I remember being about 4 or 5 and sitting on my dad’s lap. I suspect he tried to create the perfect father-daughter moment to remember. He certainly created a memory because he asked me a question I’ll never forget: “Don’t you want to be Cinderella when you grow up?”
Huh? . . . Even as a kid I thought it was a strange thing to ask. I almost told him, “Daddy, don’t you know Cinderella isn’t real?” As young as I was, I sensed this was a loaded question–even though I didn’t know about loaded questions at the time. I knew what he wanted me to say, so I nodded and said, “Yes,” but I did not want to be Cinderella or any kind of princess.
I’ve grown accustomed to people asking me loaded questions. Unfortunately, I’ve turned the questions on myself: Don’t you want to own a house? Don’t you want to be promoted to manager? Don’t you want to be a mom? Shouldn’t you go back to church so you don’t upset your parents? Shouldn’t you just stay at your job so you can keep your heath insurance and not feel like a failure?!!
There are things others want for me, even if they mean well. But living up to others’ expectations is like being a princess. It’s no fairy tale because a princess can’t marry whomever she wants. She likely can’t vote. She has to look perfect when she goes out in public. She’s limited in her career choices. She can’t just live anywhere she wants. Living a life based on others’ expectations is nothing for a girl or full-grown woman to dream about.
If I live my life on my own terms, I’ll disappoint some people. That’s okay. I am childless by choice. I want to live in an RV. I plan to trade my prestigious job for a simpler gig. I don’t want to publish in any more academic journals. I go on camping trips so I don’t have to do my hair or make-up for a whole week. I like to introduce myself without the “Dr.” in front my name. On Sundays I prefer brunch over Mass.
Sorry Dad; I still don’t want to be a princess. But I know you still love me.