A few days ago, Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl were playing while I made dinner. Gorilla Girl said to Monkey Man, “You will be Prince Charlie and I’ll visit you.” For a moment, I thought I should correct Gorilla Girl, but realized that I’d much rather Gorilla Girl call her brother Prince Charlie than Prince Charming. I am not even sure where she heard Prince Charming, since our only book that contains a prince is the Paperbag Princess who calls the spurned Prince a bum! Prince Charming is undoubtedly culturally ubiquitous and little girls hear about him via the world of nursery school classmates and fairy tale stories.
Another time, Monkey Man refused to be called Prince Charlie, and retorted, “I am not Prince Charlie, you are.” This idea that Prince Charlie is not a desirable character maybe be intuitively correct on Monkey Man’s part since when Prince Charming does show up in fairy tales, he is a handsome, though fairly bland, character without much depth or appeal other than his royal wealth and stature. I hope that Monkey Man does not become a prince charming, and I know that his personality will prevent such bad luck.
When it comes to stereotypical, poorly developed and idealized characters, Disney, in its use of Prince Charming is only challenged by Barbie. We’ve successfully managed to avoid having any Barbies in our house. Today, though, when Monkey Man went to see the endocrinologist, the staff gave both Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl holiday gifts, (in)appropriately gendered. Monkey Man got a set of matchbox cars and Gorilla Girl got “Fashionista Barbie.” I was horrified, but Gorilla Girl didn’t miss a beat, asking, “Mommy, are you allergic to this Barbie?” We’ve had several conversations about cats and my allergies, and when Barbie has come up, I have offered the explanation that I don’t like them. When pressed, I elaborated that Barbies give me hives, sort of like cats make me sneeze.
Gorilla Girl opened Barbie, shouted excitedly, “Her legs, head and hands move!” and then moved on to other toys. I imagine Barbie will resurface, but I was gratified to see that Gorilla Girl’s attention was not held for long by the stilettos and long blonde hair.
When it comes to language and how we use it (either to describe our Barbie allergies or shift the meaning of Prince Charming), Monkey Man is right there with Gorilla Girl. Monkey Man was playing with Hanna and she told him, “You are adorable.” Monkey Man’s response: “No, you are a door bell.”
Hanna posted the exchange on her Facebook page. Later, we were telling the story, in Monkey Man’s presence, to Kelly and Jeff. After the tale had been told, Jeff decided to verify the story and hear it firsthand.
Jeff said to Monkey Man, “You’re adorable.”
Monkey Man responded, “No, you’re adorable.”
Kelly noted, “Hey, he said it right this time.”
Monkey Man replied, “Ding dong.”