The word “princess” was once hallowed. Once meant to be a source of female empowerment. Until, somewhere along the way, it was transformed by them. Mutated into a term intended to be as derisive as nigger. Because when calling out to a white girl dressed reasonably “well” (which is to say not wearing thrift shop rags) that she is a princess, the intent is, of course to demean, to mock, to suggest: “oh little girl, how foolish you are, what could you possibly know about struggle? Over there in dem heels and dat fur coat.” Sure, Eleonora was wearing pearls as well, but they weren’t real. And yes, her name was Eleonora, but it’s not as though that was in her control (nor was her skin tone, of course, but she still somehow felt responsible as a result of not going to the tanning bed often enough to mitigate it). That was all her mother’s doing, named in a similarly flowery fashion as, what else, Iris. Her father, Leonard, had been against the name, maintaining that he would abhor it if people started calling her Ellie for some reason. He lost in the end, as most men do to women that have managed to wear their will down enough to get them to marry them. But Eleonora was willful enough to prevent the nickname Ellie from coming to fruition, for once Leonard mentioned he hated the name while watching a rerun of Beverly Hillbillies (Elly May was close enough to refer to his contempt–which Eleonora would later learn stemmed from Leonard being jilted in high school by a girl named Ellie Reed. She sounded quite reedy and accordingly skittish, to be sure).
Eleonora never suffered too much disdain for her apparently royal-like qualities while spending her early twenties on the West Coast, where the protective bubble of her car prevented her from such scathing judgments of her class–middle, with a light peppering of debt that would take well past her lifetime to pay off–unless she happened to have her window rolled down in Inglewood before the era when Insecure was on and people were calling it “I-wood.” But all of this changed upon crossing the middle divide of America, to, of all places, Baltimore, where Eleonora thought she would find affinity with the town because it spawned John Waters, the only man she had ever been able to count on to school her in debauchery when her parents clearly knew nothing about it. She had taken a job as a guest service representative at Mariott International (though nothing felt very international about it)–specifically the Baltimore Mariott Waterfront–despite having majored in Hotel Management and hoping to acquire a position slightly more on her level. And yet, with no experience to speak of, this is what she was offered–very quickly one had to remark. Almost suspiciously so. She didn’t think twice about accepting, however, making her transfer without a second thought as she dreamed of starting a new and divergent life from the one she had known in the sun-drenched banality of San Diego.
Though her parents, most of all Leonard, advised against this decision to abandon her path in California, Eleonora could not be talked out of it–though she appreciated that her father remained so protective of her. Perhaps this is precisely why so many girls never quite transcend into women: as a direct result of their father. Sara Crewe said it best in Alfonso Cuarón’s rendering of A Little Princess: “I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags. Even if they aren’t pretty or smart or young. They’re still princesses. All of us. Didn’t your father ever tell you that?” Of course, we had to touch on the Electra complex with regard to why so many girls have this arcane sense of entitlement that men think they themselves do not (though, in truth, that’s the entire crux of what it is to be a male in the first place).
With her lone suitcase in hand as she entered the apartment she had rented sight unseen, she was about to be gobsmacked with too much plebeian reality. When she had signed the lease, she wasn’t worried, figuring its proximity next to the Baltimore Basilica would make it perfectly “viable.” Alas, it was located in a depressing alley on North Lovegrove Street. There was nothing grove-like or filled with love about it, much to Eleonora’s extreme dismay as the emotions of what she had done hit her all at once upon entering the space and falling into a heap on the floor to cry. To let it out as much as she could before having to plaster on her hotel smile the next morning. Ignoring the calls and texts from her father asking if she had made it there safely, Eleonora finally found the time to pick herself up and wash her face, run toothpaste over her teeth. Beauty first, she had been taught by both Leonard and Iris. The most important thing a girl can be–that she can contribute to the world–is attractive. The indoctrination of this message had been both subtle and observable from an early age, when Iris would ration Eleonora’s portions at every meal and prevent her from engaging in such fat-endangering activities as “ice cream socials.” Or when her father would tell her that interests such as playing the guitar were not “ladylike.” She took their advice, foolishly, to the point where, by the time she realized she could be her own person instead of theirs, it was too late. The indoctrination was utterly irreversible (as any “deprogrammed” cult member can tell you). But, still, she tried to function as a non-damaged member of society, as so many of us do.
That she had arrived at her twenty-third year to discover she had still never been “with” anyone in either sense of the term (physically or emotionally), however, made her feel all the more as though she had been reared as damaged goods. Had it been the fault of the car? Never allowing for any opportunities to be “picked up” lest she herself offer side services as an Uber driver? She couldn’t say. All she knew is that to walk to work that first morning to be assaulted with the verbiage of a leering, unkempt man sitting on a metal chair smoking a cigarette outside of an auto body shop was the jarring straw to break the camel’s back. She could feel the buildup to his condescension happening. The not so gradual development of something unwanted and unnecessary being uttered or, worse, done. Dressed in a black sheath dress, black tights and black pumps, she had accessorized the look with a gold-plated wire headband, her cropped tan fur coat and string of pearls (bequeathed to her, three years ago now, from her grandmother), Eleonora was starting to see she had made a mistake in infiltrating the public space this way.
It hadn’t occurred to her that perhaps she ought to just change in the locker room at work–but then she would have to expose herself on the first day to strangers she wouldn’t even feel comfortable doing so in front of were they not. She hadn’t considered an existence that found her walking on the streets as opposed to relying on that aforementioned womb of the car. An existence that exposed her color and sartorial decisions to the kind of scrutiny that resulted in a venomous, “Hi princess.” Two words had never been so rife with harsh dissection. Two words that said, “You lost, gringa? Not just on this street, but in the world?” “Are you sure you don’t need help performing the simple task of crossing the street?” “Can you exist at all without the armor of a man?” “Where’s your daddy, little girl. How’d you get this far in life?”
And as she passed him as quickly as she could to avoid the potential of him adding any further commentary to his dubbing of her (with his own lack of knighthood) as a royal princess of incompetence and no worth other than her aesthetic, she couldn’t resist the simple urge to kick him right in the balls with the heel of her shoe and scream with the rage of Billy Corgan in “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “Hi peon!” She had to wonder if he even knew what that meant, but before she could dwell on it too much, she started to run, knowing that he might recover soon enough to retaliate. But as she commenced her attempt at a sprint, her shoe came off, Cinderella-style and her metaphorical tiara seemed to fall off along with it as a horde of the peon’s friends came to encircle her, proceeding to casually kick and spit at her. The princess.
Princess. It should be a complimentary epithet, they maintain. But all men know goddamn well that it’s not. That it’s a bejeweled-handled dagger meant to dig, dig, dig until the queen is fucking dead–mainly because the princess could never transcend into that role without being vilified and ripped from her so-called self-imposed pedestal.