Friday, August 17, 2007

I Wanna Be a Princess

by Kathy Miller Haines

“She wants to be a princess,” my sister announced. “Can you help?” She was talking about my niece, Boo, whose third birthday is rapidly approaching. Don’t worry: Boo isn’t her real name. It’s a nickname I gave her when she was a baby. And it’s much better than the name they were going to saddle her with if she was a boy: Mungo.*

(*in their defense, they live in the UK, where Mungo has a rich tradition that doesn’t involve Blazing Saddles, or so my brother-in-law claims.)

But back to Boo’s lofty goals to become royalty. Because there are so few times in a woman’s life that she gets to be a princess, and only a handful of occasions when one is encouraged to wear a tiara, my mother and I decided that we would outfit Boo with appropriate princess wear for her birthday (don’t worry: she’s getting boring things too). So I spent last weekend shopping for a pink tulle and sequined gown for the wee and worldly and was amazed to find the variety of inexpensive, ready-made costumes one can get for little girls in toy departments. These aren’t Halloween costumes, but elaborate make believe get ups that include shoes, jewels, and feathered boas.

Apparently, we’re still firmly stuck in the fifties and, going by this store, the only options for dress up for little girls are princess, nurse, cheerleader, and flapper (bathtub gin sold separately). I guess the “teacher” and “trophy wife” costumes weren’t out yet. Given that choice, I would’ve chosen princess too since not only would that mean a certain amount of curtsying and groveling at my feet, but, if I should so choose, I’d also have magic at my disposal (a mo-hair covered wand was available for $2.50). You can do a lot with magic.

I don’t remember ever wanting to be a princess myself. When I wasn’t much older than Boo, my favorite game was publisher. I would “write” stories, illustrate them, and then work it through the complicated process of publishing and distribution (even my fantasies involved complete creative control -- you’d be surprised by the amount of red tape involved in getting book out of my bedroom and into the hands of my mother). Obviously that early dream of publication stuck with me, probably because nobody ever told me that it was silly or impossible.

I hope the same thing happens for Boo. Not that she’ll become an actual princess (though she lives in a country where such things exist), but that she’ll keep the fantasy alive that she has the option of becoming whatever she wants (even if that means cheerleader or flapper) and that her parents will continue to announce her goals without irony. That’s what a magical princess really is: a little girl who recognizes the possibility that anything can happen.

How about you? What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you ever stop believing it could happen?


Tory said...

I remember the phase when, like all the other girls who loved horses, I wanted to be a vet.

And I remember wanting to be a violin maker (I played violin at the time), until I realized that I didn't know anything about working wood and my one shop experience proved I was incredibly bad at it.

I also wanted to be a computer programmer, but I think that came later, as sort of an escapist fantasy. "If I really can't stand people one more minute, I'll go work with computers."

I can't say any of my dreams were ridiculed or taken away from me, I just grew up enough to realize they were a better fit in fantasy than in real life.

Thanks for the report, Kathy, I hadn't realized the selection was so limited! What happened to the Xena, warrior princess costumes? Or, if we're back in the 50s, Wonder Woman?

Kathryn Miller Haines said...

Well, for Halloween costumes, little girls can be anything. It's the make believe costumes (that are available all year long) that are limiting.


Annette said...

A couple years ago, my Martha Stewart-like niece planned a tea for her young daughter's birthday and we all were expected to dress in our finest complete with tiaras and the girls wore princess gowns. It was grand fun. This year the theme is mermaids. But I flat refuse to wear a fish tail. I mean, how would you drive???

Tory said...

Annette: I think that's the point of mermaids. Their men do it for them!

Nancy said...

It never occurred to me to want to be a princess when I was a kid. But upon some reflection, I think I'd like to give it a shot.

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

Oh wow, I remember those days in childhood when the world was at my feet. For so long I wanted to sing and dance on Broadway. Sadly, I didn't have the singing chops for it. However, it turned out my greatest love, reading, turned in a wonderful career when I became published. It all works eventually, no question, as long as you never stop dreaming.

Joyce said...

I wanted to be everything. That's probably why it took me so long to figure out what I really wanted to do: write books.

I don't remember ever wanting to be a princess. Too girly for me. When I was about eight, I'd pin a bath towel around my neck and I'd be Batman. My next door neighbor was Robin, and we always made my younger sister be Catwoman. Then I advanced to playing "The Mod Squad."

I never thought of it before, but I see a theme here. Anybody else see it?

The closest I ever got to princess is right now. My husband the the boys call me "The Queen."

And Kathy, I love that nickname Boo! It's so cute!

Joyce said...

Oh, and I'd like to be Xena, Warrior Princess. I have a Xena action figure on my desk at work.

Tory said...

Wow, Xena has an action figure? I got to get one of those!