Someday My Prince Will Come
Second Place Winner, 2014 Bethesda Magazine Young Adult Essay Contest
I used to love playing with Barbies. The solitary games, played late at night or when I was particularly overcome with loneliness and sensitivity, were not so much games as stories, not so much playing as planning. I knew every step of each fairy tale—both ancient and those I’d made up myself—and I knew how each would end. I rehearsed endlessly. I didn’t want to make a mistake when the day finally came.
My prince was a doll with long, reddish-brown curls. The top strands were braided into a crown. Once, she had been a fairy queen of some sort, given to me by my cousins. Now, she wore jeans instead of the full purple dress she’d arrived in. She went shirtless, and I pretended to tuck her hands into her pockets.
I had a crush on that doll, on the androgynous beauty she held. She was my prince, mighty in her jeans and imagined swagger, with strong, defined shoulders and hands, but I still considered her the prettiest doll I had, with her painted eyes and beautiful braids, her full red mane of hair, even the delicate curvature of her waist and breasts. It never even occurred to me to get a male Barbie, with their bulky chests and strange, unlovely shapes. My doll was the best of both worlds: fierce and strong, beautiful and sweet, whose arm fit perfectly around her princess’s shoulders and whose body melded seamlessly into another.
I struggled with pronouns, sometimes: my doll was definitely a girl, but she was a prince at the same time. I didn’t know much about sexuality or gender. I knew a little about my tender heart. When I whispered stories to myself, I let myself mumble over the she/he’s, the his/her, the awkward blur of who the doll was and who I wanted—her?—to be.
Eventually, I stopped playing with dolls. I was no less of a romantic, and no less of a storyteller, but I knew from my friends’ wrinkled noses and furrowed brows that it was time to put the Barbies away. My prince ended up in a box somewhere in the basement. For years, I forgot about her.
In eighth grade, I met a girl with copper-brown waves and rough hands, gorgeous blue eyes and rounded shoulders, full breasts and shapeless jeans. She was aggressive and dainty, crude and classy, utterly tactless and one of the kindest people I ever met. I loved that girl like I loved that doll. Of course, the doll wasn’t alive. But, unlike the girl, the doll never broke my heart.
Recently, I went down to the basement and searched for that doll. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find her. Maybe she’d been given away in a yard sale, or to a cousin. Who knows. For some reason, I sat down and cried. I still didn’t know where to find my prince—princess—fierce, strong, beautiful…whatever she is, or may be. I am still looking.