When I was really little, I studied Disney cartoons with a fierce curiosity. Convinced that they contained within them the secret to becoming a princess, I watched them religiously. I determined that the only true qualification (besides being born into royalty which was really not that difficult to overcome somehow in my little mind) was that they were fair of face. I asked my sister to look the word fair up for me, and she said it meant pale. Well, if pale was a qualification for becoming a princess then I was well on my way. If I stood in front of a light you could practically see through me. I was going to be a princess.
I started to read simple fairy tales when I was around three. My mom bought me this glorious fairy tale collection with beautiful pictures, and I’d pour over it daily, memorizing the tricks and incantations that would help me to survive once the world realized that I was, indeed, a princess. It was when I was reading those collections that I started to realize that being a princess really isn’t all its cracked up to be. At first I thought it would be great to have jewels pour from my mouth when I speak because I’d be able to support my family by telling stories, which was, of course, my favorite thing to do. My parents often told me to find what I love to do and make a career out of it, and I figured that was about as close as I could get to perfection. Then came the stomach flu in which I discerned that my mom only gave me pepto because she knew I liked the color pink, and it would make the ensuing illness a little less horrible. I realized that it is never cool to have something come out of your mouth, even if it is pink, even if it is a bar of gold.
That was the beginning of wisdom for me, and I began to think about what would be better than a princess. At this time, fairy tales were so much a part of my life that they colored everything I did. I looked at the world through the sepia lens of magic. Anything was possible because everything was written. It was also around this time that I started pulling faces like the bratty little princess I thought I was. My dad promised that if I continued to pull faces, my face would get stuck like that forever if someone patted me on the back. The risk of being patted, I was assured, was pretty damn high. Then, to paraphrase Rives, I got my light-bulb pose. Being a princess was terrible for most of the story, getting livable only at the very end when some prince fixed everything. I didn’t want a prince (boys were icky), so I needed to figure out a way to do it on my own. I needed a character with a better life.
I decided that I would become a witch. The witch starts out with a pretty comfortable existence, losing it only when the prince rescued the princess from her evil plot. The first thing I had to do was make myself hideous. Everyone knows that witches are witches because they are too ugly to be princesses. So I started practicing my ugliest faces and trying to smack my back so that they would stay contorted. I also practiced casting spells, mixing potions in the backyard to make dragons and gingerbread houses. I even tried to adopt a familiar by talking to the crows that hung out in our backyard. The best I managed with them was that they would caw at me when I would caw at them. I was probably cussing at them in crow. My poor parents were left to explain to people why I was growling and smacking my back repeatedly. They eventually paired it down to “We think maybe she’s a feminist.” No one was really wondering in those days if I’d ever get to be president.
As you can probably tell by the fact that my house is made of bricks and not gingerbread, the fact that I have no warts, and the fact that I rarely, if ever, fatten children up to eat them, I failed in my quest to become a witch. However, I feel like I am still successful because I am also not a princess. Also, there’s a dragon living in my backyard, so that’s cool.
The moral of this story, kiddos, is don’t listen to your parents when they tell you that your face will stick. That’s bologna. Also bologna is the idea that you will pee the bed if you play with fire. On the other hand, since this is still a fairy tale, you may very well pea the bed and wake up cranky and sore. But hey, in the end you’ll get to marry some guy you just met. I hear he is a real prince.