Prince. I couldn't tell if the Barbies were selling themselves short for the affection of a plastic mound, or if Prince Eric was some kind of man-slave in this scenario.
The Bombshell had asked me to play Barbies with her this afternoon, so I did what any girl would do. I plonked myself down on the floor and began undressing dolls and then re-dressing them in the biggest, most elaborate outfits I could conjure.
Then the Bombshell came after me, and found each of the dolls shoes, 'so they wouldn't slip when they dance'. This is easier said than done, because of the 24 dolls (yes, you read that correctly), only half of them were genuine Barbie dolls, the rest of them random plastic dolls of varying dimensions, some with removable heads, some with wings, and some with mermaid tails hidden under their ball gowns (no shoes for you!).
After we had sat them in a group it was time to dance. I couldn't help but stare at some of the dolls whose non-poseable plastic legs prevented them from sitting in a ladylike manner, their legs spread wide as though they were taking a trip to the gynaecologist. Luckily, five year olds don't notice these things.
My job was to play the music. Each doll was allowed about five seconds to dance and impress the Prince, who sat in stony silence at the end of the bed.
I was under strict instructions 'not to see' the Bombshell, as she 'helped' the Barbie's dance. She lifted their dresses, and stuck their legs up in the air, whirled them around, and helped them defy gravity and a number of laws of physics.
And still Prince Eric sat, unimpressed.
Three different Ariels had their turn. Then a fairy with bent wings. Then Jasmine and Tiana. A neckless Barbie with a crew cut had her chance and failed when The Mop came through like a taffeta destroying tornado.
The crowd began thinning, as the Barbies moved from the staging area to the couch, where they were recast as 'Mummies' and 'sisters' in a violent new drama by the Mop.
Eric's interest had been piqued. He had fallen over, but was now staring directly at Ken, who was rather dashing in a purple padded dressing gown and Mary Poppin's bonnet. I began to understand why none of the Barbie's were scoring 10 out of 10.
'I wonder who the marry-er will be,' sighed the Bombshell, who thinks that weddings are simply a chance to wear a big dress and dance while everyone watches. But not kiss a boy, 'cause that's gross.
I rewound the music box and prepared for the final few contestants I admired the Bombshell's unwavering determination that all dolls get an equal chance, even though I was already so bored I was mentally writing the shopping list and trying to remember that thing my husband had asked me to remember, but I had forgotten.
'Dinner,' hollered my husband from out back where he was barbecuing some snags.
The Mop suddenly bounced across the room, threw herself on the bed and sent Eric flying.
He landed, happily enough, right on top of Ken.
'So who wins the Prince?' I asked the Bombshell as we got ready for dinner.
'Oh, I don't know,' she said. 'I don't think the Barbies want to be married today.'
That's lucky, I thought, because I was pretty sure Eric had found his prince.