As a child, I had a pretty vivid imagination. I liked to pretend many things. I played princess a lot or dressed up as an astronaut and imagined that my room was a strange alien planet that I was seeing for the first time. And I especially loved to play in the bathtub, imagining I was a mermaid or pretending that I was a submarine captain in the midst of battle.
“All clear Captain. Looks like we blew those Monsters out of the water with that last torpedo!
No, no…what’s this?! Captain, they managed to fire one last missile before they went down. It’s going to hit! Ahhhhhh!”
Water splashed out of the tub as I smashed my hands down in the fashion of a large missile explosion.
“Oh no, we’re going down! Abandon ship, abandon ship!
But a Captain always goes down with the ship. I guess this is it for me. I’m sinking! I’m sinking!”
I slipped under the water blowing a few bubbles as I sank. From under the water I heard a loud pounding on the door to the bathroom. I sat up, water cascading down my body. I pushed my wet hair off my face.
“SASHA! GET OUT! I’ve got to take a shower!”
“I’M NOT DONE YET!” I shouted at the door. Lydia, predictably, kept pounding.
“SASHA COME ON! Dad says you have to go to bed now anyway!”
“FINE! I’m getting out! GO AWAY!”
“Five minutes,” I mimicked, sticking my tongue out at the closed door. I flipped the lever on the drain and waited until the water started making one of those little funnels.
“All signs point to a strange water phenomenon,” I said in my best reporter’s voice. “The SS Minnow was floating in the ocean just fine when a funnel opened up and sucked them in. It appears that there were no survivors. 7 people, passengers and crew, all vanished. What a tragedy.”
As I got older, I realized that someday I would grow up and get to choose what I wanted to be. My Dad was a fireman, so sometimes I wanted to be that. My Daddy was a police man, so other times I wanted to be that. I guess I was like a lot of little girls, though, and more than anything I wanted to be a princess…at least until I realized that it wasn’t possible.
“Dad, you know that we already read this book last night, right?”
“We did. But isn’t it your favorite?”
“Nah.” I said, even though he was right, it was. “Peggy says it’s silly to have your dad read to you. She won’t let Uncle Trevor read to her anymore. She says I should read on my own.”
“What does Peggy know? Does Uncle Trevor read a book like I do?”
I shrugged. “She says being read to is for babies.” I wasn’t sure I agreed. I liked it when Dad read. He did voices and sound effects. But since I was 7 at the time, I figured my cousin probably was right.
“How about this, you read to me,” Dad said. He offered me my favorite book. I wasn’t sure if I really could read it, since I was just learning and all. But I looked at the writing and just did my best.
“Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who was locked up in a tower by an evil queen…” I began, telling the story of Rapunzel.
When I was finished, Dad kissed the top of my head. “Night Princess,” he said to me like always.
It wasn’t until he got to the door and was about to turn off the light that I said, “Dad?”
“I’m not really a princess, right?”
“You’re my princess.”
“Yeah, but I don’t think I want to be that anymore. Peggy says that playing princess is for babies.”
“Do you like playing princess?”
“Yeah, but it’s not real. Maybe I should play something real. Could I be an astronaut or a policeman…girl…or a firem…girl?”
“You can be anything you want. But can I still call you Princess, just for me?”
“Sure Dad,” I smiled, and then yawned. That’s when he turned out the light and shut my door almost all the way closed (not all the way ‘cause that’s when the monsters are allowed to come out).
Even though I told Dad that playing Princess was for babies, I still thought it was possible to be one, but I quickly realized that perhaps I wasn’t qualified.
“Daddy, why do I have to do homework?” I asked for like the thousandth time. I hated doing homework.
“You have to do homework because that’s how you learn,” he said.
“But I don’t want to learn!”
“Of course you do. You want to be smart so you can grow up and be whatever you want, right?”
“Princesses don’t have to do homework,” I muttered.
“Yes, they do. How do you think they know how to rule a kingdom?”
He had a point.
“I don’t want to be a princess anyway. Peggy says I’m not pretty enough to be one.”
“What?!” Daddy looked offended that I told him I wasn’t pretty. But I wasn’t. I knew this even if he didn’t. Maybe Daddy’s always think their little girls are pretty. But Peggy was right, this time.
“Peggy says princesses are blonde and have boobs and can sing good like in Tangled.”
“That’s just a movie.”
“Yeah, but I can’t be a real princess either. Do you have to do homework if you are a policeman or a fireman or an astronaut?”
Daddy coughed. “Yes. You do. You have to be able to write and do math and other things, too.”
“Oh. Guess I don’t want to be those either, then. I hate homework.”
Daddy coughed again. “You still have to do it, Punkin. Just take it slow. We’ll get it finished and then you can go play or watch TV.”
The hardest part of knowing that I wasn’t pretty enough to be a real princess, was that my sister, Lydia, was. She had eyes the same color as the princess on Tangled, and even though her hair wasn’t as long, it was almost the right color.
And she had boobs, too. She got them sometime after she started being a teenager. I wasn’t sure if I’d get them then, too, but Lydia definitely did. With her hair and eyes…well, Peggy and I both agreed that Lydia was totally princess material.
Peggy was my best friend. We were cousins, but sort of like sisters, too. See, Peggy is my biological sister. I’m not really related to Lydia except maybe as a cousin.
Peggy admitted that she’s not princess material either, but I always thought that she believed that she was prettier than me.
“My mom’s pretty, so I probably will be, too,” she used to say. “I’ll grow into it.”
“Me, too,” I insisted.
The reason both of us thought we might be pretty some day was because of Peggy’s mom (my biological mom), my aunt Laura. She was pretty, so we reasoned that we both could be, too.
Aunt Laura was a surrogate for my two dads. They used some of Daddy’s sperm to fertilize one of her eggs. She is a doctor so she explained all that to both Peggy and me.
At the time I thought that in vitro fertilization sounded scary, but when she explained how regular fertilization (with a penis and a vagina) worked, I thought that sounded even scarier. She showed us pictures of the needles used with IVF, and also penises. I thought the penises were much worse!
Anyway, before I started school, my Dad got a book that was supposed to explain everything to me. “I have 2 Dads” it was called. He sat on my bed while Daddy sort of stood off to the side. In the book it talks about how it is perfectly ok to have two dads instead of a mom and a dad. That both of them love you in the same way as moms and dads love their children.
I thought the book was stupid. Of course it was ok. And of course they loved me! I hadn’t realized that my family was any different than anyone else’s and I didn’t need a book to tell me I was right, either.
“We just want you to understand, Punkin,” Daddy said anxiously. “If someone thinks it’s strange and makes fun of you, we want you to know that they are just being mean. Don’t let them get to you.”
“I won’t, Daddy.”
“You just tell anyone who says anything, that your parents love you just like theirs,” Dad said.
“I will Dad.”
Daddy leaned over and gave me a kiss. “Just tell them that your Daddy can beat up their Daddy and also have him arrested if anyone makes fun of you,” he whispered in my ear. I giggled.
“Love you Daddy!”
While I might have given up on the idea of a being a princess, I couldn’t give up the notion that my sister had a lot of qualities of a fairy-tale princess.
She couldn’t sing—I’d heard her in the shower and she was always flat— but Lydia played the piano and had been in dance classes since she was my age. I figured dancing and piano were almost like singing. Close enough.
Also, Lydia was always great with animals. She even talked to them! I know they didn’t talk back, but they always liked her better than me.
We had three cats. Kit, was Lydia’s cat. Dad and Daddy gave her to Lydia when she was a baby.
Then there’s Patches. Dad brought Patches home when I was a baby, but that didn’t make him my cat. He always liked Lydia much better.
Patches and Kit liked each other and had three babies. I wanted to keep all of them, but Daddy said was had too many cats, so he and Dad gave two of them to other families.
The last one, the best one, became my cat. I called him Alvin after my favorite Chipmunk, but he’s not like Alvin at all. He sleeps a lot and is really skittish around me even now that he’s older.
Lydia said the way that I should show him that he was mine was to play with him and hold him a lot. I did that, but he isn’t that cooperative.
Another princess-ish thing that Lydia had was a prince…or a boyfriend. His name was Solomon Brandon (which is a weird name…I never understood why he had two first names). She called him Sol. Sol means sun (I looked it up).
When I was younger, I thought he was the perfect prince. He had blonde hair and green eyes, and he really liked Lydia, too, just like the princes in the movies Peggy and I used to watch.
Peggy said that we shouldn’t count Sol as a real prince because his nose was too big and he used stuff in his hair to make it stick up. I disagreed, though. I didn’t think his nose was too big and his hair wasn’t too sticky-uppy. And I agreed with Lydia that his eyes (which were her favorite color) were really pretty.
Lydia went to Prom with Sol. She even had a princess dress except it was sort of short. Prom, both Peggy and I agreed, was like the ball in Cinderella. Reluctantly Peggy had to accept that Sol could be considered a prince because he and Lydia were made King and Queen of the prom. She got a crown and everything, which she kept by her dancing trophy.
In the stories, most princesses have a step-mother or someone who keeps them locked up in a tower. When I was little, I thought that Lydia’s mom was like that. Lydia wasn’t locked in a tower, but she had to spend all week at her mom’s and only lived at our house on the weekends.
I knew Lydia’s mom, Becky, wasn’t an evil queen, however. I actually liked her. Since I really didn’t have a mom, I sometimes wished that Becky was my mom. I thought she was really pretty, and I was jealous that she and Lydia get to hang out together and do mom and daughter stuff.
Lydia used to complain and say she’d rather stay with me, Dad and Daddy because her mom wasn’t always in the best moods. Becky also made her do chores and go to bed earlier than I did. She also complained that they only got to watch what Becky wanted to watch on TV.
I think the biggest complaint was that Becky made Lydia do all those ballet classes when Lydia really wanted to play soccer instead. But when she became a teen, Lydia got to do both, so she stopped complaining about that.
Now Becky is married to someone named Holden, and they have a baby together. Lydia doesn’t really like Holden and neither does Dad. Holden is someone that Dad and Daddy sort of fight about. Daddy says that Holden makes Becky happy. Dad says that Holden isn’t good enough for Becky.
I overheard them arguing and Daddy stormed off accusing Dad of having feelings for Becky still.
I knew that Daddy was being jealous for no reason. He and Dad are always kissing and hugging and stuff. It’s obvious that Dad doesn’t have any feelings for Lydia’s mom.
And I saw Becky with Holden and their baby. I thought they looked really happy. Lydia got really mad at me that day for following her to the Red Rooster on my bike. I wasn’t really spying on her, but that’s what Lydia thought I was doing. Also, she thought Dad would get mad if he’d known that I had gone there. I had to promise to do the dishes for a month to get her not to tell on me.
However, from what I could tell, Lydia may not like Holden, but I think she mostly dislikes sharing her mom’s attention now that they have a new baby. Lydia is always complaining that Anthony (that’s her brother) cries a lot.
Sometimes I wondered if Lydia felt the same way about me as she did her baby brother Anthony.
I don’t know if she minds that Daddy is just like a step-father. She doesn’t complain or get upset when Daddy and I have our special nights together each month. Daddy says that those nights are just for us because Lydia gets to spend special time with her mom.
Lydia may not have felt jealous of me, but there were lots of times when I was jealous of her.
Like all the times she got to hang out with Dad. Dad spends a lot of time teaching her to drive. And now that she’s on the soccer team, he’s been training her.
Every weekend, all Dad can talk about is soccer and how Lydia’s team is going to win some championship award. He thinks that Lydia could go to college on a scholarship.
Dad promised that he would teach me to drive, too, but I know that I won’t ever be on the soccer team. Unlike Lydia, I’m not good at soccer or ballet or music. Dad and Lydia are always talking about soccer. He and I don’t have any similar interests. I like school and making up stories. Dad says that I am a lot like Aunt Laura and his other sister, my aunt Barbara that way.
Despite our differences and my jealousy of her, mostly Lydia and I got along just fine. She was pretty nice to me for an older sister.
I know I’m a lot younger than her and she could have ignored me, but when Lydia was home, she and I spent a lot of time together. She even let me help her get ready for her prom. It was fun. She confided to me that she was afraid that Sol wouldn’t know how to dance or that she could trip in her new high heels. Of course those fears were unfounded, but I liked laughing with her about them.
That same night, she let me use some of her make up and we laughed at the results. It was like a joke just between us to see how long it would take Dad or Daddy to notice and make me wash it off.
Still, we weren’t friends all the time. She was always yelling at me to get out of the bathroom even though she spent twice as long as me in there. She just didn’t understand that I was playing in the tub!
Also, she got mad if I was pretending to be the queen of the dining room and she was doing homework. I tried to tell her that since I was queen, I could decree that homework would be outlawed and she wouldn’t have to do it, but she didn’t play along.
“I have to get this calculus done, Sasha! I have a huge test Monday. Go play somewhere else,” she yelled at me.
Other times got mad at Lydia because she always managed to get out of chores when I knew that it was her turn. Dad and Daddy took her side since she was only with us on the weekends.
“But I did them last time!” I would insist.
“No you didn’t. It’s your turn.”
“I always do the dishes!” I stomped my foot.
“Stop whining Sasha. Quit being such a cry baby.”
Dad and Daddy usually ended our fights by telling Lydia not to call me names, but I still ended up doing the dishes anyway, which wasn’t fair at all.
Most of the time, however, Lydia was great. She helped me with my homework. She also gave me tips for controlling my thick, unruly hair. And now that I’m older, she taught me how to put on make up the right way, not like I did when I was a kid.
I still worry a lot about being pretty, but Lydia just laughs away my concerns. Ever since I was little she’s always said, “Pretty is what’s on the inside, Sash. But I think you’re pretty on the outside, too.”
I just turned 13 today and will be going to the high school with Lydia in the morning. My hair is still unruly, I suck at putting on make up, and I know for a fact that I will be considered the ‘ugly’ sister. I just hope that Lydia’s right about it not mattering.