the narrator of "Barbie-Q" talks about her and her friend’s interest in Barbie dolls, referring to her friend as “you.” Although the narrator never reveals her or her friend’s gender, Cisneros implies that that they’re both young girls, both of whom each own one Barbie. Because they have limited access to new outfits for their dolls, they fashion a dress out of an old sock. The game they play is always the same: “Your Barbie is roommates with my Barbie, and my Barbie’s boyfriend comes over and your Barbie steals him, okay? Kiss kiss kiss. Then the two Barbies fight.” However, because neither girl owns a Ken doll, the boyfriend figure is imaginary. After all, both of them would rather ask for new outfits for their Barbies for Christmas rather than for “a stupid-looking boy doll.”
Like the narrator of “My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn,” the two protagonists in “Barbie-Q” define themselves—or at least their dolls—by articulating some kind of difference. In this case, the girls call male dolls “stupid-looking,” thereby raising their female dolls up as more desirable. Indeed, they covet their Barbies, and the game they play in which one Barbie steals the other’s boyfriend foreshadows stories like “Never Marry a Mexican,” in which women compete while a man simply follows his lustful desires.
One Sunday, the "Barbie-Q" narrator and her friend are at a flea-market and find an inexpensive new Barbie lying on a table. Looking around, they realize there are multiple dolls and outfits, including a “‘Career Gal’ ensemble.” Apparently a nearby toy factory recently burned down, and so these dolls are on sale even though they only sustained minor damages. “So what if our Barbies smell like smoke when you hold them up to your nose even after you wash and wash and wash them,” the narrator says. And so what if one of the new dolls has a melted left foot? She points out that nobody will notice these things if the girls dress the dolls in their beautiful new outfits.
The girls’ joy at finding these new Barbies allows them to ignore the toys’ imperfections, a fact that indicates the strength of desire. Just as characters in later stories accept various unsavory traits about their lovers because they desire them so badly, the girls look past their Barbies’ melted feet and smoky hair. In turn, Cisneros indicates that longing for something is a powerful experience capable of changing the way a person views the people and things surrounding him or her.