The other day, a little girl who was visiting our store with her mother climbed up on a chair beside me to tell me about her morning. Despite the fact that she and I were having a perfectly nice conversation about the rain (we apparently ingrain these weather-related conversations into children early on in Minnesota), several middle aged women felt the need to interrupt our chat to tell the girl what a pretty little princess she was. Something about this need to refer to little girls as princesses always raises my hackles. If I’d been talking to a boy, I doubt anyone would have felt compelled to tell him what a handsome little prince he was. People just don’t talk to boys that way. If anything, they would have told him he was strong and smart, adjectives that are sorely underused for girls.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m waging a one-woman feminist revolt against the very women who allegedly secured my freedom with their swingin’ 60s sexual revolution. I can’t tell you how many times a certain older woman has commented on my apparently inevitable future marriage, despite my protestations that I don’t really have any desire to get married. I’m not opposed to marriage in general, but it’s not something I’ve ever imaged as integral to my future, so it’s depressing to me that so many older women assume it’s a given. I can’t be the only woman my age who hasn’t been drawing up plans for a wedding since kindergarten.

Recently, our friend Patchy began looking for her first house. When I mentioned this to my employer, her response was something like, “By herself? But who’ll mow the lawn and shovel the driveway?” Well, last time I checked, Patchy was still in possession of all her limbs and they were in working order. Do ovaries prevent a person from operating a lawn mover? I never knew! It’s one thing to say it’d be nice to have a partner to help you out with the big things in life and to be there for all the joys and frustrations, but it’s another thing entirely to imply you need a partner, particularly a male partner, to take care of the handy work. How then do lesbians buy houses together if neither one of them can operate a snow blower?!

Partly, my ire stems from a desire to see girls claim more for themselves. If you insist on being a member of the royal family, why settle for life as a mere princess? Why not at least become a queen so you can wield some power? When people refer to girls as princesses, they’re implying daintiness, helplessness, and physical beauty; is that really the best a girl can aspire to? When I was little, I didn’t want to be a princess, I wanted to be the quick-witted, adventurous Vesper Holly (basically the female Indiana Jones) in Lloyd Alexander’s novels. None of that sappy “someday my prince will come” nonsense for me! I recommend parents read their tots The Paper Bag Princess about a girl who rescues herself—and the prince.

T

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