nostalgia for what never was

in the livingroom i thought it was the coolest thing i’d ever seen

nostalgia for what never was
Photo by Elena Mishlanova / Unsplash


did you know barbie is short for barbara?
that’s entry-level trivia but i only learned it this year.
i’m not a fan of dolls, but something about the inconique of barbie
gets me more the older i get. i once spent six days scrolling deeper
into a vintage barbie blog, and did you know barbie’s design
was based on (read: ripped from) the german bild lilli?
a pseudo-self-identified “gold digger, exhibitionist, and floozy”,
she was geared towards men, a little take-home from the airport gift shop,
or a carry-on for a long flight. out of all my obsessions,
the desire of men is the one that runs deepest.
but nostalgia for something i’ve never had is a close second,
and watching kiernan shipka grow from rosy cheeks and babydolls
to blowing smoke out of a bathroom mirror in a startlingly small number of years
is a guilty pleasure. like the president’s daughter growing up to be peggy olson.
like the author of fucking like a housewife, the epitome of essays on desire,
being featured on carrie bradshaw’s nightstand in the new sex and the city.
like the assault charges against mr. big. like the hazing led by don draper
that nearly killed a man. when i say the lines between reality and fiction
blur for me, even i don’t know what i mean. but i miss midge and allan,
back when the boys both had limp wrists and the girls were teen-age fashion models.
dash between teen and age and everything. i think doll collecting is a little weird
and creating a couple you name after your two children even weirder, but i
could (and have, and do) scroll through pictures and small facts for hours.
like the first ever barbie dreamhouse was made from paper cutouts,
with furniture that you slotted into place. and the dolls came in paper too,
with different outfits you could wrap around and swap out and be
careful not to crease. like when i moved into a house that had a drop-floor
in the livingroom i thought it was the coolest thing i’d ever seen
until i got so used to tripping the allure faded. like there’s a house in florida
selling for nearly a million dollars that is, to a tee, mid century modern.
like i’m the bitch who follows online vintage stores and sneers
when mcm is misused. like not everything vintage is mid century and
not everything mid century was modern and it’s not like i can afford anything i want
but i still like to look. i don’t know if i can’t find the source of this desire
or if i just don’t want to look deep enough, but either way, i rewatched every season
of the girls next door on youtube and then i read holly’s biography
which misused the alice in wonderland metaphor and was absolutely
relayed verbally and transcribed by a ghostwriter.
by which i mean it wasn’t good but it was worth the read
for someone who wants the smallest details of everything
that doesn’t matter. sometimes i wonder if string theory is real
and i believe it is and because i love wasting my time i sometimes think
about the first playboy mansion in chicago and what the world would look like
if barbi (without the e) benson hadn’t convinced the california move
or if bobbie arnstein hadn’t succeeded on her third try.
i mean the world wouldn’t look different at all, but what if it did?

BEE LB is an array of letters, bound to impulse; a writer creating delicate connections. they have called any number of places home; currently, a single yellow wall in Michigan. they have been published in Revolute Lit, After the Pause, and Roanoke Review, among others. they are the 2022 winner of the Bea Gonzalez Prize for Poetry. their portfolio can be found at