I believe not everybody can be a princess. When I was little, I wanted to be a princess. I imagined a fairy tale world bathed in lavender and pink, where I was entitled to anything I wanted. This included a pony, a canopy bed and an unlimited supply of butterscotch candy. Oh, and gobs of attention.
Then, when I was four, a Native American woman visited my preschool. She sat with us in a circle and talked about her tribe and its customs. Then, no doubt off the top of her head, she bestowed upon each child an Indian name. The boys got strong monikers like Soaring Eagle. The girls got princess names. Princess Moon and the like. But when she got to me she said “You are Rabbit’s Foot.” Not Princess Rabbit’s Foot. Just plain Rabbit’s Foot.
I looked at the little girl next to me, who had been dubbed Princess Autumn Leaves and wondered what she had that I didn’t have. Whatever the mysterious quality was, I thought to myself, “Not everyone can be a princess.”
And indeed, whatever I was growing up, I wasn’t a princess. My father never once called me his “princess.” His nickname for me, blond curls and all, was “gator.” At kindergarten, the popular girls – the ones with the black patent leather shoes – never let me sit with them no matter what I wore. This pattern repeated itself through high school and college as well.
Not being a princess freed me. I didn’t feel it necessary to be the center of attention or that I was the prettiest girl my class. I reveled in nature walks that involved finding toads that I never had the urge to kiss. If all the girls were wearing a hot shoe or handbag or jelly bracelet, I didn’t have to have one. Sure, I occasionally coveted something frivolous and material, but I never felt entitled to it. And if I got praise, I earned it. Princesses, on the other hand, are born to be praised.
As an adult, I once went shopping for an evening gown. The saleswoman told me “You look like a princess.” The line didn’t work. I also open doors for myself, pay my own bills, and bought my own house. And my dog came from a shelter, complete with a crooked tail and an overbite.
Recently, I told a friend the story of my pre-school Indian naming. She grinned and pointed out something wonderful. “Rabbit’s Foot means good luck. That’s way better than being a princess.”
I was stunned. I had been so fixated on my lack of princessness, that I never realized what a terrific name I got. And I am lucky. Lucky to live in an industrialized country with plenty of hot water and fresh vegetables. Lucky my job doesn’t suck out a little of my soul each day. Lucky I’ve never been forced to marry anyone or locked in a tower. And lucky that, every once and a while, I treat myself to a facial or a pair of unnecessary shoes. And because I am not a princess, I don’t expect luxury, joy, praise or love. I just feel lucky when some of it comes my way.
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