I learned from my 2-year-old granddaughter the other day that her mommy had a "tummy ache" and needed a Band-Aid.
"Does she want a Band-Aid with princesses on it?" I asked her.
OK. Before I continue, I want to offer a word of advice here. Never ever, EVER say the words "princess" and "Band-Aid" to a 2-year-old girl unless you actually have one in your possession.
Which, of course, I did not.
Seriously, why would the mother of nondaughters (like me, for example) have a stash of princess Band-Aids in the medicine cabinet? I was just joking around with my 2-year-old granddaughter, because you know how 2-year-olds are. NOT LITERAL, right?
As soon as I asked, my granddaughter squealed with joy and started doing baby handsprings around the room. YES! PRINCESS BAND-AIDS! LIFE JUST GETS BETTER AND BETTER!
So obviously I knew right then that I was in b.i.g. trouble. I fake-looked for princess Band-Aids for a few minutes, then delivered the bad news.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart. The Princess Band-Aid Easter Bunny forgot to leave us some of those this year."
She didn't cry. For long. And as I watched my granddaughter pick up the pieces of her shattered Princess Band-Aid Dreams, I thought to myself, "Ah. The Princess Phenomenon has hit home."
You know what I'm talking about. Everywhere you look these days, there are princesses, princesses, princesses. Princess dolls. Princess books. Princess costumes. Princess crafts. Princess movies. Princess Band-Aids. (Except at my house.) Topless princesses accidentally getting their pictures taken in France. Bottomless princes accidentally getting their pictures taken in Vegas. But that's another story.
(MEMO FROM QUEEN ELIZABETH TO HER GRANDCHILDREN: We would be most pleased if you would conspire to keep your clothing on for a change.)
I don't remember the landscape of my own girlhood being so princess-intensive. There were fairy tales, of course. And a few Disney movies. Still. I don't ever remember pretending to be a princess or even thinking that princesses had more fun than I did in real life. Besides, I wanted to be an orphan, because (as everybody knows) orphans are awesome. They live in boxcars and fix their own food and do odd jobs in nearby towns so that they won't have to live with their cruel grandfathers.
But now? It's all princesses, all the time.
We have our fair share of princess books at the store where I occasionally work, and little girls devour them whole. Most parents roll their eyes indulgently when their daughters make a beeline to the princess shelf, assuming (I suppose) that this is just another phase. But some parents are militant in their opposition to the princess thing. Perhaps they've read Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein, who maintains that participating in the subculture of princess has serious, long-term consequences, including the early sexualization of girls.
Or maybe those parents just hate princesses.
I myself have no idea what to think about the Princess Phenomenon. I didn't have sisters and I didn't have daughters, so quite frankly girls are a mystery to me. I know! I'm just like that clueless guy you dumped after the first date!
That's why I'd like to hear your thoughts on the subject.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.