Recently I got involved in a conversation with a group of moms at our neighborhood pool about a horrible epidemic that’s invading our preschools and playgroups that should be avoided at all costs. I call it the “Princess Pandemic,” and to a lot of moms, it’s worse than an outbreak of head lice at a daycare center.
The topic came up after one of us brought a magazine with Kate Middleton on the cover to a pool play date (it totally wasn’t me – ok, yes it was – I was dying to find out who made those adorbs tangerine skinny jeans she had on!!!). It then evolved into a princess-bashing, feminist jamboree.
Our chat went something like this…
PC Pool Mama: “I’m so sick of seeing her on the cover of magazines. It is so wrong to teach our daughters that they should aspire to be princesses.”
Me (deciding not to go there when I realized the gals from Teen Mom were on the cover of the magazine she’d brought with): “Why? I think Kate has mad style and seems nice enough.”
PC Pool Mama #2: “It’s so unrealistic, and it’s sending the wrong message. I plan to encourage my daughter to be an architect or an engineer.”
Me (only half joking): “What if she doesn’t want to be an architect or an engineer? What if she hits 25 and genuinely wants to be a princess?”
We all had a chuckle, changed the subject, and I forgot all about the Princess Pandemic until it came up again a few days later when I overhead a conversation between two other mamas in the park (well, it was more like me eavesdropping, but still):
PC Park Mama: “Did you see what Dave’s mom said about the baby on Facebook? She called her a princess!”
There was that word again. Princess.
PC Park Mama’s friend: “Ohmygod, that is so backward. Well, at least she didn’t call her a cutie pie like my husband’s boss did. So condescending!”
Condescending? Complementing a child’s looks is off limits too? As I eavesdropped on the two Femimamas, I quickly made a mental list of the words I typically use to pay respects to other people’s kids. Words like “doll,” “cutie,” “adorable,” etc., all came to mind.
Then, I checked back on some of my recent Facebook comments:
“What a doll!”
“He could be a model!”
“Your girls are gorgeous!”
Oh, shit. Guilty, guilty, guilty.
Have I been offending my friends all this time when I really just wanted to tell them their kid was pleasing to my eyes?
I took stock further: There was The Bear’s pink, princess-themed first birthday party (complete with crown), and the pink tulle tutu I got her for Christmas. The fact that I propped her up on the couch to “watch” the royal wedding with me when she was only two months old.
The Femimamas would’ve fainted at all the Princessy-ness… or burned me at the stake. I started to fret: should I have thrown The Bear a Gertrude Stein-themed party instead? How many people are mad at me for calling their kid “cute?” Has being a stay-at-home mom made me a softy?
Back when I was a little girl, I remember Barbie’s girl-power fueled anthem cheered, “We girls can do anything!” It was so cool to me that Barbie could be an equestrian one day and a fry-girl at McDonald’s the next! Today, Barbie’s unrealistic body measurements and permanently arched high-heel-ready feet are symbols of what girls shouldn’t—or, physically can’t—aspire to be. I played with Barbies until I was 14 and I turned out… just fine… Right??
My mini freak-out lasted about 30 seconds until I shook off the self-doubt and gave myself a reality check. I consider myself a feminist and stand up for my ladyrights when I think they’re being infringed upon. I worked my ass off to succeed in a male-dominated industry and I’m proud that I can hold my own in a roomful of male executives with Ivy League pedigrees.
I want those same things for my daughter (that is, if that’s what she wants). A plastic princess crown and a love for Kate Middleton’s orange skinny jeans isn’t going to change that, ever.
The way I see it, everyone should aspire to his or her own version of greatness… there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a princess, or at least aspiring to be treated like one. That doesn’t make you any less of a badass, ladies. It might make you a little more relaxed, though.
Oh, and to you Super Femimamas: Rock on, sisters. But if you’re seeking compliments on your kids’ intellect and not their looks, stop posting pictures of those adorable cutie pie baby dolls on Facebook 😉
Off to my princess tea party!