Last week I happened upon a rant against girlish infatuations with princesses. Apparently, it sets us up for a lifetime of disappointment. As a mother of two sons, I worry that my little men demonstrate too much repugnance for all such “yucky stuff.”
Only one man ever called me his “little princess.” No biological relation, he fathered the neighbor boy with whom I played house and pretended to parent my younger brother before we started school and discovered boys and girls were not supposed to enjoy one-another’s company. In the same week that I learned of Peggy Orenstein’s crisis in chiffon, the Lebanese immigrant physician, who graciously granted me a noble appellation, left this life.
His three sons stood at the altar and took turns to deliver eulogies more impassioned and poetic than anything I could attempt. As I sat silently weeping in my pew, I contemplated what it meant to me to have such a man think me a princess and of my good fortune to have his son as my surrogate older brother, pseudo-spouse, and permanent playmate.
To a man born as his wife says, “without a pot to pee in,” his sons and I lived the lives of aristocrats. He appears above dressed for Halloween as if he’d just dismounted a camel. In daily life, he was a devout practitioner of Lebanon’s ancient Christianity, who cut a dapper image in coat and tie. To me, he appeared larger than life. Tall and handsome, he embodied the term ‘bearing’ before I knew what it meant and spoke in mysterious tones shaped by the pipe in mouth as well as the lingering tones of his mother tongue. To have such an imposing person declare you a princess makes a lasting impression indeed.
To me, ‘princess’ never meant banal Barbie doll beauty. I suspect the poor young man who in college attempted to tell me I looked nice by saying I resembled a Barbie doll never forgot the verbal onslaught that ensued. A true princess can keep up her end of the conversation with a well-educated, citizen of the world. My neighbor taught me that. He instilled my lasting desire to merit the label. I spend my life in a heartfelt effort to imbue a new generation with his equal confidence in the halls of power as the back-allies of barrios.
My playmate and his brothers each wear their father’s mantle with ease. They change the lives they touch with art and science in their professions. A glimpse at their spouses and children reveals their devotion to domestic life. They, like their father, are princes among men. I am thankful that once upon a time I was their princess.