Friday, September 28, 2007

The story of the six Ken boys...

0709 6 Ken boys
Originally uploaded by rooruu.
Once upon a time a friend of mine taught a senior high school Economics class. There were just six boys in the class - active, argumentative kids with an imaginative, very experienced teacher. They had fun.

One day, they went on an excursion. The six boys, being young, decided to amuse themselves in their choice of civvies (clothes) for the occasion (well, five of them did. The sixth, politically to the right of Genghis Khan, wore a shirt and trousers as he normally did, but was amused by the choices of the others).

They had thought this would discombobulate their teacher - it's not every class group, for example, with one boy wearing a long coat and, under it, a sign saying BOO! only visible when he suddenly opens his coat in front of people.

They had forgotten she had long experience of her own sons, and was capable of saying things at the Economics seminar like, "These are my sons, and they're not allowed to talk to girls," and of actions such as requiring them to sit with her in the very front row, in the sight of all... Besides, as she said, if anyone asked she'd say they were from an outback high school, far away from the truth.

Nevertheless, they all had an excellent day, one way and another.

During the two years of this class, the teacher rediscovered her childhood Barbie doll, and it set off a significant chain of events. In researching it on the internet, she discovered its rarity and value, and this piqued her interest in vintage Barbies and the vintage Barbie oeuvre. The social history intrigued her, and the quirky byways (Ken's best friend ??'s African American friend Alan, for instance). Not especially computer literate, her new collecting passion fuelled her interest, and she learned how to find and bid on (and win) vintage Barbies and Kens on eBay. She even bought a sniping program for last minute bids. She learned how to find and order books from Amazon - books on the world of vintage Barbies.

Her command of Barbie trivia is immensely impressive. She knows, for instance, when Barbie shifted from always being the nurse (to Dr Ken) to being a doctor herself. She can tell you that the first Ken had flocked hair (she owns one, now). And so it goes. She gets immense fun from this byway of social history and the ways in which it illuminates our society.

Her collection did, however, meet with some opposition at home (remember the sons?). She sometimes came home to find Barbies scattered on the table top, with Ken, gun in hand, standing over them... or Kens lying on the ground, looking up Barbies' skirts...or Barbie and Ken getting to know each other rather too well for family viewing.... She survived this, as she had survived the sons (who were otherwise turning out rather well) with aplomb.

Her collection - quirky rather than valuable - grew.

During their final year at high school, a helpful year adviser who knew of the teacher's collection, and of the excursion to the Economics seminar, suggested to the boys that, with the help of eBay and some sewing, a very fine present could be constructed for their teacher - viz, six Ken dolls dressed as they had been on that memorable day.

They hadn't thought of this (hardly surprising). They were rather unsure about something as girly as dolls, let alone the sewing.

The helpful year adviser showed them how inexpensive Kens (particularly ones without clothes and out of boxes) could be on eBay, and how many faces/heads there were, so they could find ones somewhat similar to themselves...She even bid on a promising lot of four Kens (on which the boys forgot to bid) and bought it to help them on their way....

To their credit, they pursued the idea - even though the very possession of Ken dolls, in the context of the school playground, held such potential for embarrassment that they were rarely brought to school, and only then in very very plain brown wrappers.

Weeks passed. A pattern was located, and a helpful mother, and again to their credit, two of the boys in particular solved the technical and logistical problems, did most of the sewing themselves (engaging with the entirely new world of dressmaking patterns) and today was the very last day of Economics for them, ever. The very last class.

They had a couple of other presents for their teacher - a bunch of flowers, some special certificates. Finally, they presented the well-wrapped box. Ripping through the tissue paper, my friend found the six parcels. At first, she was delighted with more vintage Kens to add to her collection (72, she tallied, 73...), but then the penny dropped.

Not just any vintage Kens. Outfits never seen before (canary-suited Ken? Ken in a Borat unitard, with a BOO! sign around his neck and a long coat? - although I should point out that the unitard wasn't what that student had worn on the day, but artistic licence because it was going to be funny...) and one Ken with a non-Ken head (Action Man donated a head more closely resembling the student in question).

She was overwhelmed. Amused. Delighted. Amazed. The boys were so pleased that their present was such a hit. They each signed their doppelganger (on the back of the doll) and willingly posed for photos (not going to blog those, sorry!).

But here, for your delectation, six Ken dolls you've never seen before and will never see again, and a fabulous, hilarious, apt, unique present for a much-appreciated teacher.

Postscript: one of the boys, for his Year 12 formal, needed a pink hanky for his jacket pocket, to match his pink tie. Couldn't find one in a department with the confidence of his new sewing skills, he bought some fabric and made one himself. FANtastic!


Nola said...

What a hoot! Thanks for sharing this story.

Lindi said...

Love it! Just shows what young men can do when they want to.

meggie said...

Fabulous story!

Leah said...

Nice! This story makes me (almost) miss teaching....

Jill said...

Gave me a great laugh to start off the weekend! I loved the mischief of your friend's sons.

Carmel said...

What a great and inspiring story, Ruth!
I'm sure your friend will treasure those dolls for always.
Thanks for sharing.

Lynda said...

Great story - thank you for telling us.

ingrid said...

Thanks for sharing such a fabulous little tale. As the mother of two boys, one of them well into his teens, I can completely relate to the beauty of seeing boys take up a challenge like sewing and being proud of their creations, even it is somewhat secretly.

Feltique said...

That was an absolutely excellent story, left me with a smile and tears in my eyes.

Jodie said...

fantastic story and boys that would be a pleaure to meet. Your friend is a great teacher obviously !

Dianne said...

What great partners these boys should make...sense of humour,feminine side and obviously respect

Anonymous said...

Hilarious - what a fab story!

Dragonlady said...

A wonderful insight into what good teachers will achieve.

And what a great teacher to not only suggest but also help pull the idea off.


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