princessAmerican mom, Jennifer Fulwiser, writes about the enduring appeal of princesses to little girls, and how the effort to steer her own three towards My First Semiconductor kit, even if she could bring herself to make it, seems doomed. Here’s an excerpt:

I was a prime candidate for a girl whose self esteem would be hurt by pop culture princess fairy tales, especially since I grew up back when cartoonists were utterly unconcerned with portraying realistic images of women. These fictional ladies had tiny waists, slender necks, dainty noses, thick, flowing hair, and they always ended up with a handsome prince in the end. In other words, they were the exact opposite of those of us whose physical appearances inspired nicknames based on giant woodland ape-men. So you would think that Cinderella and her ilk would have taken any sense of self worth I had, shattered it into a thousand pieces, and stomped on it with a glass slipper. But that’s not what happened.

I recall coming home from a screening of the 1950s version of Sleeping Beauty, so excited I felt like I could burst. I ran to my room and danced and sung like that pretty lady I’d seen on the screen, unaware and unconcerned that I could neither dance nor sing and was lurching back and forth making a noise like a malfunctioning carburetor. Rarely had I felt so full of hope, so aware of the great potential my life held. Far from making me feel bad about myself, Sleeping Beauty taught me to dream.

So how did that work? How did Miss Beauty avoid turning me into a neurotic mess? I think a big part of it has to do with the way children understand fantasy.

Sleeping Beauty was a cartoon, and, as such, it was very clear to my child’s mind that this was not real life. By watching the movie I was peeking into a dreamy realm of imagination, where the images on the screen were symbolic of esoteric truths about the human experience that were hard for me to articulate. When a cartoon princess would go from poverty to riches, I didn’t take that to mean that I would have to have a couple million in the bank in order to be complete; I simply received the message that it’s possible to end up with a good and happy life, even if you start out in bad circumstances. When the princess donned a glittering ball gown for her marriage to the prince, I didn’t despair at the fact that I’d never look that gorgeous or that my chances for ever snagging a prince were looking slim; rather, I thrilled at seeing the triumph of the underdog, and took courage in the reminder that even people who have all the odds stacked against them can prevail.

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