When I was a little girl, my dad told me that I was a princess. I spent my evenings parading around in Cinderella dresses, my Saturday mornings in Sleeping Beauty pajama sets, and my Halloweens in Tinkerbell tutus. I was a princess…or so I thought.
I ruled my kingdom with a fair, yet unwavering hand. I was doted on, adored, and privileged. My mother woke me up each morning, made me breakfast, and sent me off to school in my yellow chariot. She spent her days keeping home: making beds, doing dishes, dusting, ironing, waiting on the other members of the household. My father spent his days at work, making and providing, slaving and pushing, testing and achieving. He’d arrive home in the evenings, a kiss on the forehead for each of his girls, a prideful look in his eyes. This was his castle. This was our haven. And this, all of this, was my kingdom.
The gifts were bountiful. The praise constant. The adoration ever present. I was a little lady, a goddess, something of divinity. I was tucked into bed each night in a canopy made of pink ruffles and teddy bears. I wore satin bows in my hair and lacy slips underneath my Sunday school dresses. I danced in ballet slippers with pretty, shiny ribbons and hosted lavish tea parties filled with faux pastries for China dolls. Stories were read to me nightly — stories of knights in shining armor, tales of wars fought over beauty, and fables of magical spells that resulted in happily ever afters. I was a princess.
And then I grew up.
The time came for me to leave my castle, and so left my castle I did. I traveled far and away, over the river and through the woods, and found my new home filled with lush quads and brick buildings. It was filled with other princesses like myself. Young, fair, beautiful creatures. The world had been handed to us on a silver platter filled with monogrammed kerchiefs and Tiffany teaspoons. We were spoiled, we were eager, we were ready for our princes — but they didn’t exist. The young men we’d been promised, the ones we’d been told to wait for, to hope and pray for, they weren’t there. They weren’t real. A figment of our imagination, perhaps. Except that we’d been hearing tales of their existence our entire existence. So where were they?
They were studying. They were in advanced calculus and organic chemistry and micro economics. They were learning and preparing, embracing and thriving. They were standing on their own. They were going to make it. They were knights in shining armor — for themselves, for their parents, for their futures. They didn’t want a damsel in distress. That would hold them back. We would hold them back. They were looking forward, looking ahead to jobs and success. Us? We were looking for stability, looking for security, looking for a life of comfort and ease. The life that had been promised to us since birth. The life that involved a perfect kiss and a fluffy, white ball gown. That is the life we wanted — no, that is the life we expected. That is the life that was promised to us. That is what we were guaranteed. That is what the mothers and fathers, teachers and pastors, doctors and academic advisors, principals and grandparents taught us as little girls.
“You are a beautiful little princess,” they told us. We were praised with Disney stickers and gifted fake-jeweled tiaras. We pranced around in tutus and were stopped in public by strangers who told us how beautiful we looked when we wore our miniature wedding dress to the grocery store with our mother. But while we were being told of Prince Charming and lavished in sparkles and glitter and pink and feathers, while we were encouraged to daydream and add hearts to our class notes and extra feminine loops to our cursive and reading and believing literal fairy tales, the boys were off doing something different. You see, while we wore the rose-colored glasses that society had gifted to us, the boys were encouraged to pursue academia. They were pushed toward science. They learned the importance of mathematics. They were taught to be self-sufficient. We were not.
I was told I was a princess, but I should’ve been told I was intelligent. I should’ve been told I was capable. I should’ve been told I was independent. Society should not have led me to believe in magic and horse-drawn carriages and sleeping spells that are cured by the perfect kiss. I should not have been taught to lust after ball gowns and castle moats. Fairy tales should have never replaced textbook chapters and beauty should not have overshadowed brains. Little girls are not princesses. It’s time we stop telling them so.
Image via Zastavki