I’ve had enough. It’s high time I launch a personal crusade against fluff.
Wielding shield and a finely honed shopping instinct for the fake and the false, I’ve adopted a rallying cry: There’s more to life than being a princess. Really. I’m waging war against the accessories of cartoon royalty: gem-studded tiaras, glittery wands and layers — or is it yards? — of organza and tulle. This battle is never fiercer, never more crucial than during the lead-up to the annual frenzy of Christmas commercialism.
This princess obsession is not new, but it is new to me. Back in 2006, when the last thing on my mind was answering to the title of abuela, journalist Peggy Orenstein published an essay in the New York Times magazine, musing about her daughter’s predilection for all things pink and princessy. It received hundreds of comments. She then went on to pen what surely is the manual of crusaders like me, the 2011 book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. (The title. by the way, isn’t an exaggeration.)
Now, as a grandmother to six girls ranging in ages from 7 years to 7 months, I find myself not only on the frontlines of this girly-girl culture, but also in the trenches: a prime target for all things sparkly.
Was it so when raising my own kids? Don’t think so.
I remember a fixation on all things sports with my four sons. I remember bats and helmets and balls in all shapes. I remember uniforms, score pads and shoulder pads, and, yes, cups and jock straps. I also recall that for a while my only daughter did have a thing for Cabbage Patch dolls.
But not once did she stab herself with a misplaced tiara. She didn’t shriek the lyrics to "Let it Go" at the top of her lungs in the family van either. Her 5-year-old daughter is altogether another story, though. All sugar and spice and everything princessified. Girly? Listen, her photo is next to that entry in the dictionary.
For Halloween, she was Princess Elsa, the Snow Queen from the blockbuster Frozen. My granddaughter insisted not only on the blue gown but on the distinctive side braid as well. So did four other girls in her kindergarten class.
If you have any doubt that Disney has stolen our little girls’ souls, consider this: The National Retail Federation reported that Elsa, her sister Anna, and their snowman sidekick Olaf knocked Barbie off the top spot for popularity this holiday season. No surprise there. Pumped by a relentless marketing campaign, the princess factory regularly produces characters that worm their way into our daughters’ heart with just the right combination of prissiness and determination. It’s a $4 billion industry with a better return on investment than a tech startup.
Truth, I don’t have an issue with princesses per se. Let the girls sashay and warble hit songs to their heart’s content, but I also want to provide my darlings with a modicum of balance. Life is not all about brocaded gowns and magic glass slippers.
In that effort, the toy elves in my employ have been hard at work. So far we have wrapped a couple of remote control helicopters, one truck, a build-your-own bug kit, and half a dozen National Geographic books. On order: a telescope for the 7-year-old who likes “to look at stars and see if anything is going on up there.’’
Maybe soon my granddaughters and their starry-eyed friends will figure out that Prince Charming may be a hunk and that a gown can catch the light just so at a royal ball — but why wait for either one to rule the kingdom?