Barbie gazes at a photo of her grandmother

Barbie Says Goodbye

Photographed by Beth Garrabrant
Story by Mikki Halpin

Not everything in Barbie’s world is as pink and perfect as a Dreamhouse. She has dark days too. Here’s one of them.

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Barbie reclines in her boudoir

One day, while she was relaxing in her boudoir, wearing one of her favorite pairs of hostess pajamas, Barbie’s phone rang. It was terrible news. Her beloved grandmother was dead.

Barbie gazes at a photo of her African American grandmother

Barbie couldn’t believe it. Grandma Roberts had been there for her through everything—her ups and downs with Ken, her struggles with accessories, and that time she was banned in Saudi Arabia. How could she go on?

Barbie lays on a bed, her African American mother comforts her

For a while, it seemed as if Barbie might cry real tears. Her friends didn’t know how to help her. She didn’t want to go camping or swimming or even to her job as a dentist. “This is serious,” her friend Mattie said. “Barbie has already had every career there is. She has to stick with dentistry.”

Barbie sits on a bed, her African American mother comforts her

Suddenly, Barbie sat bolt upright. How could she have forgotten? Grandma Roberts had always been honest and open with her family about mortality. “I’M GOING TO DIE SOMEDAY,” she would shout, because after her hearing went, she didn’t realize how loud she was. “AND WHEN I DO, DON’T BE SAD. BE GLAD. I’VE HAD A GOOD LIFE. I WANT A GOOD DEATH.”

Barbie knew just what to do.

Barbie places flowers on the coffin


Friends and family came from all over to celebrate the death of Grandma Roberts. Barbie welcomed them and enjoyed the strange sensation of wearing black. They sang songs, they told stories, and they toasted the dearly departed matriarch of the doll-igarchy. Barbie’s painted smile suddenly felt less forced. “Goodbye, Grandma,” she whispered. “Goodbye.”

• • • 

BETH GARRABRANT is a photographer and doll collector living in Brooklyn.

MIKKI HALPIN is Damn Joan's editor in chief.



Published 11–13–2017