Sunday, July 31, 2011

New and improved ...

The post also titled as "How You Know You're Getting Old":

My princess post got me thinking about what the heck I kept myself busy with as a little girl before the princess phenomenon took over.

There was this Fisher-Price kitchen set that was AMAZING! The play kitchen sets I've seen at friend's houses and they just don't compare. The plastic is thinner, you can only play on one side because it has to go up against a wall, and they are, of course, usually in some super girly princessy pink or purple color instead of the gender-neutral colors that meant my brother could play too without getting made fun of. They also usually have "Barbie" or "Disney" or "Dora" stamped somewhere on them. Whenever anyone little comes to my parent's house and heads down to the playroom, my mom always makes the comment that's the one thing she regrets getting rid of. Their basement is mostly outfitted for teenage and young adult enjoyment now (read: media and gaming central), but she kept a few of the toy classics for when family with youngsters visit. "What will the grandkids play with?" she asks. "The new sets just aren't as cool." Well, there aren't any grandchildren in sight for now, so she's safe there. But I still got on eBay to see if anyone still has or is selling the brilliant set I had as a kid.

Yup ... don't worry ... it's listed as "vintage."

Maybe the WaterBaby doll I played with will start showing up in museums soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I don't actually have a post for this letter of the alphabet. I just really like the word.

So maybe we can turn this into a "Create Your Own Adventure" post.

Do you have any favorite oxymorons?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Passing on the Princesses ...

I have nothing against pink.

When I was seven, pink and purple were my favorite colors. I'm sure it violated every piece of fashion advice ever written, but I especially loved to wear them together.

So where do authors like Peggy Orenstein get off telling us this recent wave of pretty, pink, and princesses are some newfangled trend or, even more controversial, dangerous? Little girls have always loved pink, right? Perhaps. But not to the tune of the $4 billion Disney is raking in every year off the brand. That's right -- BILLION. Pink is no longer a girl's favorite color because it's a girl's favorite color ... it's the only color anything girl related comes in. I know. I tried. My friend recently had a baby and I thought big sister might like a gift, too. Finding anything non-princess, non-pink, and even remotely related to imaginative or constructive rather than scripted or "brand-centered" play was impossible. In fact, the Disney brand was on EVERYTHING. I finally had to go the "crafts" section to pull some paint and sidewalk chalk from the back of the shelf. How could a little girl walk though an aisle and think she was anything but abnormal if she wasn't interested in pink, glittery, Disneyfied princesses. In a day and age when doors should only be expanding for our daughters, the mighty world of Disney has come in with one of the most successful campaigns in marketing history and chosen for them. Think I'm overreacting?

A couple years ago I came across this fabulously funny Sarah Haskins video. And then I came across another one you can watch here. My interest was piqued. I was only four at the time, but I still remember the day when I FINALLY got to go see Little Mermaid. For years afterward my friends and I would pretend our legs were mermaid tails and splash around swimming pools with crossed ankles. And what girl who lived through the '90s hasn't splashed up the slanted back of her bathtub singing "Part of Your World"? I was no stranger or even enemy of the Disney princess. But it seemed even more intense. My friend's little girls had princess nightgowns, backpacks, headbands, coloring books, shoes, sleeping bags, and TVs. I just didn't remember any of that stuff existing when I was four.

Turns out it didn't. My Google search yielded, among others, this article and this blog. Basically, the princess "brand" didn't even exist until 2000. Before that there were a few individual items specific to each character, but the princesses had never been "grouped" together before. Disney threw them all together, came up with a consistent color scheme -- Pantone pink No. 241 was the pink of choice -- and with the motto of "What would a princess want?" began marketing everything from alarm clocks to silverware with the royal images. And the world of little girls changed overnight.

One mother, whose blog I linked above, tolerated it all until she noticed changes in her daughter's play. Her normally active, boisterous little girl was now walking around saying "Princesses don't run or jump" and sighing helplessly explaining that "Princesses have to wait for their prince." So she did something I think most mothers with four-year-old girls (especially one whose most favorite princess is Cinderella) would be terrified to do. She threw it all out. She replaced the Cinderella Disney-made gown with a generic dress from Toys R Us. She got rid of the Patone pink No. 241 and replaced it with fairy tales and science kits and dress up. There were tantrums. At first, her choice made her as popular as an evil stepmother. But after just a little while into "Disney Princess Recovery" she noticed positive and lasting changes in her daughter. She was calmer, less concerned about what she looked like, more concerned with having fun and experiencing things. She still loves Cinderella, and pretending to be Cinderella, but the way she plays Cinderella has completely changed and is much more child-appropriate.

These mothers aren't anti-materialism hippies. They've resorted to bribes just like any other parent: "A princess eats all her vegetables." "Princesses use the big girl potty, too!" "Princess bedtime is at 8 o'clock." Their call is not for a complete ban on all things magical or make believe, but to do what for your child what she can't do for herself -- be smarter than the marketing.

Because the danger is real. When a company that has the hearts and wallets of little girls buying into this image:

partners up with the folks trying to get your pre-teen and teenage girls to buy into this:

(the description for this item reads: "From the shadows of the grotto, the lovely Ariel looks like a femme fishtale with a sultry secret. Ask her nicely and she just might sing it to you.")

or this:

there's a problem. These companies are literally cooperating to make the transition from one to the other seamless. And girls (or more accurately, their parents) are buying right into the trap. The Disney princess brand might appear safe, naieve, and a way to keep girls sheltered from ending up like slutty celebreties like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, or Miley Cyrus (ironic they all got their start at Disney, isn't it?). But the constant reinforcement that a girl should always be dressed up, pretty, and in wait of a prince is the last thing a girl growing up in the age of Internet porn needs to hear. Is it any wonder that articles like "How To Talk To Little Girls" are so needed? (And if you follow only one link in this post, please, please, let this be it. Please ... I'll even wait for you to click on it ... GO!)

I would love to tell my friend about the "Disney-free" experiment. Or tell her how uncomfortable it is her daughter is so well versed about the adult relationships around her. Or express dismay over the fact she talked dad into getting her daughter a "princess makeover" on their trip to Disneyland last year (have you SEEN these things?!! They are putting MASCARA on FOUR YEAR OLDS!!). But I have a feeling it will turn out a lot like this.

Because here's the deal. The people who are already on board with me on this don't need to hear it. And the people who need to hear it will tell me I'm crazy. That I'm taking this and myself way too seriously. "Just wait until you have a daughter and her favorite princess is Sleeping Beauty. Are you really going to tell her no?" And most of all, they will be convinced their daughter does not have a problem. That tantrums over princess related behavior is normal. That it's fine for every single item they get for their birthday or Christmas to be princess related. That their vain and scripted behavior is cute, not stifling their development of compassion and adventure. That it's just a phase.

But as for me and my house ... when Baby #1 finally makes their appearance around here, and should we be blessed enough to have a girl, please pass along all the pink, purple, and the feminine you would like. But we'll be passing on the princesses. At least any of the Disney variety.

(Ready, set, comment ...)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Perspective ...

For the last month I have been a bit of a mess. A relatively happy mess, but still a mess.

Want proof? A friend sent me a three-line e-mail. I responded with a page of single spaced rambling that revealed I am, in fact, a crazy person. Dave expressed disappointment when I showed up very late for a date he'd been planning for a month because I worked late instead and the guilt reduced me to tears. For two days I subsisted entirely on chocolate chip cookies.

I reviewed that rambly e-mail, and though I feel quite badly it ended up in a friend's inbox who didn't deserve the outburst, reviewing it gave me some perspective. After sifting the truth out of the hysteria, here is what I discovered:

I have not taken a weekend in more than 11 months. I have worked 6 and 7 day weeks for almost a year. Sure, I've traveled two or three times, but my laptop was right there with me. The fact the Grand Canyon does not have wireless should neither be a surprise nor stress inducing, and yet ... I studied/competed right through Fall Break, Christmas Break (including Christmas Eve and possibly Christmas Day), and Spring Break.

The work paid off. I'm in a much more competitive position than I was 11 months ago.

This will allow me to continue to work 6-7 days a week. The better I do, the more prestigious my job prospects. The more prestigious my job prospects, the more hours I'll be "allowed" to put into the legal profession.

This craziness MUST be stopped.

So do you know what I did? I killed myself for five days, got all of my work finished before Friday at 7 p.m. And I took a weekend.

I went to a movie. I hosted a bridal shower. I did some laundry. I canned apricot jam with my mom. I went to church. And I read a book that had nothing to do with the Constitution. It was wonderful.

Two years ago, before law school, if you asked me what I liked to do, I would have told you I was a writer. I would have told you that I liked to sing, and that I loved reading the news and talking to people about interesting things. I defined myself by my faith, my relationships, my talents, and my passions. Now I define myself by the number of hours I work, the number of briefs I've written, and the cases I'm working on. When someone asks me to define myself the only thing I can think of is "law student." It's consumed me.

So this law-school-free weekend was good. I reconnected a little. With my husband, my family, myself. I'm still not sure what I want to do after law school. The clerkships, the firm jobs, they still hold some appeal. But their enticement isn't nearly as sweet after savoring so many of the other fulfilling options life has to offer over the past couple of days.

I liked this post by a classmate. I'm not exactly sure how I got here -- obsessed with the law, working insane hours and pulling all nighters in the middle of summer for no apparent reason except to meet the demands of employers and because finding the answers to questions no one else has answered is like a high. But I sure as hell am going to find my way out.

It's hard to compete with clean laundry and homemade apricot jam.