As a kid, I played for hours with my Smurfs under the dining room table, while my mother clacked away on the typewriter above my head. My favorite Smurf was Jokey, with his goofy, indestructible grin and the large yellow gift box he held that exploded in the faces of his unsuspecting victims. It was a joke that never got old– his friends fell for it every time. Jokey was a glutton for attention–even bad attention– and he endured the other Smurfs’ chides and complaints with an impenetrable delight that was hard not to admire.

Funny enough, the Smurf I related to the least was Smurfette, the only girl in the village. Smurfette was endowed with the classic, American-girl good looks that commanded shameless scads of male attention: the smooth wave of yellow hair that seductively bulged out of her cap; the trance-inducing curves and mounds of her torso; the helpless, “I-always-rely-on-the-kindness-of-strangers” look on her face; her coquettish, knee-turned, heel-up poses that defied all anatomical probability. Without a doubt, Smurfette contained in her two-inch, Made-in-China body all that I–with my dark, Arabic features and shy presence–could never aspire to be. She was the plastic thorn in my foreign-born side.

Nowadays, I hold no resentment against my tiny, flaxen-haired nemesis. In fact, I thank her for staying true to herself, despite the paltry amount of playtime I gave her under the table. It’s taken some time since my Smurf days to appreciate my own brand of beauty and femininity. I have to say, I’ve got a few things going for me that Smurfette never had: intelligence and wit, and, like Jokey, a penchant for eliciting strong reactions from my friends and readers. If only that little girl under the typewriter had known the explosive, raw materials she contained! If only she could have seen that her awkward, nerdy self was just a bombshell in the making.

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