By WENDY HODGE
dreamed the other night that my daughter was a little girl again. In my dream, she sat in front of the TV in the house she grew up in and, on the TV in front her, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast played on the screen. The original animated version … the good stuff.
That was my Abbey’s favorite movie for several years. We watched it together approximately 2,729 times. I’d give anything to watch it again with her right now, her little girl fingers wrapped around mine. We sang along with the teapot and the candelabra. We cringed when the beast roared at Belle. We clapped when Gaston was defeated and the beast became a prince again.
But our favorite part was the beginning — the part where Belle dances through the village singing about the joy of reading. Abbey’s eyes would light up. Here was a Disney “princess” who was an absolute book nerd. She was smart and beautiful and wanted nothing more than to live in a library and be left alone to read.
Abbey loved the rest of the movie, too … but the beginning, before the prince entered the picture, was when her eyes lit up.
I asked her once why she enjoyed Belle in her pre-prince days. She said, with the wisdom of a little girl’s mind, “There’s no such thing as a prince, but books are real.”
And so I have battled through her whole life, and quite possibly my own as well, to overcome the myth that Disney has spun for our daughters. And for our sons, too.
Books are indeed real, and so are princes. They just don’t look like Disney’s creations.
It took a long time to figure it out, but I know what a prince looks like. He is not always handsome. In fact, he often is a bit scruffy around the edges. His hands are not manicured and pretty. They are rough and worn because he works hard. He works at his job and in his home and in his yard.
His shoulders are strong because he bears so many burdens. He supports his family, and that includes parents as well as children. He listens and takes on the problems of those he loves. He wants to solve them, even when there is no solution.
His eyes are not perfectly shaped with long lashes and a permanent twinkle. They are sometimes bloodshot and tired because nights don’t always mean peace. There are lines around his eyes because he smiles often and laughs loudly. Because he is always watching over others, his eyesight may have begun to dim a bit.
His smile is not a photoshopped thing of perfection, but it is a thing of beauty because his heart shines through. He grins at the absurd and lovely things life offers, and his smile is most full when his family is happy and safe.
He doesn’t sing like Pavarotti or even like Harry Styles, but his made-up songs ring through the house. He serenades from the shower. He sings along with the radio. He is shameless in his inability, singing with gusto and more laughter.
His daily uniform is not a royal crown and scepter. It is work clothes and a working man’s shoes. He is not escorted around a palace, and he rarely rides a horse. He drives a truck and hauls around large bags of dog food and charcoal for the grill.
He doesn’t slay dragons. He fights the good fight of a parent who will never stop worrying.
He does not run a kingdom, but he runs a household. He fixes things when they’re broken. He plants things, and they grow. He makes things safe.
His arms are strong and his heart is true because he is a man.
It isn’t politically correct for any woman to say they need a prince. Link in to social media for more than a minute, and you will see commercials and songs and books that proclaim that any woman worth her salt doesn’t need a man. She doesn’t need anybody, “they” say.
But I beg to differ. I am a capable woman, well-read and educated, hard-working and strong. And yet, I am not at all ashamed to say that I need a man. I need a prince. Not to survive, because I can certainly survive by myself. But I want to do more than survive. I want to be fulfilled and happy. I want to share my life and myself with a man who is my prince.
And I’m fortunate enough to say that I have that. He drives a Cook’s truck and catches bass and trout and cooks a mean beef stroganoff and shrimp fettuccini. And I’m wise enough to recognize him for what he is.
I hope we haven’t short-changed our daughters when we’ve taught them to be strong. I hope we haven’t misled them into thinking that being strong means you need no one. I hope we haven’t taken away their natural desire to be half of a pair that makes them whole.
I hope my Abbey knows that Belle is wonderful, with her books and her brain and her songs. I hope she knows, too, that a real prince will sing along with Belle and be proud of her intelligence. And buy her books, not because she can’t buy them herself, but just because he loves her and wants to see her smile.
I hope we paint a picture for all our girls of what a real prince looks like, so they’ll know him when they see him.