“Mommy, do you want to know what I wished for the udder day when I threw dat penny in the fountain?” C.J. asked. He was freshly bathed and laying in my bed, on his back, with his arms up and folded behind his head. He smelled like his Disney Princess wild strawberry soap. He was watching his favorite television show, Jessie.
“What did you wish for?” I asked as I bustled about cleaning the house for the cleaning lady who would arrive the next morning. God forbid she see our real mess.
“You did, huh?” I said as I hung up four of my hoodies that had formed a heap on my hope chest. I could never keep my room clean as a child and can’t now as an adult.
“Are princesses real?” C.J. asked as his dad entered the bedroom.
“No,” C.J’s Dad replied.
“Yes,” I replied at the same exact moment.
“Which one is right? Mommy, cause mommy is always right,” C.J. said.
“No, princesses are not real,” C.J.’s Dad said looking at me. “Why are you telling him that princesses are real?”
“Because they are real! Kate Middleton. Hello?!” I said, unable to comprehend how he could be arguing against fact. I had to stop cleaning immediately to tend to this dispute.
“Yeah, but, she’s not really a princess,” C.J.’s Dad said.
“Are you kidding me?! Tell that to the Queen!” I was in shock.
“She’s not a princess like C.J. thinks a princess is,” he said defending our son and feeling like I was leading him astray.
“She’s a real princess and the kind of princess that he should aspire to be more so than the Disney princesses,” I argued.
I realized that C.J. was now sitting up in bed watching us argue. We rarely argue in front of him and his brother, but here we were doing it….about the proper representation of a princess as it relates to our five-year-old son’s future aspirations. Moments like these don’t happen in other houses with only sons, do they?
C.J.’s Dad was standing his non-princess ground.
“C.J., there are princesses in real life, but they aren’t like the Disney Princesses or Princess Peach or the other princesses that you know,” I explained. “Here, let’s go look on the computer.”
I showed him a picture of Princess/Duchess Kate Middleton from around the time of her engagement.
“She’s pretty, but she’s not a princess,” he said wrinkling up his nose. I got lost in her perfect hair. How can a person have consistently perfect hair? I had perfect hair once recently. While out the other night I ran into Willam Belli. Yes, THE Willam Belli from RuPaul’s Drag Race. He told me my blow out was great. When one of the most famous drag queens in America tells you that you have a “great” blowout, you don’t wash your hair for three days. This I know.
I found a picture of Princess Kate on her wedding day.
“There she is dressed fancy, with her prince,” I said.
“Dat’s better,” C.J. said, shaking his head in approval.
“But we live in the United States and in the United States we don’t have kings and queens and princes and princesses. We have presidents,” I explained.
I pulled up a photo of President Obama and showed it to C.J. He looked at the photo on the screen and whipped his head back to look at me with a face that said “you’ve got to be kidding me, that’s so boring compared to a monarchy.”
“How far away are the real princesses?”
“Yes, princesses are much farther away than tornadoes.”
“Dat’s far,” he said looking longingly at the photo of Will and Kate on their wedding day.
I turned off the computer and put my clean boy to bed in my moderately clean house, which would be much cleaner in 24 hours.
I put myself to bed and thought about questions that I’m asked quite often.
If I had a little girl, would I allow her to play with princess toys, read princess stories and watch princess movies? Yes. Would I want her to aspire to be a princess? It depends on your definition of a princess. A princess who is helpless without the aid of a man, who has no ambitions of her own and whose most important journey in life is finding true love? No. A princess who is an educated do-gooder who is treated kindly and as an equal by her partner who stands up for the causes dear to her heart and who has a killer blowout? Sure.
Am I treating my fictitious daughter and my gender nonconforming son differently? If so, is that okay? Would I treat my child’s fantasies differently based on their gender? It’s something I pondered as I drifted away to dreamland.