Scott Hollifield: Recalling a heart-to-heart with my good friend Ken

Our world is awash in violent extremists, killer French fries and insane 3-foot-tall dictators who pal around with washed up NBA stars, but the big news for now is this: Ken has a man bun

Ken, Barbie’s plastic boyfriend or longtime platonic companion depending on how one views their relationship, is getting a makeover. In the coming weeks, Mattel will release 15 new Ken doll variations. The company is “redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation," Barbie Senior Vice President and General Manager Lisa McKnight said in a statement.

And “in one of his new looks he piles his plastic locks on top of his head and secures them with a very masculine rubber band,” reports Newsweek, known for its hard-hitting doll industry coverage. “Some may call it a Ken bun, but let's be real: It's a man bun.”

It’s been more than a decade since I had heart-to-heart talk with my good friend Ken. His last known whereabouts are in the basement in a plastic bin with several variations of his girlfriend, some forgotten Polly Pockets, scattered Beanie Babies and other items from a college senior’s childhood past now packed away for safe keeping (yard sale).

It was sometime in the early 2000s, late at night, as I tiptoed across the living room floor en route to the bathroom. Despite my attempt to navigate this potential minefield carefully, I stepped on something that hurt – not excruciating Lego pain, but it hurt nonetheless. I stifled a profanity so as not to wake others in the house, hobbled to a side table and switched on the light. I had trod barefoot upon Ken and his up-stretched arm. He lay there on the rug, among several prone Barbies, a messy Dream House and an overturned pink convertible.

I didn’t know if it was the aftermath of a good party or a mob hit. That was up to the imagination of the youngster who left the mess there.

I completed my trip, limped back to my bed and fell into slumber. And in my dreams came my last heart-to-heart with Ken.

“Hey, man, you awake?”

“I am now. What do you want, Ken?”

“I just want to say I’m sorry about our mishap on the rug.”

“Don’t worry about it. It didn’t hurt near as much as a Lego.”

“It’s just that I’ve been going through some stuff, you know?”

“No, I don’t know. What I do know is I have to get some sleep so I can go to work and make money to buy all of you accessories that you don’t need, like clothes you apparently lose because you spend most of your time naked beside the bathtub or in the toy box.”

“I’ve been thinking I should have been an action figure, like G.I. Joe or Batman. I have what it takes to kill terrorists and fight crime. Don’t get me wrong. I like hanging out with Barbie and Skipper and the rest, listening to their hopes and dreams and commenting on their nail polish choices. And chilling naked by the bathtub is the best! But I hear about all the adventures I’m missing out on, plus the stories about the Evel Knievel doll from the 1970s that could bend in any direction, just like the real Evel Knievel. I feel I’ve missed out.”

“Look, Ken. You’ve got a good gig going here. You make kids happy. You’ve got a roof over your head, you’ve got the keys to a convertible I put back on its wheels and a little birdie told me the Dream House may be getting a pool next Christmas. Enjoy what you have because someday the world may be awash in violent extremists, killer French fries and insane 3-foot-tall dictators who pal around with washed up NBA stars, and Mattel will give you a really bad hairstyle in an attempt to increase profits.”

“Thanks, Scott. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Ken.”

And it happened just that way, sort of.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, NC and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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