There are billboards all around town for "Disney's Princesses on Ice!" They make me smile. One of my characters is called Princess by her father and she passes the legacy on to her daughter. You see, the problem with being a princess is that some day, you might have to be queen.
With all the hype of the royal wedding, I remembered reading that the current Queen Elizabeth realized at about nine or ten that she would have to rule her country one day. How about that for a mind-blowing experience? In times past, those of royal lineage were essentially taken away from their parents, set on a path of "training" as it were for their duties. So, with this resent obsession with the giggly, pink tulle, tiara princess culture for little girls (I can't imagine the sound level at the stadium!), my concern is that we're raising a crop of females who will expect a handsome prince to come along and rescue, then take care of them.
I didn't have that luxury. My brothers were 12 and 14 years older than me and my parents were in their 40s when I was born. Joe and Ed told me I could do anything I wanted. I took the science and math classes, knowing I might have to make my own way in the world, make my own fortune. I read through my brothers' science fiction books and all of the ones at the library, too. Some of the authors at the time were outright misogynistic, others just didn't know how to write strong female characters, but there were a few role models. Mom read tons (literally!) of the Harlequin Presents, which at the time involved a little hand-holding and heavy breathing and always resulted in a happily every after that involved a ring from an alpha male. The subtext was the woman's relief that she wouldn't have to work anymore. The funny thing was, Mom worked, even in the 60s and 70s and got subscriptions to "MS. Magazine" and "Playgirl." She was fierce before it was in fashion, but she sent mixed messages.
So, when my handsome prince arrived, I was almost thirty and making more money than he was. Luckily, I recognized him and held on tight. We'll celebrate our twenty-third wedding anniversary the day after Kate and Wills say their vows. We've been through some tough and humbling times, but found we can get through anything depending upon each other.
That's the kind of story I want to tell with my fiction. Tales with real characters, who are a little messed up, but are navigating the road with each other. So, yes, my heroes are handsome and wealthy, but far from perfect. The only way they're going to survive is with my heroines' help.
Those fairy tales have been so overdone. Pink means to "Fight Like a Girl" (the Breast Cancer Awareness slogan) and young women know it's better to be alone than in a hell-hole of a marriage. While the "popcorn for the mind" of an occasional fairy tale or Harlequin is a worthy diversion from the trials of real life, we must remember the world needs all of us, male and female, to contribute in order to get by.