Our oldest granddaughter, who is 4½ or “close to 5” as she says, lives in an apartment building in a diverse pocket of Chicago within walking distance of Target, a thrift store, the lake shore, subsidized housing projects to the north and grand manses of the early 1900s a few blocks south.
This little girl who lives in the city asked her daddy if princesses were real. “Sort of,” he replied. To which she responded, “Do they live way out in the suburbs?”
Where daddy was vague, Grandma would like to be specific.
Yes, Sweetie, princesses are real. And, yes, they do live way out in the suburbs, but they also live in the city, the country, on both coasts and in all the spaces between. The important thing to know is that there are two kinds of princesses, storybook ones and real ones.
Storybook princesses have perfect hair, beautiful skin, dangerously long eyelashes and blood red lips that never pale. Real princesses have stubborn cowlicks, chocolate on their faces and some, like you, may even be missing a front tooth.
You should also know something a little sad about the storybook princesses. They are often helpless. They tend to mope and cry and throw themselves on chaise lounges a lot. Whether it is due to wearing high heels every day or their disproportionate body shapes cutting blood flow to their brains, they also do peculiar things like agree to cook, clean and keep house for seven short, scruffy miners. When you marry one day, Sweetie, you will learn that cooking and cleaning and keeping house with one man is enough. Some days it is more than enough, but don’t tell Grandpa I said that.
Storybook princesses make for entertaining diversions, but the truth is they have small brains. They can only think about one or two things – how they look and whether a prince might be riding by soon. A real princess has many things to think about – playing dress up, building with blocks, learning to write her letters, going to museums, understanding the stock market and making wonderful things from empty toilet paper tubes. Storybook princesses never make clever things from empty toilet paper tubes, which is a shame, because they are missing out.
Since your daddy claims to be king of his castle, or two-bedroom apartment in this case, that makes your mommy queen of the castle and you, therefore, a princess. A real princess.
A real princess must work hard to develop her mind and character and all her abilities so that she can rule over her kingdom – which in your case would be your two younger brothers, at least until they outsize you.
A real princess doesn’t wait for a stranger on horseback to solve her problems; she solves her problems herself. Real princesses embrace the ups and downs of everyday life. They may not live happily ever after, but they know not to take shiny red apples from strangers or consider a pumpkin acceptable transportation.
Lori Borgman’s latest book is “My Memory is Shot, All I Retain Now is Water.” Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.