Hey Ya’ll, It’s the ARM Dude here. How many of you have ever seen a toy Barbie that is missing both of its arms? This is not something that you would give much thought to but I am sure that most of you have seen this at some time. I’d bet some of you might have been the culprit that removed the arms. It was a toy with moving parts so unless you were a collector you could expect that these parts would eventually snap out of their socket. Barbie’s arms would snap off at the shoulder. This blog is about a living Barbie that had that very thing happen to her.
I began working part time in the Portrait Center at the local Sears store during my senior year in high school. I would spend a few hours each day asking little kids to look at me and say “Fuzzy Pickles” or “Chocolate Spaghetti” in order to get them to smile. Some kids were more difficult to get to smile then others. Either way I would generally end up getting some great shots that would make their family happy.
This was my first job working directly with the consumer. The photography part of the job was a snap. The interaction with the customer was where all of the lessons were learned. I had the opportunity to deal with all types ranging from pleasant to down right mean. This helped me to learn how to address situations without feeding off of the emotions that might be pointed my way. I also learned to expect the unexpected at this job. More importantly, I learned that it was important to maintain my composure and react in a professional manner when the unexpected did occur. This included everything from women beginning to disrobe while asking me to take risqué shots of them to nursing mothers that wanted to talk to me while they nursed their child without a hint of modesty or a cover up. Remember that I am a seventeen year old boy at this time so maintaining composure in these situations was challenging. None of these lessons prepared me for the day I met Barbie.
I met Barbie when her mother brought her in so that I could take her picture. She was about 3 ½ years old and was wearing a pretty little dress with long sleeves. I used to pick the kids up by their arm pits in order to place them on the posing table where they would sit while I took their picture. I did this same thing when I went to place her on the table. Words can not describe my embarrassment when this effort resulted in me lifting two empty dress sleeves into the air while her feet remained firmly on the ground. I immediately realized that this was the little girl that I had read about many times in the newspaper. She had been electrocuted while climbing on an electrical transformer located at the apartments that her family had just moved into after relocating from New York. Her mother helped me overcome my embarrassment while I was trying to calm her daughter’s fear of having her picture snapped. Barbie was very shy and somewhat scared of men due to all of the unpleasant hospital experiences. Fortunately, I had a baby face and long hair which helped her relax long enough for me to get some good shots of her.
I transferred to a new store location after I graduated. The mother tracked me down so I could take pictures of her daughter a couple of more times based on the connection made during our first encounter. I lost touch with them when I left the photography business.
Fast forward to 2008, my wife and I are flipping through the tv channels when we come across the Discovery channel. There on the screen we see a young lady without arms sitting on a bathroom counter while applying makeup with her feet and toes. We watch as she cooks a meal and then we see her get in her truck and drive using her feet. I began wondering what became of that little girl I took pictures of so many years ago. I got my answer a few minutes later as the show described how she lost her arms. It is Barbie. She has grown up to be a mother and an athlete that has made a name for her self in the fitness competition world. Her website is www.fitnessunarmed.com.
So why is the ARM Dude writing about a young lady without arms? Because I feel her story is an uplifting one. It is also because this was a lesson that took almost 30 years for me to comprehend. The mother, that had so graciously put me at ease when I was holding empty dress sleeves, had not accepted the doctors’ initial prognosis that her daughter would not survive the trauma caused by the accident. At best, they told her, her daughter would be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life. Barbie and her mother’s motto became “Can’t is not an Option”. It is simple motto that involved heavy doses of tough love from her family. This approach to life has delivered extraordinary results.
I don’t know about ya’ll, but the next time I hear that something is impossible I am going to think about Barbie and her motto.