Thursday, November 5, 2009

Every Little Girl Wants to Grow Up to be A Princess! Right?

I have a good friend. Let's call her Allison. She's the one person I accept those forwarded joke emails from because every one of hers are actually funny, every time. She is also the kind of friend that you can sit down and be real with. We share our faith and driving duties to and from senior boys volleyball and basketball games (and therefore, along with our friend Lisa, make up our team's cheer leading squad - but that's a sorry tale for another time).

We've shared a hotel room along with twenty-hour days and assorted student medical crises on our school's annual music tour. Once or twice a season, we take in a Flames (that's NHL Hockey) game and she not only knows all the players on our team, she knows the players on the opposing team!. And we share more laughs than two forty-something-year-old women should be allowed to have at our children's expense. Our school's music director refers to us jokingly (or not) as Thelma and Louise.

But I have a secret. There's another reason I like hanging with Allison.

Between the two of us, I'm the girly one. When we are on music tour, I blow dry my hair and put on make-up every day. While Allison plays goalie in a woman's hockey league four or five times a week, I write, and read, romance novels. For this barely reformed tom boy, Allison provides the kind of fun, uncomplicated friendship only a fellow former tom boy can provide.

And so, with this glimpse into my current character, perhaps you can see why, when asked to choose a royal or prominent alter ego, I chose Princess Leia.

It's not that I don't admire other worthy women. I do. Enormously. Corrie Ten Boom, Jean d'Arc, Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother, to name a few, were persons I considered. But I don't come close to matching these women in character or aspiration.

But Princess Leia. Now, I'm being honest here, she is a woman I wanted to grow up to become.

What can I say. I was a child of the seventies. I grew up in a suburban box, was an original latch-key kid and my world was framed by the 14" screen which, unlike many other parts of Canada in the seventies, carried cable television from the United States, a mere fifty-mile drive from my home. I still sing "conjunction junction" when I puzzle through grammar, tell my kids "rets ro raggy" when its time to get in the car (okay, I did stop that when they became teenagers), and remember John Travolta more vividlly for singing Bar-bar-bar-bar-bara Ann on Kotter and Greased Lightening in Grease than for any part he's played in the 1990s.

While all the girls were running around being Jill (Farrah) and Kelly (Jaclyn Smith), I was, if I was lucky, Sabrina (Kate Jackson) and if no boys were around I was relegated to be Boswell or Charlie. Other girls wanted to go to Disney movies when they played in theatres but for me, the princesses in those stories were b-o-o-oring.

I was tall and gangly with chlorine bleached hair from my daily early morning swim practices. I didn't have a cute feature to call my own, hair that refused styling and besides, I was generally disdainful of all things girly. I refused to own, or wear, pink or purple anything.

Just about the time I was starting to look to adult women to figure out who I was going to become, Star Wars released in theatres. I don't want to overstate it and say that it had a profound effect on my life. But it did. Kind of. I mean, Star Wars had a profound effect on all of us. Was there a boy in school who didn't draw death stars or shoot pens across paper in endless games of Star Wars (it didn't take computers and video games to make geeks)? Who didn't stand in line around the block, outside, to see this movie, often more than once. Star Wars was a pop culture phenom. THE event for our generation.

But for me, Princess Leia provided a pop culture figure I could aspire to be. I didn't have the hair or teeth or curves to be Farrah Fawcett. Not that I wanted to be, of course. But Princess Leia with her coiled, no nonesense hair and Joan of Arc robes was neither the over-sexualized nor the lobotomized female sidekicks prevalent as rolemodels to my generation.
Until the lamentable third (now sixth) movie, she was an equal, one of the guys, but not a guy. She didn't just fight for justice in jiggle constumes, she fought to save the galaxy and looked demure doing it! What twelve-year-old girl wouldn't want to save the galaxy next to Luke Skywalker and Han Solo? I not only discovered I could refashion the old white sheet that served as my annual ghost costume for Halloween into a Princess Leia gown, I learned I could be girly and strong at the same time.

It wasn't until I was fifteen and became a Christian under the care and mentorship of a wonderful woman that I learned as a believer to see myself not only as my mother's daughter, a smaller version of a loving yet imperfect person, or in the pop culture mirror that often showed me my imperfections and inadequacies. As believers, we see ourselves as beloved of God, saved by grace through the atoning blood of Jesus.

And yet, we live in this world and are impacted by our society and the norms so often established by pop culture. We can't eliminate our culture, but we can look for positive role models within it. We can pray our daughters find a worthy character or celebrity to aspire to become, like Princess Leia, but that they also find a caring Christian woman to hold up a mirror to show our girls reflected through God's eyes.

In fact, maybe even us grown ups need in our lives caring Christian women. We need friends like Allison to reflect back to us who we are, and who we are in Christ.

I'd love to hear your experiences with pop culture heroes and heroines. Click on the "comments" to let share who you aspired to be when you were a child. Or let me know if you remember Conjunction Junction?

A special thanks to Lisa Richardson for her beautiful header. You're the best, Lisa!


  1. I think I dreamed of being Nadya Comaneech (gymnast) or Dorthy Hammil (skater). When I got older, maybe the female flight instructor on top gun.

    Wenda, I think we'd get along great. I was pretty tomboyish as a kid too. In high school, I sometimes played the girly role, but those who had classes with me knew better than to buy it.


  2. Ah, Wenda. No wonder you and I are friends! I, too, was always Sabrina when we played Charlie's Angels!

    Always love your transparency and your take on things. Wish we could hang out more often!

  3. Conjunction junction, what's your function?

    Oh boy, do I remember that song. My dad was stationed in West Germany when Star Wars mania hit, so my sisters and I didn't get to see the movie until a year after it was released.

    At the Vasta. 99 cent seats.

    The place was sold out every night of the showing.

    Back to when we lived in West Germany.... Some Army guy my dad worked with gave him a copy of the Star Wars book, and my dad gave me the book. What was he thinking? I was in 3rd grade reading an adult book. Half the words I didn't understand, yet I read it ferociously to the point I had the thing memorized.

    Needless to say, when we finally got around to seeing the movie, I told my dad and older sister everything the movie did differently than the book. To my hubby's dismay, I did the same when we saw Jurassic Park: The Lost World, where the heroine was the real hero of the book, unlike the movie where she became a token female character.

    I don't remember watching Welcome Back, Kotter in orignial run, but I was there for every Charlie's Angels episode. Even the ones with Shelley Hack.

    One of the reasons I'm such a Lost and Battlestar Galatica fan is that the female characters are equal to their male counterparts. They act. They do. They carry guns and know how to use them.

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  5. Hey Dina, I look forward to meeting you in person one of these days, too. I also think we'll get along great. And I can so relate to aspiring to be Nadya Comaneech. I had no aspirations to become a gymnast but after the '76 Olympics I told my swim coach that I wanted to be an Olympian. Never made it, of course, but she made me believe it was possible!

    And D'Ann,
    So how are we going to make this work the next time we're roommates if we're both Sabrina? I am not going back to be being Boswell!

  6. I think I was older than the target audience for Conjuction Junction, but the jingle has never left me!

    So, Wenda, when you were 12 wishing to be Princess Leia, I was. Carrie Fisher and I were born on the same day. I often wondered if news of Debbie Reynolds giving birth affected my name choice. My parents said no.

    I never had any girls to play with, sniff sniff, but when I was old enough to ride my bike to another road (out in the country) I recall we played a lot of Adams Family. I think they made me brush my hair over my face and be Cousin It. I'm not quite that much of a push over as I used to be. No longer desperate to have someone to play with!

    This has been a fun trip down memory lane. I'm so glad Leia wasn't just a dumb princess! And you have to give her credit for the way she kept her ears warm, too.

  7. Great post, Wenda. A true child of the 70s, and you've brought back lots of memories for me. Vinnie Barbarino! Go back a little earlier, and was so in love with Keith Partridge.

    I'll admit when I was a teenager, I wanted to be Farrah. I didn't have the hair, but my sister did. (I was so jealous!) What I really wanted, more than anything was to have her car! I still love that car.

  8. Gina, I heard Kate was originally supposed to be the leader on Lost, but the producers shifted it to Jack with Kate as a strong second

    You know, reading all these comments reminds me that I was raised in a very strict home. I wasn't allowed to watch Star Wars or most of the shows you mentioned. Of course I do remember conjunction junction and the partridge family. Maybe a few episodes of Welcome Back Carter.

    Obviously Top Gun came later when I had a boyfriend who could drive.


  9. I was born in '78 so I missed the first round of Star Wars mania. But growing up we had the movie at home and I loved Princess Leia from the moment she appeared on screen. Though I have to say, I wasn't really a tomboy. I wasn't super girly either.

    I wanted to be Daphne, but I was more like Velma. That's okay though. I've come to appreciate that Velma will still have her smarts long after Daphne's started to sag. Um, I mean she would if they weren't cartoon characters.

    I love the parallels you drew Wenda. Thanks for a great post! Oh, and you're welcome for the header. My pleasure!

  10. Hey Wenda, as a mom of one son and two princess daughters (one born in the 70s and one in the 80s) I heard a lot of "Conjunction Junction" and also "We the People..." as they were growing up. I am now the proud grandmom (Mimi) of two granddaughters and one grandson. The oldest granddaughter (10) is sad-to-say, already past the princess stage, but I still have a couple more years with the eight year old! And when I was volunteering in the 10 year old's fifth grade classroom a few days ago, guess what was playing? "We the People..." Now everyone can sing along with that the rest of the day!

  11. This is fun. What we learn about each other when we talk pop culture...

    I laughed picturing Gina as a hardcore Angels fan. You had to be faithful to stick it out to Shelley Hack, but I can't point fingers because I was so there. Secretly, of course, because of my cool tomboy persona to maintain, but there.

    And Debbie, (still chuckling here)the visual of you with your hair over your face being Cousin...

    Funny you should mention the Partridge family, Suzie. As I was finishing up breakfast dishes I was also lost in 70s land. Thinking about David and Shawn Cassidy (*sigh*). The Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family were forever ruined for me by a Friends episode when Joey and Chandler debate about Mrs. Brady or Mrs. Partridge. 'Nuff said.

    Love your take on being a child of the next decade, Lisa. I was a teenager for much of the Scooby Doo era, but was completely hooked anyway. I totally related better to Velma.

    And Rose, oh to keep our princesses, princesses as long as possible.

    One thing I do notice about the television our kids watch, a lot of it is much more geared to their level. We didn't have family channel, and while adult programming was less graphic, it wasn't always kid friendly either (you had wise parents, Dina). I like that my teens still watch Zach and Cody and Hannah Montana. Granted, they also sneak in episodes of the Office, so I guess it balances out.

  12. I was Sabrina too!

    But I aspired to be Diahann Carroll, in every and any role she played (even the single, messy-haired mother in Claudine). Diahann is and was the epitome of African-American grace and class. I knew I'd never had her style or classic beauty but wow, what fun it was to dream.

  13. Great post, Wenda, that took me back. I loved Chewbaca, Chewy, best, but think that was 'cause of who he got to sit next to. Sigh.

    I'm not a big fan of Zack 'N Cody or Hannah M. (though I love her songs) because of the way the kids try to emmulate these characters. I'd take a bop over the head by Tom and Jerry over the smart-mouths on TV now any day.

    Needless to say, I don't watch too much TV any more. Football -- yes. It's 90% of my TV time.

    Loved the old memories and the reminders to fit our Lord into our everyday activities.

  14. So fun, Wenda! I adored Princess Leia, and I pretended I was an ice-skating star while we listened to her theme on the Star Wars soundtrack... Sigh. Too bad I had Luke Skywalker hair in real life. My brother had the lightsaber toy where you could change the colored disks on the flashlight, so you could be Luke or Darth. And we played with all of those figures, of course. We wore them out.

    But I was a bit of a princessy girl. My mom, bless her heart, got up with me at 2 am to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. No VCRs back then. I thought that poofy dress of Diana's was gorgeous.

    Hey, I've got Conjunction Junction in my head, but I am also quite fond of the Exclamation song and Lolly Lolly Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here (except when you're trying to cut them out of a manuscript...)

  15. Patricia, I can see why you'd want to be Diahann Carroll. She was beautiful and graceful. Classy all the way!

    And funny you mention the smart-mouths on sitcom kids. My kids and I were watching a Bill Cosby tribute the other night on PBS and Malcolm Jamal Warner talked about how he almost didn't get the roll of Theo on The Cosby Show. At his audition he came in and acted all mouthy, the way he thought sitcom kids should be. Bill Cosby told him to do it over, but to talk the way he would to his own father. Pity they don't show as many Cosby Show reruns as Friends reruns.

    Susanne, laughs over your Luke hair! And light sabres. And who didn't get up in the middle of the night to watch Charles and Diana's wedding. It's too bad that fairy tale was just that :-(

    And oh, remember when Saturday mornings were educational. All those catchy tunes to learn (or not) by.

  16. Wenda, your post just blessed me! Did you have the Princess Leia doll? With the hair it was next to impossible to re-braid and turn into those doughnuts? She was a good role model.
    I still say "rets ro raggy" to my children. And my husband (who can sing all the words to conjunction junction but still cannot identify a conjunction in a sentence.)
    And I watched Charles and Diana's wedding at 3 a.m. too! One one of the 4 channels we got (no cable).
    I think my first role model was Olivia Newton-John in Grease. That may, or may not, have been a good thing. : ) Still can't believe my mother made me a pair of satin pants for my Halloween costume in 4th grade so I could be post-transformation Sandy.
    Ha, going to bed now, with a smile. Thank you!

  17. Hey Niki,

    I definitely did not have the doll (tomboy!), but recall my friend and I confiscating her little brother's complete star wars set and playing with them for hours! We staged a Luke and Leia wedding, to my later embarrassment when movie three revealed they were brother and sister!

    And who didn't want to be Sandy? My mother wouldn't go for satin pants, but we all had teased hair put up on one side for our Grade 7 dance!

  18. What a fun post, Wenda! I was in Jr. High when the first original Star Wars came out, but I didn't catch the fever till years later when I saw The Empire Strikes Back.

    When I was growing up, the TV was on from the minute we got up until we went to bed. (Except for Saturdays, because nothing good was on, so we usually played records all day). My life was shaped by pop culture. Luke & Laura's wedding, Welcome Back Kotter, Charlie's Angels, Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson in The Hardy Boys Mysteries... ahhh, memories!

    The person I aspired to be back then was Jamie Sommers, the Bionic Woman. I was an overweight, sickly kid who was more used to the inside of a doctor's office than a tennis court. But Jamie... she was smart (a teacher), strong, beautiful, and she could run like crazy. You see, Jamie was everything I was not. I still have fond memories of her. And my husband swears that I have bionic hearing :+}

  19. Oh my great post! If you ever visit my blog you'll see that I pretty much fit the Princess Leia description too! I love football, cars, quad riding and can pretty much hold my own with the boys when it comes to knowledge of cars, but at the same time I'm an avid romance reader and movie watcher...go figure! I'll admit I have a Twilight movie poster on my wall next to my Mustang posters LOL!

    And of yeah I remember conjunction junction!!!

    xoxo~ Renee


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