I Dreamed of Being a Princess
Elizabeth Cheng | Art by Vivian Chen
I was already a princess.
Everyday, I dreamed of being a princess. I dreamed of my corset being carefully tied, my waist cinched until I belonged in a storybook. I dreamed of having the tulle of my ball gown fluffed, its expensive fabric adjusted. I dreamed of a butler serving me not quite sunny-side-up eggs and two pristine, organic low-fat sausages, a list of my public appearances for one day in his right hand and reminders from the prime minister in his left.
I dreamed of addressing the queen as mother and knowing my brother to be a prince. I dreamed of endless golden rings and bright silver bangles, bejeweled tiaras and ruby red pendants. I dreamed of milky white skin, an ice creamy complexion, and manicured pink nail beds on hands that only ever touched peach fuzz.
I dreamed of holding my posture high. Pushing my shoulder blades back. Waving at cameras that were just bright enough to capture my youthful, glowing beauty. Being comfortable with the harsh flashes of light, enjoying the eyes observing my every move.
I dreamed of the luxury of boredom, the feeling of mornings blending into afternoons before stretching into long nights. I dreamed of looking out of a stained glass window despite knowing that I would see the same trimmed trees and brown buildings.
I dreamed of being a princess, even if I were to be molded into an unforgiving box, even if I were to lack the freedom of choosing what to do each day. I dreamed of my entire life already having been set decades before I descended on earth, my days planned exactly as they should be until my very last breath. I dreamed of knowing what to do, who I was, and who I would ultimately become.
When my back burned and my eyes blurred, when my legs gave out and my arms no longer could be felt, when I couldn’t seem to hold myself up anymore, it was just the uncomfort of scratchy layers from a heavy gown, or the unnatural weight of an exceptionally studded tiara. The grueling work was simply maintaining my posture and putting on a pretty face for the cameras. It was no more than having all eyes on me all the time—my decisions made for me, my outfits picked out until the day I die.
I knew I could bear the weight of a thousand crowns. I could breathe, even through the tightest corset. And I could survive, despite being shoved into the perfect right angles of a stupid container.
Alas, I didn’t dream of being a princess. I already was.