“I’m the princess and Daddy’s the prince!” My daughter shouted, lifting arms up high, in her pronouncement of love for her father. I thought, ‘This is the wrong order of things,’ a cloudy thought circled in the back of my head, I could use this to my advantage.
“No, if you’re the princess, then Daddy’s the King and I’m the Queen,” after a few recitations of this she got it. I was the Queen, Daddy was the King, and she was the Princess. I felt that I could use my new found status as a parlay into my unquestionable authority. I have yet to have to invoke the rule of the queen, but in a pinch I just might.
Later in the day I realized that becoming queen did change my status, by all definitions I was no longer a princess. I’ve never thought of myself as much of a princess, really more the anti-princess. A few years ago I was chatting excitedly with a friend about a new romance of hers, then it dawned on me,
“Wait, I’m the sidekick,” it popped. My reality had changed, in prevalent romantic comedies the whole story is the falling in love, the beginning of romance. Each movie culminating in marriage or the protagonists finally declaring love for each other. My own personal romance had culminated in marriage about two years prior. I was now relegated to the sidelines, the snappy friend who has something wise and wonderful to say to her friend, but is no longer the center of attention. The birth of my children pushes me even farther away from the center stage. I am the rare movie friend, the young mom, still snappy and full of sage advice but sweatpants clad, harried, and maybe a little too truthful. I am there to remind the young ingénue of her future, does she really want love, marriage, and then the baby in the baby carriage? I am sure to guarantee her that it’s all worth it and point out the one character flaw that keeps her from true love. I still am the center of my own life, aren’t I?
As I’ve aged I’ve watched the actresses I’ve grown up with, age along with me. Seeing Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron becoming the queens in movies rather than princesses has surprised me. I don’t feel older, I certainly don’t think I look that much older. I’m sure I do, crinkles at the side of my eyes, sexy on a man but sad on a woman, a waist thickened by childbearing, some looser skin.
Here it was again. I was the queen. Relegated to the background of fairy tales. What does it mean to be queen? More responsibility? Wider hips? At best queens are smiling, chubby, and wise, at worst they are driven to mad jealousy by the loss of their beauty. These paradigms make me uncomfortable with my new status. I resent the mad jealous characters, as if my only value is my face and if I lose that I have nothing left to offer. I like the wise characters, but I still feel as if they only exist to be there for the princess.
There is a shift though. I feel like parenthood is the last stage of maturation, suddenly your life doesn’t revolve around you and what you want, there are these little creatures to consider and their needs are so much louder than your own. I remember the shift that suddenly I just became the person in back of the stroller, the steward of this adorable new creature that everyone needed to see. I honestly never minded, sometimes a joke would be made when the person was a friend, after greeting my child first they would say something like,
‘Oh hi, Lara,’ I would smile and say something like,
‘I’m back here too.’ Most of the time I don’t mind, in some ways it’s nice to no longer be the center of my own world, there’s only so much of me that needs tending to, and being self absorbed can be so tedious. I suppose that’s what queens do, they need to think about other people first. Their needs become less important, the people that they take care of come first. The loss of princess-ness in my life is not really something I mourn, in some ways it just is what is; we all get older. Surely the aging process is not something that all women look forward to, but I am thankful for some things that those crinkles around my eyes have brought me, some wisdom, a little more calm in a storm, and quite a few precious memories….and maybe a few precious children.