I am a real-life, fairytale princess.
No, I mean it. Not just by my namesake, but in myself, as well.
What does it mean to be a real-life, fairytale princess? It’s practicing the dark magic of a uniquely feminine brand of self-hatred. It means growing up never, ever feeling like I’m good enough, brave enough, strong enough, pretty enough for anybody. It’s growing up too soon, while trying to retain and always display childlike innocence. It means having spent much more of my life escaping dungeons and traversing wastelands than wearing ball gowns or tiaras. It’s being seen as the subject but always serving the role of the object. It’s being judged for things I didn’t do, words I didn’t say, thoughts I didn’t even have, and having to accept and rise to the judgment. It’s learning to be, never enough, but brave as I know how, while always looking pretty. It’s knowing how to look beautiful for others, and letting others draw courage from my beauty, when feeling far from pretty on the inside.
It means learning to save my best for someone else*, and sometimes a long line of someone elses. It’s having found my Prince Charming, but recognizing he’s got his issues and his downsides, that I would need to build a happy ever after together with him, because he could not carry me into one readymade for me**. It’s standing guard with my captains on the parapet, to defend my family (probably in heels). It is allowing my very body to be a weapon, always ready to be thrown into the gears to save my people. It is to sacrifice liberty to assume power in the service of them.
There is all this energy behind the marketing of things like the “Disney Princesses.” There are endless attempts to redefine them – in different colors, in different sizes, as men. We princesses know, they all focus on the image of a princess and not the substance***. Princesses wear our dresses to play our roles, but it is the story of a princess that reveals who she is.
It is there that she is light forged amidst darkness, beauty alloyed with suffering, daring built upon fear, passive dolls who foment revolutions.
I should know.
* I was, myself, surprised at how, whenever I make a meal, I see if there’s a better cut or portion, to give to Teri, or I make two plates and give him the presentation that came out better, or… without scarcely thinking about it.
** And he is still the one I have always been waiting for… I have no dances on my dance card that do not belong to Teri, and I never will.
*** Well, okay, there’s this one.