For 65-year-old Taichung resident Shih Hsiu-mei (
The grandmother with a lifelong, bottled-up fixation with Barbie dolls started indulging her obsession after her husband, a critic of the dolls, passed away.
With her children all grown up, Shih, a retiree, was free at last to amass the plastic idols of obscenely perfect female form and knit tiny outfits for them.
And, like a child, this granny is learning to share.
Seldom willing to let even her granddaughter touch her 100-odd figurines, Shih decided recently to do the adult thing and donate 50 Barbies, complete with six custom-knit outfits per doll, to charity. The Taiwan Fund for Children and Families will auction off Shih's sexy mini-manikins and use the money to help poor children.
Put to work as a maid from age eight, Shih said she enjoyed few possessions and had little time to herself as a girl. She enjoyed the dolls from a distance that her employer's children collected, always yearning for one of her own, but the cost was too high.
Shih said she tried collecting dolls as an adult, but was forced to stop after her husband frowned on her "playing house" with the figurines and knitting outfits for them.
After her husband passed away 10 years ago, Shih revisited her childhood at age 55, furiously knitting miniature bikinis, panties, bras, cocktail dresses, skirts, hats, bags and other clothes for her growing legion of Barbies.
Shih was so enamored with her precious dolls that she took them wherever she went, hoping to inspire the same kind of envy in others that she herself had felt as a Barbie-less girl.
When asked where to buy them, Shih typically replies, "You can't get these anywhere."