Happy Birthday to the Original Boy Toy

Ken Carson turned 40 on March 13th. If the name doesn't immediately sound familiar, think: "Barbie's stud muffin." Yes, that Ken.

Amazingly, he doesn't look a day over 25. Then again, neither does Barbie. While the rest of us age, somehow Ken, Barbie, Dennis the Menace, and Cher don't. True, with Cher, Ken, and Barbie we can chalk it off to advancements in science, mostly involving plastics, but I really don't think that's the case with Dennis. I suspect he's a midget with Dick Clark Syndrome and just doesn't show his age, much like Gary Coleman, except Dennis has probably had sex. Something tells me that after a hard day's work in the comic strip he spends his evenings sitting around smoking big fat cigars, drinking Jack Daniels neat, and taunting Ruff by reminding him that Lassie was a guy.

Ken's come a long way from his early days when he followed Barbie around wearing a red bathing suit, sandals, and a yellow towel. The recently released commemorative Ken--New Millennial Ken!--has him wearing a fashionable tuxedo so he can follow Barbie around in style. Hey, it beats his disco phase.

It can't be easy being Ken. For forty years he's played second fiddle to Barbie, who's very obviously the star. He's stayed quietly in the background, content to spend his days going to the gym, working on his tan, and joining Skipper and the girls for coffee and Mah Jong while Barbie gallivants all over the globe. He figures that one day, if he plays his cards right, he'll eventually become--sigh!--Mr. Barbara Millicent Roberts.

You have to wonder what Barbie sees in Ken. Sure he has a nice smile, keeps himself in good shape, and has never been Robert Downey, Jr.'s roommate in prison, but that goes for half of--okay, some of--the men in Hollywood, and you don't see her hanging around with them. Face it, Ken has the demeanor, posture, and personality of an Al Gore figure in Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. And he has no ambition at all!

Over the years he's been a cowboy, a cop, an astronaut, and a doctor. Kind of a one-doll Village People. Meanwhile Barbie's been on Baywatch and X-Files, competed in the WNBA and NASCAR, and even been decked out in black leather astride a Harley-Davidson during her Bondage Barbie, I mean, Biker Barbie days. While she was busy being President Barbie, he was Shaving Fun Ken. Is it any wonder the new Over-The-Hill Ken comes with a copy of "Chicken Soup for the Castrated" and a prescription for Prozac?

She must see something in him, and it can't be sexual. One look at him without clothes will tell you he's androgynous. Either that or he's strapped up and ready to get dressed for the "Babes in Toyland Female Impersonator Revue." I bet he does a mean Barbra Streisand.

Face it, Barbie could have any doll or action figure she wants. If she liked the young, innocent type, she could have Luke Skywalker. If she prefers someone who will keep her on her toes, she could have dated any Transformer she wanted. And if she wants a real man, you know G.I. Joe would jump at the chance to get Barbie in the sack and put another notch on his M-16.

Now there's a guy who could kick Ken's butt from here to Mattel and back. Sure he's still a grunt in the army. And okay, he doesn't have any stars on his epaulets to show for his time. But the guy's been busy. Since 1960 when he first enlisted he's helped us get through Vietnam, the Gulf War, the messy invasion of Grenada, and the bombings in Kosovo. And in spite of all that he's been at the forefront of the fitness craze. Just take a look at him. This is a guy who, if scaled to human dimensions, had average-sized 11" biceps in 1960, but by 1997 was sporting the equivalent of 26-inch biceps, bigger than any bodybuilder in history!

Yet Barbie still hangs with Ken. It must be that he's a sensitive guy. After all, it's never bothered him that his girlfriend was more popular, got all the media attention, was two years older, and had more success than he could ever dream of. He remained quietly on the sidelines, even when she was glittered, glammed, punked out, and tie-dyed. True, like many consumers, he raised a stink when she was tattooed last year, but to give the guy some credit, he was cool with it until he discovered the one on her butt that said "Midge and Barbie 4 Ever." Hey, we all have our limits.

The truth is, like Cool Whip, it's better not to examine relationships too closely. Even so, you have to wonder how long Barbie can expect Ken to sit around and wait for her to pop the big question. Not the marriage proposal question, the Big One. You know: "When are you going to bag that tired Barbra crap and work Rosie into your act?" Hey, everything needs freshening from time to time.

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