I don’t watch much reality TV, but a few years ago I had the misfortune to catch a scene of one show that is likely burned into my consciousness for life.
It depicted a woman riding in a horse-drawn carriage towards a large estate. She was being interviewed as she rode, and was clearly overjoyed at her luck of having been chosen above all the other candidates to be the bride of the wealthy, dashing young billionaire.
In her elation, she revealed how it had always been her secret life-long dream to be a princess who lived in a castle just like the one she was approaching.
Then, they revealed the truth. The bachelor had been an actor, there was no fortune, and she had just been made a total ass of.
It was sad on so many levels.
She was clearly an intelligent and capable woman, but it was like this deep suppressed desire had been given room to thrive and she’d allowed herself to be carried away in the fantasy, literally loosing touch with reality.
Over the course of her 9 short years, my daughter has been through various phases of princess obsession and has an entire drawer under her bed filled with costumes given by her grandmothers to show for it. We have the purple velvet Victorian princess, the ball gown princess, the fairy princess, a few different Disney princesses, and others she’s grown out of that I can’t even remember. As a Gen-X mother with strong feminist leanings, I’ve developed my own collection of responses to match, bouncing through schizophrenic phases of acceptance, denial, objective psychological scrutiny, adoration, and worry.
I mean, it’s only dress up, and little girls like to pretend in all kinds of ways. I certainly had my share of it. My sister and I had a ritual of raiding my grandmother’s closet, costume jewelry boxes, and makeup every time we visited. From rabbit fur stoles and fake strings of pearls to sparkly shirts and silky nightgowns, we’d get all dolled up and prance around the living room. It didn’t matter that, in my normal life, I preferred short hair and overalls. Dress up was a game like any other.
Should I be worried? Past a certain point in childhood, is it okay for my daughter to continue pursuing the age-old fantasy of Prince Charming coming to sweep her off her feet someday? Could it inhibit her from actively aspiring to become the strong, self-reliant woman I’d like her to be?
I don’t know—sometimes I think it’s fine, sometimes I don’t.
What do you think?