“You Can’t Be a Princess” | Journalists from ABC’s “What Would You Do?” planted hidden cameras in a Halloween store and filmed shoppers’ reactions to a boy who wanted a princess costume and a girl who wanted a Spiderman costume.
we are policed into our respective gender roles at a very, very young age.
fucking rude-ass moms when i have kids and my daughter wants to be superman or thor or whoever the fuck else then GO AHEAD BABYDOLL or if my son wants to be cinderella or amy pond then HE CAN because being a good parent means making your child HAPPY and letting them do something harmless like wear a costume they wanna wear for halloween the one day of the year you can dress up like somebody else THAT ISNT YOURSELF.
I’m already eating better; the hard part is convincing myself I’m just bored, not actually hungry.
I don’t think I’m going to get to running today, but I did some various types of crunches (LAZY WAY OUT!)
And the whole quitting smoking thing is going alright so far.
Kill me now.
“In my opinion, contacts are the most amazing invention of all time. I mean, think about it: you’re walking around with this thing on your eyeball and nobody knows. Nobody knows you can’t see because you aren’t bumping into things. Nobody knows that your nickname in childhood was ‘four eyes’. Nobody knows you have a handicap. Nobody knows!” I said.
You smirked, but didn’t say anything.
I don’t like silence so I looked up at one of the buildings in front of our bench and asked, “Why do some windows have air conditioners while others don’t?”
“Not all windows need air conditioners,” you said.
“How will they stay cool?”
“Not everyone wants to be cool.” You pulled out a cigarette and lit it.
I knew that meant you didn’t want to talk anymore. I knew that you thought my statements and questions were childish, but I couldn’t stop blurting them out. I remember my head was brimming with questions! I never understood why some people wouldn’t want to be cool.
I bring up that day on the bench because that was right after I had a fight with Mary—Mom. She wanted me to wash the dishes—remember?—and I said no and stomped upstairs.
After you finished your cigarette, you stubbed it out underneath your boot. “Do you know why we’re sitting here, Sadie?”
I bit my lip until it bled. “I didn’t listen to Mary.”
“Yes—look at me.” Your steel blue eyes bore into mine. “Mary is your mother. So are Jenny and Caroline. You have to respect them; you know she’s trying really hard.”
I looked away, but heard the leaves crunch under your feet. I knew you didn’t expect a response because I wouldn’t have one. Mom was my mother and that’s it. I don’t want those other people—just Mom. You knew that and that’s why you stood up—you didn’t want me to say it. We walked back home in silence; my hands were in my pocket as I nibbled on my lip.
Do you remember when Mom was diagnosed? It was right after Grandpa died. All of a sudden different voices, accents, and appearances came out of Mom. I remember one time I went down stairs for breakfast; Mom was dressed in a poodle skirt and apron with her hair in curlers.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m just cleaning up the kitchen and getting dinner started!” she replied in a voice that was an octave higher than the one I was used to hearing.
“It’s only noon. Isn’t that a little early to start dinner?” I sat on one of the stools at the kitchen counter.
“Not if I want this roast on the table at five!” she said. This woman poured some kind of liquid on the hunk of meat in front of her.
I sighed, “Who are you right now?”
I’ll always remember that look. Her bright green eyes seemed dull and the corners of her lips folded into a frown—it was foreign to her face. Just as fast as the frown had crinkled her face, her lips turned up again into that fake smile I would grow to hate. She wiped her thin hands on the apron and walked towards me. One of those spindly hands delicately touched my shoulder and I shrank away from the pressure, “I’m Mary, of course!”
After that I tended to stay in my room. I know the therapist told us that Mom took on these personalities to deal with Grandpa’s death, but I always thought it was a little selfish of her. I mean, I know that she loved him very much, but I wanted my Mom back. I still do.
When we confronted her, she just cried and cried and talked about “black-outs”. The therapist nodded along when we talked. He explained Dissociative Identity Disorder and the personalities were a way to cope. Maybe that’s why she’s struggled to get rid of them.
At the very least she could take the pills that the psychiatrist prescribed. I don’t know much about this stuff, but he said they would help. She doesn’t want to get help. I guess these personalities are a comfort. I know they talk to each other in her head. Like how we all have little voices in our heads—they just don’t manifest. That’s how the psychiatrist described it.
Either way, she isn’t Mom anymore and I’m not sure she ever will be again.
Have you ever lost somebody you loved? Was it us? I think I finally understand how Mom felt back then.
Sometimes I try to remember back before Mom developed these other personalities, but it’s hard. I was ten at the time Grandpa died and everything changed so much that I just didn’t have room left for the memories before it. I don’t know.
There is only one thing that I remember from before Mom was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, so I’m not even sure it really happened.
We were at a baseball game between the Rockies and the A’s and it was the bottom of the ninth. Both teams were tied. Ours, the Rockies, was up to bat. I know everything was real tense because you and Mom were both leaned forward, your noses practically touching the seat in front of you and there was some sort of hush over the audience. I was only six, so I was ready to go home, but at the time I had cotton candy to keep me distracted. I plucked little fluffs of delicious candy, laying them on my tongue and letting them melt while watching another player strike out.
The player at bat took another swing and I heard the crowd go crazy. It was so loud I think I started to cry. The ball flew into our section and you caught it! I couldn’t believe it! You were my hero. I don’t even remember if the Rockies won or not, but I was so happy! We were on the jumbotron.
In the car, you kept telling different versions about how you caught the ball.
Mom smiled after the tenth retelling. “I think that ball will look good in Sadie’s room.”
“Sadie’s room? This is going in my office!” Your eyes bugged out in disbelief.
I saw Mom’s eyes flick up and glance at me in the rearview mirror. “Honey, that was Sadie’s first baseball game, don’t you think she should have it?”
“She didn’t catch it!” You swerved a little on the road.
“Sweetheart.” Mom’s voice got lower and I knew she reserved it for when one of us was in trouble. “I think it would mean a lot to her.”
“She doesn’t care! Do you?” Your eyes caught mine in the mirror.
“No, he caught it. He’s my hero!” I said.
Mom sighed and the rest of the car ride was silent. Or maybe it wasn’t; I might have just fallen asleep.
The fights were the worst part. I’d try and hide in my room, but the walls were thin and Mom could really screech. I don’t think you guys realized how thin the wall between our bedrooms was. The fight that sticks in my mind is when Mom found out you were only sleeping with her personalities. I remember hearing what a child should never hear (as my therapist tells me) and turning up my music so loud that you were forced to interrupt the intercourse to tell me to turn it down. The conversation when you returned to your room was the same:
“I got her to turn it down,” you said.
“What if she could hear us? She never plays music that loud,” Mom said.
“Well, let’s just be quieter,” you said with a grunt to your voice.
“No, no. I think that ruined the mood.”
After that I stopped listening because my mission to end the fornication was accomplished. I remember the night you took Caroline to your room when I was thirteen and fucked her until three in the morning no matter how loud I turned the music. I guess you realized that Caroline didn’t care about what I did or felt. From then on every time Caroline showed up, you fucked, but it only lasted a few months before Mom found out.
Then there was the day that upon orgasm, Mom returned to her body. I remember the scream:
“Did you rape me?”
“No, of course not,” you replied.
“I don’t remember agreeing to this. I blacked out and you took advantage!” she screamed.
“Not exactly. Caroline was fully willing,” you said, I could hear the smirk.
“That’s sick. She’s only seventeen!” Mom’s voice wavered and I knew she had started crying. I hate you for making her cry, for treating her like she didn’t know who she was, for making her feel crazy.
“No she’s not. She’s you.”
“How many times do I have to tell you?” I placed my ear against the wall and heard a few hiccups. “They aren’t me. I’m not even there. It’s just my body.”
“Well, then it can’t be “sick” or rape or anything because you’re fifty-six years old.”
There were a few moments of crying before Mom could think of the right answer. I knew she was right and I knew you knew she was right because you wouldn’t have hid it otherwise. It wasn’t Mom. It was essentially the same as not getting a solid “yes”. In school we talked about that. No means no! the sex-ed teacher chimed. The therapist even said she wasn’t aware and blacked out. I found my chest heaving in anger as I pressed my ear so close to the wall it hurt.
“You know that isn’t right. I’ll kill you if I’m pregnant,” she said, her voice serious and low.
I knew she really meant what she said, which scared me. I didn’t have much time to process because Mom burst into my room.
“Sadie, what are you still doing up? Well, it doesn’t matter. I’m sleeping with you tonight,” she said squeezing herself on to the single bed next to me.
Mom fell asleep the minute her head hit the pillow. I stared at her and wondered if she’d really kill you. As mad at I was at you for hurting her, I would never want you dead.
I don’t know if you thought Mom wouldn’t care when you left. Or maybe you thought she suspected it; I know I did. You’d been staying late at work every night and I hardly ever saw you. Then you left a note. A note?! Well when Mom found that note I started living with Jenny for two weeks. Jenny came out almost immediately when she found the note. I remember in detail because I was just as shocked, I just know how to deal with it better I guess. Anyway, her eyes glazed over and the piece of paper fell to the floor—it was all slow-mo because I knew that my life had changed forever. After a few moments she finally looked at me and Jenny started crying. I know it was Jenny because she was wailing; it wasn’t a normal person kind of cry.
The next few hours felt like ritual (you always did make me take care of her), but it was something to keep my mind from dealing with the fact that you were gone. I went and found the adult diapers and checked the fridge for milk, juice, and baby food. After making a grocery list—all the baby food was expired, I guess Jenny hadn’t shown up for a while—I changed her and got her into her favorite footie pajamas. Next was the pacifier and setting up the large crib you built after Jenny kept falling off the couch (you refused to have her in bed with you). I put her to bed and went to the store with the little bit of cash you left in the envelope. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but twenty dollars was all you had to offer us?
Jenny was still around when I got back. I wasn’t even surprised how long Jenny stayed. I was surprised when Caroline came back instead of Mom. I wish it were Mary instead, anyone but Caroline. Caroline—or “C”, as she was going by at the time—greeted me at home after work one night, with the house destroyed. All the furniture was knocked over, askew, or had some mystery stain. There were cracked dishes and beer bottles everywhere and I never knew so many red solo cups existed! Teenagers from the neighborhood were strewn about. I knew from high school that if teenagers noticed a party going on, they were going to show up. C didn’t know these people. She probably turned the radio up as loud as it could go and put beer bottles by the door to attract them. It was almost… lonely. Yet, there was C passed out on the kitchen table. I never took a night shift at McDonald’s again.
Oh yeah, I got a job, minimum wage at the McDonalds on Oak, remember? It wasn’t enough to keep up with Mom. I had to call Aunt Betty.
When Aunt Betty arrived at the house, she looked around at the mess and shook her head making that ‘tsk tsk’ sound. I felt embarrassed even though it wasn’t my fault. I’m just a kid. Without a word, the 40 something year old woman (I figure you’ve forgotten Mom’s sister) started cleaning the mess.
When she was finished she got herself a glass of water and looked at me in my McDonald’s uniform. “You need help.”
Well that was rude. “I can handle this.”
“Not on that wage. I’ll send you money, but I have kids of my own to take care of.” She finished the water, wrote a check and was out the door.
Ever since relatives stopped coming around I knew it was because of Mom. I figured that her sister would care more considering her sister was on her own and completely out of her mind. At least we got weekly checks. It was more than you were willing to offer.
After a year or so, I don’t really remember, I saved up whatever was leftover from Betty’s weekly checks to afford a therapist. I had a friend at work, Kattie, who told me about all the wonders of therapy—she’s a psychology major. I tried to ignore her for a while—change the subject, but she’s one of those people that worm their way into your life. I don’t know how to explain it. One day we were coworkers, the next she was inviting herself over and we were best friends. I will always remember I will always remember the day Kattie met Mom. Only it wasn’t Mom, it was Mary.
“Oh, Sadie! You should have told me you had a friend staying over, the house is a complete mess!” she cried when Kattie entered the door.
“Mrs. Jackson, it’s spotless in here! You have a lovely home,” Kattie said.
Well you can just imagine Mary’s face light up at that; Kattie always says the right thing.
“Oh you’re a dear. Well, dinner is almost ready,” Mary said heading back into the kitchen.
Kattie and I went up to my room where she plopped herself on my bed, “Your mom seems really nice.”
“That’s not my mom,” I said biting my lip.
“Then who is it?” she asked sitting up.
“Mary. My mom has Dissociative Identity Disorder.” I picked up the dirty clothes off my floor and carried them to the hamper.
“Oh, really? I bet that’s hard to deal with,” she said.
I looked up at her and studied her face hard for any sign of sarcasm, “Yeah, I guess it is.”
I hadn’t ever thought of it being hard to deal with, it was just my life as I’d always known it. One day Mom was fine and the next she wasn’t; things went on.
“This might be personal, but are you seeing a therapist?” she asked.
“No, why would I need one? I’m not depressed or anything. It isn’t that hard to live with, I mean, she’s my mom.”
“Just a thought. Anyway that lunch rush was crazy, wasn’t it?” she asked.
That night we didn’t talk anymore about Mom. However, every shift we worked together after that she brought up therapy. When she found out you left us, well then she wrote up a recommendation and pressed it into my hand, her eyes staring into mine. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who can care so much about someone they’d only a met a few months ago. I still kept making excuses, but I knew it would mean a lot to her.
So, I called the number on the piece of paper and made an appointment.
My therapist tells me that I should go to college and leave Mom behind, maybe even get her institutionalized. I don’t know if I can do that. I really want to make something of myself. I’m twenty-one and I still work at McDonald’s. I can’t leave Mom behind though. My therapist says that I need to take care of myself; I need to do something for me. Kattie agrees, we’ve been hanging out a lot lately. But, how am I supposed to leave her after you already did?
Kattie has actually helped me a lot. I used to want you to come back, but I figured you had found your own happiness that I would never be able to. However, Kattie helped me to realize you’re an asshole. She told me how a real family is supposed to act. I saw how her dad kissed her good night and asked how her day was. You never did any of those things. I used to love our walks to the park even if I was in trouble. I loved you more than anything; you were my role model. Yet, if there is anything I’ve realized from writing this letter it is that we’re better off without you. In the end I’m glad you left. It was better for us.
So this is the letter that Paige, my therapist, told me to write you, about everything that happened. I know you probably won’t read this, but it still means something. It means I’m able to talk about things openly with you. It means that I don’t need you anymore. It means that I’m ready to move on and stop hoping that someday you’ll come back.
That’s exactly why I play.