Monday, 22 October 2007

House of princesses

When I was younger, there were a lot of things I thought I wanted to be - my ambitions changed as I got older: dinosaur, spaceman, Jedi, Atari games tester, Winona Ryders boyfriend, etc, etc. These days I've trimmed my ambition according to circumstance and my dreams are a lot more mundane: I'd quite like a few hours peace, a cup of tea and to somehow manage to go for a full week without either my wife or daughters accidentally hitting, kicking or stamping on my testicles. A man can still dream, even if he dreams small, right?
Amelie, however, is dreaming big. She knows precisely what she wants to be when she grows up. She want to be...a Princess.
I am not quite sure when this started - it has been creeping up on us gradually for a while - but my foolish purchase of "The Little Mermaid" on DVD a few months ago was definitely the catalyst. Now, not a day goes by without some kind of Disney Princess related activity, and I'm begin to struggle with it a bit.
First of all, why is it all so pink? I'm sick of looking at pink. Dresses, and hairclips, and hairbrushes, and dolls houses, and magic fairy wands that light up and go 'Sh-sh-sh-shing!"when they are left on the landing overnight so that you accidentally split your toenail on them in the dark: all of them the same sickly bubblegum colour.
Then, there's the tiaras. When you have a little girl who likes putting on a tiara to look like a princess, well, that's cute. When that same little girl wants to wear her tiara in bed, that's a bit irritating but you can indulge her. But when that same little girl wants to wear her tiara to school, so that the other children can recognise she's a princess, that's a little suggests the first signs of megalomania.
Next: the music. This is in many ways the worst part. I recall that I mildly enjoyed the soundtrack to 'Beauty and the Beast' at the time I was watching the film, but that doesn't mean I want to hear it 6 times a day, and it especially means I don't want to dance round the living room to it before my first coffee of the day, thanks very much. After endless repetition, the saccharine tunes colonise your brain and I have started to grow faintly resentful of all the space they must be taking up: I now know, for example, that there is an anthropomorphic cockney teapot in 'Beauty and the Beast' called Mrs.Potts who was voiced by Angela Lansbury("Orf to the cubbud wiv yer now, Chip, it's past yer bedtime..."). What possible use is that information to me, outside of a pub quiz? Storing that knowledge is just wasted brain cells. What treasured childhood memory got written over to store that?
Part of the problem is that Amelie does not think that me passively sitting there 'enjoying' (read: enduring) 'Princess songs' is enough: she demands a much higher level of audience participation. So if Daddy is is the room when 'A whole new world' from 'Aladdin' is playing, then Daddy must sing the part of Aladdin. If Daddy refuses, the Princess will be upset. If Daddy gets the words wrong, the Princess will berate him. If Daddy makes too many errors in his rendition, the Princess will stop the CD, and we will start over again, until Daddy had learnt the words properly and enough of the 'the magic' has been recreated for the Princess to dance to...
Finally, perhaps what bothers me most is where Amelie percieves my place to be in the royal pecking order, as illustrated at a recent bathtime. During the following exchange, it should go without saying that she was wearing a plastic tiara in the bath that she had refused to take off:
A: "Look at all these lovely bubbles Daddy! I am Princess of bubbles!"
P: (wearily) "Yep. You are."
A: "I am the Princess of bubbles, and of mermaids, and of sea fairies."
P: "Uh huh. And what about Nevey? She is your sister, so she must be a princess, too."
A: "Yes. She is. She can be Princess of...sea turtles. And fish. And shells. And...sea weed"
P: "Right. Well, lucky old Neve - I like how you've generously left her some of the best things to be 'Princess of' there. And what about Mummy? If you are the Princess of mermaids, Mummy must be a sea queen."
A: "Yes. That's right. Mummy is the sea queen."
P: "And what about Daddy?"
A: (confused) "Daddy?"
P: "Yes, Daddy. Me. What am I?"
A: (still puzzled) "You are...a man."
P: "A man? Just 'a man'? Mummy gets to be the queen of the sea, and I am 'a man'?"
A: (nodding encouragingly, as if reassuring the feeble-minded) "Yes. A man."
P: "Surely, if Mummy is the queen, I must be the king, Amelie? I am the sea king."
A: (emphatically) "No."
P: "No..?"
A: "No. You are just a man..."
There is a lengthy pause, largely because I am at a loss for words. Finally, unable to muster a suitable comeback, I manage to say "I see" in a small wounded voice, which is hardly the most robust defence of my claim to the throne.
Having satisfied herself that any delusions of grandeur I might harbour have been sufficiently crushed, the Princess of Bubbles turns away imperiously and starts to check out her royal reflection in the taps.
P: (grumpily) "You shouldn't be wearing a tiara in the bath, anyway..."
A: (hotly) "But I am the princess!"