Oh, Pretty Pretty Princess. Do you remember that game? There are some toys and games that define your life, and Pretty Pretty Princess was one of them. Along with the Skip It and roller skates and the original Pet Shop animals and American Girl dolls.
I didn't actually own Pretty Pretty Princess, and I'm not sure my parents even knew how much I wanted that game because part of me, even at age eight or so, thought princesses were stupid. The other part, of course, wanted to be a pretty freaking princess, dang it. So I would watch the commercial—with its promise of bracelets and earrings and crowns—longingly. What a genius concept! First to get dressed up as a princess WINS.
Then my friend got Pretty Pretty Princess for her birthday, and I kind of made it a goal everyday to get her to hang out with me so I could subtly suggest we play "that one princess game."
It was awesome! There were different colored jewelry sets, and I would always fight for blue, because, well, I couldn't go ALL girly. I remember a black ring that was, like, the KISS OF DEATH. You could not be the Pretty Pretty Princess if you had the black ring (Which, thinking about that now, sounds terrible!).
One day, we were playing this game, and I was close to winning. I had my ring and bracelet and necklace. The crown was in sight. I was almost to Pretty Pretty when my friend's father came in.
He scared me, always had. He wasn't around much, but when he was he always had a beer in hand. And he swore a lot in addition to being loud. For a little Mormon girl, it was an experience. Not that I was completely sheltered. I grew up in the Bay Area, for Pete's sake. My mom taught me to be prepared and aware. I'd been teased in school for my religion. I knew there were people who didn't like us, but I never saw this one coming.
"Hey!" he said. I may have been Mormon, but even then I knew what drunk sounded like. "You're that little Mormon girl, aren't you?"
"Yes." I fidgeted with my bracelet, the jewelry seeming far more stupid than pretty all of the sudden.
"How many wives does your dad have?"
I stared at him, completely confused. "What?"
"How many wives! Polygamy. You Mormons can marry more than one woman." He leaned on the doorjamb, smiling. "Man, that'd be great to have a few. One for cleaning, one for cooking, one for...you know."
I had no idea what he was talking about. The tears were right there, begging to pour out, but I sucked them in. "That's not true. My dad is married to my mom and that's it."
He laughed. "Well, you better watch out, because that could change."
He disappeared, but his words stayed. I had never heard about this. I didn't know a single Mormon person with more than one wife. He had to be wrong, but a little part of me wondered. Doubted. Because he was an adult, and I was a kid.
"I don't want to play anymore." I pulled the bracelet off, the necklace, the silly snap on earrings. I didn't feel pretty at all. I felt ugly and strange and possibly wrong about something I believed implicitly. I ran home, hot, angry tears streaming down my face. Someone would have told me about this if it were true, wouldn't they? I would have noticed at church. I wasn't a stupid child. I was observant, sometimes too observant for my own good.
I asked my mom, and because she's an amazing mother she told me the truth. She told me it wasn't true. She told me my dad wouldn't marry another woman. But she also told me that our church used to practice polygamy, like they did in the Bible's Old Testament. I didn't like the idea, honestly. It was the first of many trials of faith and quests for understanding.
But one thing I did know—I was never playing Pretty Pretty Princess again.