Monday, August 17, 2009

The Pretty Princess Parasite

Recently, my 2 year-old has a fixation on affirming her gender. She just says, “I’m a girl!” all the time, and I know that she means it in contrast to a boy, rather than in contrast to a hippo because she will say it to me too, “Mommy, you’re a girl!” and she regretfully informs her father, “You’re not a girl!” I don’t know what it means to her to be a girl, but I like how much she enjoys being what she is so I usually reply, “Yeah, I’m a girl too – hooray for us!”

She’s right too, that I’m a girl. Not just a woman, but a real girly girl. I wear lots of pink and plenty pf makeup and Chanel perfume, and haven’t seen my natural hair color since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I love my woman parts even if they aren’t what they once were, I love to dress up and shop for shoes and drink champagne and fruity mixed drinks.

But I’ve tried, to some extent, to shield Seconda from my relentless girliness because I live in fear of the day she’ll go all “princess” on me. Am I making enemies here? I know a lot of great, smart little girls who’ve succumbed to princess mania and it doesn’t mean they’re not formidable forces in their own right, but I have to say, the princess shit drives me nuts.

Its not that I don’t like the movie Cinderella – hell, it was one of my favorites as a kid, and we let Primo watch it a bunch of times – but with Seconda, I’m a little more hesitant. I don’t want to inject her with the parasite of putting pretty before everything else. What’s so great about Cinderella anyway? I mean, she’s compassionate and beautiful, but not terribly interesting. Not terribly bright or self-reliant. Ditto for Belle, although she’s got a bit more fire in her. And the Little Mermaid is fun, she’s a redhead after all, and feisty, a rebel even, but it does bum me out that she gives up her voice – I mean, could there be a more literal metaphor for the danger here? – to be with some guy who is, when you get right down to it, a total borefest. The interesting female character there is Ursula – she’s got a slamming voice and some great rhyming skills and is incredibly powerful. What power does a princess really have, at least the Disney variety? My daughter right now, is a powerhouse. She may not be the most well-behaved kid or the most generous yet, but she’s smart as a damn whip and funny, the kind of kid you’d like to spend an hour talking to. I will just perish the day she begs me to buy her a poofy princess dress and matching glass slippers.

So, when she looks really cute, and every girl instinct in me threatens to call out, “Oh you’re my little princess!” I instead exclaim, “You look like the queen of the fairies!” I don’t know how much good it does, but at least a queen has power and fairies do magic, and anyway, it’s a reference to Spenser, which mitigates any harm.

Now she’s started to proclaim the same thing, so after we slip a flouncy three-tiered sun dress on her, she’ll run around the house yelling, “LOOK AT ME - I’m the QUEEN OF THE FAIRIES!”

We can only do our best, right?