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As a life-long princess-fantasy-lover, I love this advertising campaign (and by a Catholic school, no less). It tells young women things like, “You are not a princess.” “Life is not a fairy tale.” Despite decades of feminism, it’s still a message women need to hear.  Click here to check it out.

I adored princesses growing up. My Disney storybook had a darker edge on the princess section of the book where my grubby thumbs kept flipping just those pages as I read them over and over. I never met a Barbie doll I didn’t love, and the flouncier her dress, the better. I got up at 5:00 am at the age of eleven so as not to miss the ultimate real-life princess event of my generation: the wedding of Princess Diana. Even before I hit puberty, I ached for that kind of happy ending.

I crushed on boys hard, falling madly in love with my first high school boyfriend, pining for him into my twenties. When I hit my mid-twenties, my red alarm went on for marriage: I absolutely had to do it when everyone else was. I met my (now ex) husband in my mid-twenties and clung on for dear life. He wasn’t the best one for me (or even all that well-suited to me) but he was in the right place at the right time. I mean it not as a knock on him but on myself when I say that I married him because that was the age to do it and because I was ready for my prince and my happily-ever-after. And, well, you’ve guessed how that fairy tale turns out.

The expectation of rescue and of being “swept off your feet” is rampant in our society. Everything from television shows to well-meaning aunts suggest that life will be better/sweeter/more interesting when we finally find a man to validate us. We yearn for the “happy ending” that we tell ourselves a wedding is. Women who find a man to support them are “lucky.” (I had that kind of luck. Here’s hoping I never have it again).

The damage this idea can cause is vast. You can see it in women of all ages, like the twenty-four year old, highly capable and smart woman at work I just recently overheard lamenting that she would never find a guy. Or like the many middle-aged women I know who stay with husbands they barely tolerate and for whom they don’t have even a shred of sexual desire because they’re afraid they won’t be able to pay the bills on their own or otherwise live outside the prison of their old, crumbled fairy tale.

That’s why I can finally call myself a princess in recovery. Do I believe in fairy tale romances anymore? No. Do I believe in love and lifelong companionship? Absolutely. But when I look around to see who’s coming to rescue me it’s nice to know I only need to look as far as the mirror. If some wonderful guy wants to come along on my adventure, he’ll be welcome but not required. And I hope he’ll be whole enough to feel the same about me: partners by choice, not by necessity.

That’s why I just love the “you’re not a princess” campaign. I love the idea of teaching women young to see past the pink and the veils to a self-sufficient future. I know I remind my daughter all the time: you learn to take care of you. You’ll attract not a rescuer but an equal. (They’re a lot more fun to hang out with). Glad to see a school for girls sending the same great message.

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