Princesses are taking over the world.
I can’t go to the toy department of any store without being deluged with images of smiling, doe-eyed women wearing crowns and flowing cotton candy pink dresses.
There are princess beds, pillows, bicycles, T-shirts, dolls, games, puzzles, underwear, cereal, bubble bath, Band aids and even princess spaghetti.
When I was a kid, princesses belonged in fairy tales. Not on tubes of toothpaste, canned goods, and diapers. Back then there were no plastic dollar store crowns. And there were no Wal-Marts stocked with princess costumes in every size and colour.
When I was a kid, the word princess wasn’t even part of my lexicon. I was about as far removed from the saccharin Disney princesses of today as a girl could get – and that was just fine with me.
I grew up with three older brothers who provided an exhilarating alternative to the world of fairytales. My brothers were experts at making stink bombs and setting entire ditches on fire. They also knew how to make brandy from orange peels and gin from juniper berries and well, we won’t get into the one about the back field (mistakenly) being set on fire.
Aside from the constant amusements from my older brothers, I spent copious amounts of time outdoors on my own. My idea of fun was collecting worms from the driveway after a summer rain. There were few things more compelling than cutting an earthworm in half to watch both parts defy nature and remain wiggling.
Being a princess would have cramped my style. Imagine trying to pluck earthworms from the pavement with satin gloves? Imagine jumping through mud puddles with plastic high heels?
My five -year old daughter does not have older brothers to show her the bliss of a muddy field. She has a three-year old sister who worships her. A sister who also wants to be a princess.
At Halloween they both insisted on princess costumes, even though I pleaded for something more ghastly, like a witch costume, a vampire costume. What about a mummy? Even the bribe involving extra candy could not set them straight.
Now, princesses are part of their routine. They brush their teeth with princess toothpaste, at lunchtime they eat princess shaped noodles and at bedtime they listen to stories about princesses. Then there are the princess training pants my youngest wears to bed and the princess alarm clocks that they each have beside their beds.
I have been suckered. Royally.
Since princesses don’t generally go around killing people or making trouble, one might think it’s all rather harmless. Besides, as a parent there are bigger fish to fry.
That is, until you think about the growing number of pre-pubescent girls who hate themselves because they don’t look princess perfect.
How many plus sized princesses do you see emblazoned on little girl pajamas? How many band-aids wear images of princesses with pimples, glasses or crooked teeth? How many are in wheelchairs?
I would embrace this princess thing if it celebrated diversity in all its forms. I would sing its praises if princess culture made young girls feel beautiful in their own skin.
Until then, I will begrudgingly let saccharin images of Disney royalty invade my home. And I will bite my tongue and let my daughters prance around in crowns and glass slippers.
But soon, very soon, I will write my own stories of princesses. My royal ladies will be smart, sensitive and strong. And they will be diverse. My daughters will ask for these stories at bedtime, and the sugar-coated fairytales starring Princess Perfect will be cast aside like toys that have lost their magic.