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?