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by Sandra Arnold

Auntie Glory gave me a Barbie for my tenth birthday. Mum’s present was a book about Famous Heroines. She didn’t like Barbie, but didn’t want to offend Auntie Glory as she provided my after school care while Mum was working.

Every week Auntie Glory bought a new outfit for my doll, Barbie wigs and Barbie make-up, and we sat on the floor playing until it was time for Mum to pick me up. She said Mum had always wanted a boy and that’s why she didn’t like me playing with dolls and that’s why she dressed me in ugly, shapeless jeans and bought me things like microscopes and maths books. When I asked Mum if this was true she said Auntie Glory couldn’t have children of her own because of her diabetes and she was a tiny bit jealous of those who could.

When I told Mum I wished I was pretty like Barbie she said Auntie Glory had been much prettier than Mum when they were young, but Dad had chosen the plain, clever sister. When I told Auntie Glory I wished I was pretty like Barbie she said yes, it was unfortunate that I’d inherited my mother’s looks. On my fifteenth birthday she paid for my eyelash extensions and permanent eyeliner. Next year it was lip filler, and Botox to get rid of a hideous little frown line.

On my twentieth I got a pert nose and Auntie Glory promised me boob enhancement for my twenty-first, but she went into a diabetic coma and died. Mum simply didn’t understand the importance of self-improvement so I had no option but to drop out of university and find work. The strip club paid big bucks.

After my boob job I was billed as The Real Live Barbie Girl. The guys in the audience went wild. If only Auntie Glory could see me now. Without her, none of this would have been possible. And I haven’t finished yet. Not by a long shot.

Sandra Arnold is a New Zealand writer. Her work has been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and internationally and has won several literary awards. http://authors.org.nz/author/sandraarnold/