A sobering look at princess fantasies
I have two nieces, ages 8 and 9, who wanted me to take them to a place in the mall. I’d never heard of it. I understood afterward why I’d never been there, because I have only sons. As I was going into the store with my nieces, I suffered sensory overload. There was a pallet of wigs, shelves of makeup, high heels, feather boas, sparkling tiaras, pink tops and little frilly skirts everywhere.
The store’s advertising says, “Girls are not just girls … they’re Very Important Princesses!” My nieces were interested in purchasing “experience packages.” After reading what was available, I thought, “Exactly what is it that they want these girls to experience?” The packages included Secret Celebrity, which was an official Hannah Montana wig and having full makeup applied by an employee. Included with each package is a makeup selection to use later to maintain their new “look.” They could also have their ears pierced here, as well as purchase crystal tattoos to apply.
After choosing our “experience package,” we were escorted over to the style studio across from the store. There were some very intense little girls in there who knew exactly how they wanted their makeup and hair done. They stared into mirrors, mesmerized with their new, sophisticated images, while the sales associates worked on them. They were definitely “unlocking their inner princess” while they were all being worked on. I felt like I was at an audition for the movie “Pretty Baby,” in which Brooke Shields played a child prostitute.
To be fair, the associates in the store working with the little girls are patient with even their most trying “clients.” One little girl had a meltdown because she didn’t like being stared at by the people who stopped and looked into the studio. Observing the little girls, I was thinking what a great place this would be for pedophiles to spend an afternoon.
I can identify with wanting to play dress-up. The store’s concept made me think of playing with my mother’s makeup and in her closet. But another part of me was thinking, “Is this training to be a future Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears?” I think every little girl should think of herself as a very important person, but a princess? It’s not always a pretty process learning we aren’t going to be treated like princesses when we grow up. To all those little girls in the mall stores: Have fun, but don’t forget, real life doesn’t include a glittering tiara and a perfectly made-up face.
Elizabeth Dorsey Hatle is a Minneapolis social studies teacher and writer. She is raising her sons to treat girls with respect, which she says is not always easy in a culture that values looks over intelligence.