Trying on outfits helps us know who we are—and who we are not. My mother bought me this satin, sequined crown and cape at a church bazaar in my hometown of Northfield, Minnesota. The hand-sewn costume was lovely and fit my five-year-old frame, but not my personality. As my father took my photo, I sat up straight, as regally as I could. But our Brittany Spaniel, Princess, had had puppies and I was more interested in playing with a wiggly pup than posing.

 A couple years later, my mom signed me up for ballet class at Northfield Arts Guild. After three lessons, I convinced her to let me stay home and watch “The Lone Ranger” on TV instead. Rather than twirling on my toes, I wanted to ride Silver, the horse I saw on television.

 Some of my friends dressed up their dolls and I joined them for the fun of their company, but preferred playing frisbee tag in our cul-de-sac or exploring the college arboretum with my friend, Amy. Rather than aspiring to a throne, I liked sitting in trees. Perhaps that’s the influence of my Celtic roots.

 Thanks to a glass slipper, Cinderella attained royal status by catching the eye of a prince. The size and appearance of her hair, figure, and even her feet were the means of her success. What message does that send? Writer Sarah Showfety calls “beauty-based praise-baiting” a toxic message for girls, as if their looks are the basis of their self-worth. I’d rather melt down that glass shoe and make of it a new lens to see more facets of ourselves.

 I was never glamorous princess material. Though my nickname was Barbie, I lacked the fashion sense of the Mattel doll (and never owned one as a child). Rather than a tiara or tutu, I preferred a T-shirt and jeans. Yet we all have moments of glory when we deserve a sparkly crown in our lives. I think, in such moments, I’ll hold mine inside and let it shine from there.


  1. Marilyn Anderson

    I enjoyed reading your childhood story and your thoughts of how women discover themselves and their beauty through their choice of clothes, activities and minds.
    Thank you! Marilyn

  2. Betsy Fuchs

    What fun and truth in your exploration of childhood choices. I played with dolls but combed their perfect hair and one could say ruined them. Which was ok to me. The few times in my teens that I was obliged to go to the beauty shop… My bas mitzvah at 13, prom I’m high school, I came home and combed out my own hair.

    You can dress up the girl but no guarantees it will take.


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