Down with the Crown!

Why princes and princesses aren't fun

The day after the world watches in rapture as Prince William and Kate Middleton become man and wife, the Please Touch Museum is hosting its own royal celebration, with more than a thousand wee princes and princesses (far more of the latter, I’ll wager, than the former) congregating for a “Storybook Ball.”

Oh really, Please Touch?

The mini royals will be greeted by—who else?—Prince Charming and transported to “magical lands far away,” according to the press release I got announcing the charity event. They’ll get rides in horse-drawn carriages and hot-air balloons, as well as hang out with storybook characters at a meet-and-greet.

Can we agree on something right now? “Storybook” = “fairy-tale” as an adjective, and Merriam Webster says fairy-tale means “marked by seemingly unreal beauty, perfection, luck, or happiness.” As in, “This doesn’t exist in real life.” As in, “This is not something young girls should aspire to.” There is no freaking Prince Charming. Nobody is ever going to sweep you off your feet and up a staircase and make everything all right forever after. And the sooner we stop putting little girls in horse-drawn carriages and dressing them in princess clothes, the sooner they’ll get that notion into their heads.

Just about now, I expect to hear from a frequent commenter on my posts who likes to reveal that once upon a time, I wrote romance novels! I know, shameless, right? How can I be a feminist if I wrote books like that? What I always want to explain to said commenter is that I stopped writing romance novels nine years ago, when my daughter turned 12, precisely because I’d become convinced that they send an unhealthy, unrealistic message to young women—the message that you don’t have to make a life for yourself, because someone is magically going to come along and hand the perfect one to you.

That’s the princess story, in a nutshell. It’s what we all thought was happening when William’s daddy married Diana, and look how that turned out. There’s some question as to whether Kate will actually become a princess, due to the arcane nature of British titles. But there will be a big poufy white dress and a cast of thousands and a horse-drawn carriage on her wedding day—along with the hopes of millions of people that her story winds up in the right kinds of books, and not a series of he said/she said tell-alls, the way her groom’s parents’ did.

I also hope the Please Touch Museum’s fund-raiser is a ton of fun. But I wish it had chosen a different theme, one that didn’t perpetuate unreal expectations that keep girls from becoming all that they can be.