I was doomed from the day I was born when my parents gave me a name that literally means “princess”.
My childhood was shaped by the beautifully animated Disney movies of the 90’s, or what they call the “Disney Renaissance”. Starting with the bubbly melodies of “The Little Mermaid” in 1989 (only two years before I was born, but I still own it as “my time”) and ending around the time of the mediocre success of Tarzan in 1999, which didn’t do so well in the box office but had a pretty great soundtrack (Phil Collins, anyone?). This era of movie magic was defined by the visual spectacle of traditional, hand-drawn animation, and barely anyone was doing CGI (we’re all trying to forget “Flubber”).
My squishy, pink, impressionable mind became filled with new ideas and expectations. I close my eyes and I can vaguely recall those afternoons in front of the television, rewinding the VCR to watch “Beauty And The Beast” again, and again, reenacting scenes from the movie with my Barbie dolls. Thankfully I found Belle to be my princess of choice, who was not only beautiful but also smart, caring, and well-read, a real “go-getter”. What a relief to my parents, who probably preferred her as my idol over the rebellious, defiant, self-centered Ariel. Belle was my princess, and I could see myself in her.
Like many little girls, I loved to play dress up. My parents took me to Disneyland when I was about three years old and out of all the flashy, sparkly princess costumes that were available I chose the demure “peasant” Belle dress, blue with a simple white apron. I’m not sure what was going through my toddler mind back then, because nowadays when I’m playing grown-up “dress up” I usually go for the tackiest, gaudiest, glittery-est thing imaginable. According to Daddy, I stepped out of the dressing room in this atypical Disney princess outfit, turned to look at myself in the mirror, and with eyes wide in surprise I looked up at Daddy and earnestly expressed my revelation…”Daddy, I’m Belle!” And I truly believed I was.
Even though my hair was cut in a boyish pixie (my mother found this the only remedy to fix my habit of twirling and pulling out my blonde baby hair), even though I had just gotten over chicken pox and little pink spots were still healing on my tiny body, I was still a princess.
As Sara Crewe said in the (non-Disney) film “The Little Princess” (another childhood favorite):
“I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses. All of us.”
I wish I could convince my female friends (and often times myself) that we’re all princesses; that we deserve the best, that we are beautiful whether or not we are “pretty”, that we can save ourselves without the aid of a prince on a white horse, that we are worthy of love and respect. But I guess sometimes it takes time to grown into your crown.