My Name is Barbara… by
(76 Stories)

Prompted By Nicknames

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…not Barbra a la Streisand. They’re pronounced pretty much the same in English, but in Spanish, my name is pronounced Bar-bar-a, with a slight roll of the ‘r’s. I do like the musicality of that as opposed to the rather dull thud of “bra,” although I remember some guy somewhere along the line who must have derived some kind of juvenile kick out of emphasizing it — “Hey, BarBRA!”

Barbi Benton pretty much owned the spelling of her name, and in the 80s, despite the fact that we had the same hairdo, I was dismissive of her anyway, for being in Playboy, and for being Hugh Hefner’s main squeeze.

As a kid I was Barby with a ‘y,’ except for a short stretch, I think it might have been a week or two when I was around ten, when I insisted on being called “Beanie.” I had adopted a habit of saying “Oh, beans,” whenever something went wrong and  thought it would be cute if everyone called me Beanie. It really wasn’t, and thankfully it didn’t stick.

In high school I was always just Barbara because there was already a Barb, a Barby with a ‘y,’ and a Bobbi in my group. No Babs, but that was an outdated nickname by then.

Barbi Benton pretty much owned the spelling of her name, and in the 80s, despite the fact that we had the same hairdo, I was dismissive of her anyway, for being in Playboy, and for being Hugh Hefner’s main squeeze.

And now of course we come to Barbie with an ‘ie,’ as in Barbie doll. And wouldn’t you know, in the 90s I married a Ken and thus became a Barbie with an ‘ie.’ Barbie and Ken, Ken and Barbie, they go together like hugs and kisses. Speaking of which. One year I came up with the bright idea of creating a unique anniversary card for said husband featuring a photo of said dolls. As I didn’t play with dolls, I dashed — always hyper excited in the development stage of an art project — to the toy store on Hollywood Boulevard, bought some, went home and set up a photo shoot. I was going for a romantic vibe, a sweet kiss or a hug, but as I began toying with them, well, you know how it goes, one thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was back at the toy store buying a Barbie bed. And a Barbie best friend, Midge. AND a friend for Ken, Steven.

We’re all adults here, right? Let’s just say I had a little fun with my photo shoot. And I was using one of my old Polaroid cameras, which added to the naughty look of the photos. I ended up with a series that, oddly enough, looks so erotic I can’t show the photos here (you’re welcome). I say “oddly enough” because the photos are obviously NOT pornographic, they’re simply suggestive. Okay, maybe even titillating. But since it’s Ken and Barbie (and friends), there’s just something shocking about them!


I never did make that card. Instead I gifted the photos to my husband in an envelope labeled “Ken & Barbie – Dirty Pix.” Big, big hit! After Ken passed away some years later, I ended up with the collection. Although I have digital copies, the originals are somewhere in storage in a now-yellowing envelope. Some day, somebody may find them. And no doubt really wonder about me.

These days my granddaughters call me Baba, my family and the majority of my close friends call me Barb, and a select few call me Babs. And now I like the retro vibe of it.

Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    This is hysterical, um, what should I call you? I got my first Barbie doll in 1959, someone gave me a second for my birthday later that year, and I got a Ken doll as soon as he came out. I never got any of the friends, accessories, etc, but lots of clothing and still have then all in their cases in my basement (I wrote a Retro story about it too). So the fact that you and your hubby were Barbie and Ken, and you did a naughty photo shoot is just PRICELESS! The last time I played with mine, I was in 8th grade (well, I wasn’t playing). I dressed the two Barbies as the North and South (I made the outfits) when we studied the Civil War in history. I hadn’t actually PLAYED with them in many years.

    What do you like to be called? Do you prefer Barbara of Barb? Just checking.

    • Thanks, Betsy, so glad you enjoyed it! I’m tempted to say you can call me whatever you want as long as you call me, but I’ll resist. I think Babs works for Retrospect, don’t you?

      I love that you did North and South Barbies, and even made the outfits! I have an Instagram friend that makes the most amazing miniature clothing (out of paper!) and now you’ve made me want to try — but alas I no longer have my dolls.

      • Betsy Pfau says:

        Babs it shall be. If you want to see my Barbies (and the blonde still dressed as the North for my Civil War project), search “Barbie” in the Retro search bar. It dates to March 20, 2017. The prompt was “toys and games”. I was 6 1/2 when I got that first Barbie. I was not a great seamstress, did the best I could, but got her pulled together. I took the Civil War dress off the other Barbie when I put them away for good. She is in her original black and white striped bathing suit. Ken is standing beside them, ready for tennis.

        • Just read your Barbie story, Betsy, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Your collection must be worth a fortune. Have you ever had it appraised? They would love you at Antiques Road Show!

          And how funny that were someone to search for Barbie on Retrospect, they would find our two very different approaches!

  2. Marian says:

    All the variants of Barbara were fascinating, Barbara (or Barb or Babs?). That’s hilarious about your photo forays with Barbie and Ken. I have a first cousin Barbara who was Barbie as a little kid but has been Barbara since high school. I can understand why you’d be dismissive of Barbi Benton–the Barbi leads to association of airhead!

    • So glad you found hilarity, Marian — I thought we could all use some! But now I feel the need to come to Barbi’s defense because she was probably a wonderful mother and she also had a career as a singer and wrote her own songs, produced them, and played the piano. I have to wonder if she considered changing the spelling of her name just to avoid that association.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    I love your story, Ms. B. And, of course, the Barbie and Ken photo shoot was the most amusing part. I’m just curious as to whether there was a Barbie trapeze or Barbie pole, too.

    In any event, since it is well known — even among us guys — that Barbie dolls lacked, shall we say, secondary sex characteristics, how pornographic could the photos be?

    And, speaking of photos, love your photo shop of the Barbra album cover as your feature.

    • Ms. B works for me 🙂 No, John, no trapeze, no pole…I’m afraid those exist only in one’s mind. And as I mentioned, they definitely weren’t pornographic. But in “researching” this story, I discovered that there is now a Barbie-Made-To-Move doll with 22 points of articulation! I’m not even going there.

      So pleased you recognized what I did with the album cover — that’s actually my favorite part of the story.

  4. Suzy says:

    I loved the album cover too, I hasten to point out – Mad Dog wasn’t the only one to notice! I had to check out the original album, and saw that it was Barbra as a child, but it’s so perfect the way your head fits on top of her body! Brilliant artwork, as always, Babs.

    And now I must rush to Barbi Benton’s defense (and it IS funny how we both mentioned her in our stories). She is from Sacramento and is a HS classmate and good friend of a friend of mine. She is an intelligent and interesting person, so one can’t judge by her spelling or her association with Hugh Hefner. (And Betsy is good friends with Hugh Hefner’s daughter, so yet another point of contact.)

    In line with Betsy’s North and South Barbies, I must tell you that when Sabrina was doing her mission project for 4th grade California history, she dressed a Barbie in a long black dress and veil and gave her a gold cross made out of fuse beads, to be “Nuestra Señora de los Dolores” at Mission Dolores in San Francisco. I’m pretty sure I still have it somewhere.

    • I hope you saw that I also rushed to Barbi’s defense in my comment to Marian, and now I’m especially glad I did! And thanks for the comment on the artwork, Suzy — you know how much I love doing that kind of thing!

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Barb, OMG I just LOLed over your Barbie and Ken photo shoot. You were always such a creative soul with such a wicked sense of humor. I love your featured image, another reflection of your creativity. But I must point out that your resemblance to Barbie Benton back then was uncanny. Thanks for a good laugh. We all need it these days.

  6. Love it BB, after this scary time is behind us I look forward to a west coast trip and a look at those dirty pix!

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