My sister once told me I should go out with a particular guy because he would treat me like a princess. She meant that he would spoil and pamper me and put my wants and needs above his own. I responded to the meaning of her sentiment by saying “I don’t want to be treated like a princess, I want to be treated like a human being.”
Many women and girls out there share my sister’s opinion about what it means to be treated like a princess. Some add additional meaning such as being eternally in love (thanks for setting that bar, RomComs) or always being taken care of by a man (which I’m sure we all know gets the most flack for good reason). Yet this definition of being treated like a princess centers on the end of the story, on the wedding bells and feasts and especially “happily ever after.”
Those three little words cause no end of mischief. To say someone will live “happily ever after” is to suggest they will never have cause to suffer again, they will never know another worry, smooth sailing till — you know — death. It’s a pretty picture, but it’s not realistic, and it’s a pretty major stumbling block on the road, cutting short fairy tales and girls alike.
Getting the Royal Treatment
Princesses are sentenced to death when their mother-figures feel threatened by them. Princesses are sentenced to death when their father-figures don’t like how they answer questions. Princesses often work — unnoticed and mistreated — as servants doing the most menial jobs possible in the castle-homes of their future husbands.
And that’s just in fairy tales. Real life princesses undergo extensive training so they will not embarrass their kingdoms when they are finally introduced into society to go looking for politically advantageous marriages (or to enter into marriages arranged before they were even born). Sometimes they are made to marry their brothers or cousins to keep the wealth in the family, and sometimes — given a great education just in case — they aren’t even afforded the privileges of their royal birth because whoops they’re the illegitimate child of the king (that’s how Queen Elizabeth I & Mary Queen of Scots both started out, and Henry VIII was totally married to their mothers, and we know how he treats wives).
Yes, there are definite privileges to being born a princess, but in fairy tales — as in life — being treated like a princess for any amount of time is not going to guarantee your happiness and security. If anything, being treated like a princess is just another way of saying you will be tested by all manner of unpleasant experiences in this life. Yet, if you can rise to the occasion, if you can act like a princess, you’ve got a real shot at creating happiness for yourself.
99 Problems and a Prince Ain’t One
Using the word “Princess” as an insult is 100% sexist, and utterly ridiculous when you consider everything princesses have to put up with and do. There are three keys to success when it comes to being a princess in a fairy tale; Kindness, Intelligence, and Hard Work. As a matter of fact, those are the keys to just about everyone’s happiness in any fairy tale.
Have you ever heard of the Thousandfurs Princess? Her father the king promised his queen that he would not remarry unless he found someone just as beautiful as her, fast forward a few years and guess who fit the bill. Yeah, gross, I know, she thought it was gross, too, and she had no intention of going along with her father’s plan (be kind to yourself first and foremost).
The king, however, would not be denied so she tried distracting him by demanding certain “love” tokens; a gown as golden as the sun, a gown as silvery as the moon, a gown as bright as the stars, and a coat made of a thousand different furs (the last one by literal standards is completely excessive and inhumane, but in the moment — and by fairy tale logic/symbolism — it seemed as impossible as any of the three celestial dresses). Yet the king “proved” himself by having everything made to her specifications and he set a date. Her next clever trick: she managed to fit all three of those impossible, glorious gowns inside a walnut shell.
Reigning Ourselves In
We — as princesses all — gain from our education and our experiences skills and talents by which we further our potential, a thing as impossible to measure as gowns made of sun and moon and stars are improbable. Yet our education and experiences also teach us how to hide that which is glorious about ourselves. We have learned as second nature the ability to squeeze our gifts into nut shells and turn ourselves into strange beasts of burden with elaborate coats of a thousand furs, a thousand unworthy hats to wear instead of our rightful crowns.
Every one of us has our reasons for hiding from time to time, concentrating on the wants and needs of other kingdoms. What’s terrifying, though, is when we hide from ourselves and our own wants and needs. Then we have to drop clues in our soup and hope we don’t choke on them:
- a golden ring because our first and best friend should be ourselves;
- a little golden spinning wheel because it is hard work to be ourselves; and,
- a golden reel (now commonly referred to as a spool though it’s use has been altered somewhat) because the fruits of our labor are worth cherishing and putting to proper use.
Grabbing the Ring and Wearing It
We spend a lot of our efforts inadvertently, royally screwing ourselves by allowing others to use the superficiality of a pretty dress to define our way of doing things. We give credence to outdated ideas by avoiding playing dress-up. We give credence by fighting each other on what it means to be a strong, modern woman.
I don’t want to be treated as though I need a man, though I admit to feeling a man was needed when I was younger (adolescent hormones are murder/merdre, and the hormones that come after aren’t much better). I want everyone to treat me as a human being, an equal, a neighbor. I want all of us to treat each other, but especially ourselves, like royalty; human beings with a duty to other human beings.
We are princesses and we are kind, intelligent, and hard working, We are princesses and we choose our right battles. We are royalty, human beings with a duty to other human beings.