My son likes to wear dresses. It’s not surprising, since he is the 3-year-old brother of a very fancy 7-year-old sister who was, until quite recently, obsessed with the Disney princesses. You know, just like every single other little girl on earth. I’m not sure which dark magic Disney uses to enchant the minds of all the kids, but it is a powerful spell. There is a toddler cult and it’s those goddamn princesses. Anyway, as a devoted member of Cult Princess, my daughter was able to decrypt the hidden message (which I assume exists) within each of the Princess songs: the message to pass along the obsession to younger siblings. Message received. She successfully converted my son, dressing him up in gowns, tiaras and semi-heeled plastic shoes. Great work, daughter. The other cult members are surely proud of your work. Of course, it didn’t take much. He’s a natural in novelty glass slippers that light up when you walk.
Depending on his mood, he alternates between either the Belle, the Tiana or the classic Cinderella gown. Each dress was around $30 at the Disney Store. They are cheaply made costume dresses that rip easily and seem to attract spaghetti sauce, but to him they might as well be Versaces. That’s a popular designer, right? How about Dolgiano Langustos. Or Vertram Von Strigands. I love making up fake designer names. Cranston LaRoux. Mort Bort. Finky Stinkbiscuit. I digress.
He loves wearing dresses, and that’s awesome. I hope that goes without saying, but of course it doesn’t bother me in the least that my three year old son loves to dress up in his sister’s princess clothes (actually, the Tiana dress is one that he picked out). I love that he has mastered walking in delicate shoes and has learned to pick up the front of his dress when he walks to avoid tripping. He once came to the dinner table and before he would eat, he insisted, “Daddy, wait! I have to get dressed.” He left the room briefly, and returned proudly wearing his Belle dress. I took a picture. I have to say, he wears it well.
He wanted to wear the Cinderella dress to the supermarket the other day.
“Sure,” I told him. “You want your magic wand, too?”
“YES!” he said, and he ran to his room to get ready.
We drove down the street to Ralph’s, listening to the soundtrack from Tangled on the way. He waved his wand around in the back seat, oblivious to judgments and pointless labels in the world. As we listened to Mandy Moore sing about when Rapunzel’s real life might begin, I forgot about how people say stupid things sometimes, not because they aren’t thinking or “didn’t mean to” but because they are ignorant and archaic.
We walked into Ralph’s, me with a few things on a list and him, a princess out on a journey. He waved his wand and he cast his spells and he invented a world inside the world. Most importantly, he clearly felt beautiful.
After getting our groceries, we waited in line at Self-Checkout.
“Looks like you’ve got a little hairdresser on your hands,” a voice said from too close behind me.
I turned around to make sure the voice was talking to me.
The man was in his mid fifties, wearing a half-buttoned tuxedo shirt and black slacks. “Caterer or bartender,” my brain whispered to me as I continued to process his words.
“What’s that?” I asked. I heard him, but it actually took me several seconds to understand the implication of his statement. I looked at my son to be certain I wasn’t misinterpreting this stranger’s comment. Had he been playing with a brush, or fixing a doll’s hair, or doing anything else even closely resembling hairdressing , I would have smiled and politely agreed. Zach was not doing any of those things. He was waving his wand at anything that caught his eye and living in that 3-year-old world that most adults have stopped seeing. Thankfully, he was also oblivious to our conversation.
He chuckled and dismissively waved off his own comment. He turned towards my son. In a too loud, and much too friendly voice, he told him, “Great dress, princess!” He chuckled loudly.
My son barely noticed.