Let's talk for a moment about disney princesses, shall we?
I was once a preschool-aged girl myself. And I'm certain that I loved the princess set as is to be expected. In fact, I have a very vivid memory of standing in my grandparent's kitchen and proudly flashing half of my family my brand new Belle underwear. This memory haunted my pre-teen years as being the most mortifying thing I ever brought upon myself.
I currently have a love/hate relationship with the disney princesses. I'm pretty vocal about the fact I am careful about what Grace watches on TV and how much she watches. Not in a judge-y way, because I am absolutely not above placing her in front of the television during that horrific hour after school and before dinner so I can
cook dinner not totally lose my mind. But disney princesses? The messages their fairy tales impart...enchanting, yet terrifying.
In 2010, Disney played a mind trick on me. They released Beauty and the Beast "from the vault". Obviously panic ensued and I rushed out to purchase it BEFORE IT WAS TOO LATE (It went back into the vault last April. I'm on to you, Disney). Because Beauty and the Beast is my disney princess kryptonite.
Cinderella? Glorified maid and full time doormat. Relied on a fairy godmother to fix her problems and then when she lost her shoe (sloppy) just waited around for her prince to find her and put it back on her foot.
Sleeping Beauty? Literally forced to sleep through her life until her true love "awakened her" at age 16. That's the stuff of all parental nightmares.
Ariel? Actually changed not only her geographical location but her physical attributes so she could be with her prince. Heidi Montag, I'm guessing The Little Mermaid was totally your favorite.
Snow White? My mom actually refers to her as a "ho". Cooked and clean for not ONE but seven little men.
But Belle, she showed promise. She loved to read (which pleased my nerd girl self). She had goals. Her dad was bat-shit crazy, which is clearly character building. She saw past the superficial stuff and fell in love with a man who was quite literally a beast and always managed to tell the town "hottie" to shove it.
Now granted, once she realized the Beast was a handsome prince and that giant castle stopped being so doom and gloom and got rid of those walking, talking, singing utensils and household items...she seemed pretty content to embrace that "provincial life". But all and all...Belle is my girl.
Grace also loves Belle. She tells everyone that Belle is her favorite because she reads books. Normally when I hear my words coming out of her mouth, I'm mildly horrified, but that is one statement I whole-heartedly endorse.
This new adoration of Belle has led to lots of questions. About love. And getting married. We've been to a few weddings lately and the institute of marriage, a mystery to most adults, is an extremely difficult concept to explain to a 3 year old. And it has led me to face the terrifying reality that someday, sooner than I'm ready to admit, my baby is going to want to date. And someone is undoubtedly going to break that little heart that I so laboriously created, crafted to be kind and generous and open. And I'm going to have to resist the urge to break their face.
I've learned a few lessons about love myself, but honestly, I'm still not 100% clear on the whole thing. My parents, who celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary today have also imported some lessons on me by osmosis.
So Grace? Take my advice for what it is. Flawed and not foolproof and probably not even something I always take myself. But it comes from a place of love, of wanting the very best for you. John Steinbeck wrote, in a letter to his teenaged son Thom on the subject of falling in love- "The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it".
The first time you think you're in love? You probably aren't. But I promise to fluctuate between supporting you and being excited for you and threatening to lock you in your room until you're 30.
Trust your instincts. There's never been a time that I've had a gut feeling about someone and been super glad I didn't go with it. Treat respect as the minimum, non-negotiable expectation. Everyone that you allow into your life is going to teach you some kind of valuable lesson. Sometimes, it just takes a lot of crying in the shower and Ben and Jerry's to decode it. Try not to let yourself become too cynical and guarded. You get back what you give out. Not everyone who tells you they love you will mean it- so save it for when it counts, not to make someone feel better or because you feel pressured to do so. When someone loves you, you won't need to hear it because you will feel it, infinitely. Relationships are hard work, but don't confuse hard work with feeling like garbage all the time.
Steinbeck also wrote "And don't worry about losing. If it is right, it happens- the main thing is not to worry. Nothing good gets away" Seems to me that guy really knew what he was talking about.
Nurture your passions. Dream so big that it scares you. My life thus far has been relatively happy. I want yours to be exponentially happier. The person you are meant to be with will encourage you, challenge to grow and be there by your side when you need them to be. Love yourself. Love your friends. Love your family. The rest will all fall into place.
At least, that's what I'm hoping for.