Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The problem with princesses

Peanut is under a spell.

It’s a powerful spell cast by a petite, soft-spoken, blonde named Cinderella. Her sweet singing voice, charm, grace and beauty have sent Peanut’s imagination awhirl to a land of blissful, wonder where the bad are punished and the good live happily ever after.

So what, you may ask, is so wrong with that?

Because along with the spell come questions. Lots and lots of questions. Like:

• Are the stepsisters unhappy at the end because they aren’t married?
While being married can be wonderful, it is not the only way to find happiness in life.

• Did the prince love Cinderella the best because she is the most beautiful?
He fell in love with her because she was nice and kind and had good heart, not just because of her beauty. (Though I must admit, this argument doesn’t hold much water when the Prince screams after her as she dashes from the ball, “Wait, I don’t even know your name!”)

• If I had a stepmother, I would run far away and never come back.
While I don’t really expect she’ll ever have a stepmother, not all of them are mean, awful tyrants who lock their stepchildren in attics and force them to do all the cooking, cleaning and laundry.

As if these questions weren’t troublesome enough, the whole princess thing puts too much focus on beauty and outward appearance. Additionally, there is the fact that, with few exceptions, princesses are pampered nitwits who sit around waiting for some guy to come save them from their problems, some of which, quite frankly, they’ve brought upon themselves.

Like Rapunzel. You’re telling me she couldn’t have cut off her hair and climbed down on her own long before Prince Charming came along? She spent years up there and that never once dawned on her. And then, once he did show up, why did she have to wait for him to come up with the idea of rescuing her? He visits her many times before it finally dawns on the putz to try to get her out of that tower. If I were Rapunzel, on his very first visit I’d be like, “Dude, I’ll sing and tell you stories later. Right now, help me get the fuck out of this place.”

Then there’s Snow White. She’s warned by the dwarfs not to let anyone into the house while they’re at work. And so what does she do? She lets in some scary old hag who pretty much looks exactly like you’d expect an evil person to look (Long scraggy hair? Check. Pointy nose? Check. Black robes? Check. Knobby hands? Check.) What was she thinking?!? And this is after the little woodland creatures try to chase the evil hag away. I mean, I’m sort of thinking Snow White had it coming and deserved to lie there in that glass coffin a lot longer than she did. Dumbass.

And Cinderella? She’s no brainchild either. Upon hearing that the Grand Duke is making the rounds with the glass slipper she lost, she totally lets on that she’s the rightful owner, dancing lightly down the hall with a goofy love-struck look on her face totally tipping her stepmother off and thus allowing her to lock Cinderella in the attic where she is rescued by – are you ready for this? Mice. If I were locked in some damn attic, I’d start screaming and throwing stuff out the windows as soon as the Grand Duke showed up, you know? I mean, use your head there, Cinderella.

Based on my conversations with other mothers of girls, princesses seem to be a phase through which nearly all young girls pass. I myself recall being quite obsessed with princesses with long flowing gowns, bejeweled crowns, castles and a proclivity for needing a prince on a white horse to get them out of trouble, and I don’t think I’m weak or passive today.

But still, the whole thing sits a little badly with me. I think princesses are to the parents of girls what toy guns are to the parents of boys: we try to avoid them, but sooner or later you lose out. Just as Peanut made her first princess dress out of an old pink t-shirt I had laying around, parents of boys are bound to one day witness their sweet boy running around the back yard screaming, “BANG! BANG!” with his L-shaped hand pointed at a friend.

Peanut’s most recent birthday was a full-blown princess parade complete with fluffy pink dresses, crowns and hats, a pink throne for her room, a pop-up castle and numerous cards bedecked with Disney’s most powerful franchise: the Princess Quartet (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Snow White for those of you not in the know).

And I have to admit, I encouraged it, telling people who asked that she liked “princess stuff.” I guess my own love and eventual adult success has helped convince me that it is just a phase and there’s no need to worry.

Further consolation has come from the mothers of older girls who assure me the phase dies down eventually. And, as one mother put it, when it’s over, it’s OVER. She says she couldn’t rip the smiling princesses from the walls of her daughter’s room fast enough and the pink and fuchsia décor was immediately replaced with much more subdued blues and greens.

So for the moment, I’m letting Peanut embrace her inner Cinderella by marching around the house in a sparkly pink confection of a dress singing Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.

I’m taking lots of pictures. Someday, when she’s dyed her hair purple, wears nothing but head-to-toe black, and refuses to speak to me, I’ll probably look back on this phase wistfully, decide Cinderella isn't so bad and start wishing for my own Fairy Godmother to bring back my princess-loving preschooler.

Princess outfit for the princess

Princess dress #1



Blogger ryssee said...

LOL too funny. If you need a reference for a really good unmarried princess who pays all her own bills, bring it on! :-)
I can give her lots of "kissing frogs" stories too.
Hope she grows up to wear her makeup and clothes as nicely as her mom and female relatives...who I might add, all do it for themselves, 'cause it makes us feel good! :-)

8:29 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I came here randomly through the Crazy Hip Cool Awesome Radical Mom Blog thingy, so I hope it doesn't sound strange to you when I say, "Omagawd, your little girl is so cute in her dress that I want to eat her face."

That said, I suggest that when she's in middle school or so, you point her in the direction of Robin McKinley's princesses. They kick ass.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

She IS absolutely adorable.

But when the hair goes purple, it might be time to read her Robert Munsch's The Paper Bag Princess. It's a nice anecdote to Cinderella and her fairy tale featherheads.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

LOL!!! I am cracking up. My mom tried in vain to keep me away from Barbie and her co-horts. I was enamored with all things Barbie. My mom, of the I am Woman Hear Me Roar generation, wanted nothing to do with the plastic princess. She caved one year & I got my Barbie (only 1 compared to my friends who had multiples). There finally came a day when I put Barbie away. That day will come for your little ones too :)

I think she looks too sweet!

2:26 PM  
Blogger Kelley said...

But she's such a cute princess! However, this is why I actually prefer the Barbie princess movies. Barbie figures things out for herself and rescues the prince.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Auntie Shirley said...

But Mommy, those pictures prove she really is a princess.

9:21 PM  

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