I played the princess; Cinderella, Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink, Evan Rachel Wood in She’s All That, Julie Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You. I was the overlooked girl who just needed a little help to find her beauty and snag a prince.
My friend played the fairy godmother. She relished playing the wise friend who would help the poor girl reach her potential and find love.
She had set me up with a prince. Our big romantic scene would be at a friend of a friends’ BBQ.
“He’s a law student from Ohio,” she gushed. “His summer internship is at one of Phoenix’s best firms. He’s really nice and, y’know, he’s going to be a lawyer.”
To a 23-year-old admin assistant, a future lawyer sounded something pretty close to a prince.
That’s what I wanted, right?
First was clothes. My clothes were mostly baggy office-wear that I bought at the mall. Her clothes were tighter, trendy designer clothes. I wore a size or two larger than her, so pants cut into my stomach, skirts rode up my thighs and shirts stretched uncomfortably across my chest. Finally, we ended up with straight-leg, slinky black pants and a sleeveless top that accentuated my breasts while disguising my tummy. The clothes didn’t fit, but they weren’t supposed to. I wasn’t meeting this prince as me, I was meeting him as a better, shinier version of myself. That tight, uncomfortable feeling of wearing ill-fitting skin was good, right?
My already straight hair, newly highlighted blond, straightened even more with a flat iron. My face was covered with foundation, my lips brightened with pink lipstick and my eyes brightened with eyeshadow.
“Ooo, I have glitter eyeliner,” my fairy godmother said. “I can’t wait to try it out on you.”
The effect in the mirror was underwhelming. There wasn’t a music-swelling transformation. I was still me, now with shining, straighter hair, brighter lips and a distracting glitter around my eyes. It wasn’t anything I would have ever worn to an afternoon BBQ, but wasn’t that the point?
I met the future lawyer at the BBQ. We had met before and hugged in greeting. He wore shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. I wobbled a bit on my heels.
“Wow!” He said. “You look really nice.”
I accepted the compliment with lowered eyes. I had achieved goal #1, but it came with a queasy feeling.
The BBQ was in a large, clean, modern house with a pool. I never knew whose house it was – probably someone’s parents. Everyone was friendly and wore shorts and flip flops but in the neat, coiffed way of people who knew how to be casual without being sloppy. From the white furniture to the sparkling pool to the pretty people, everything was casual but immaculate. I was the only person wearing heels.
The soon-to-be lawyer/potential prince was chivalrous, introduced me to his friends and brought me a drink. I asked about his internship, about what kind of law he wanted to practice, or if he got to work on any interesting cases. He told me about the pool table in the office break room and how the office fridge was stocked with beer.
He didn’t ask about my job.
We sat on a low, modern sofa in a tastefully lit living room.
“Where is everybody?” I asked.
“They’re giving me some privacy to make my move,” he said lightly. We do not make eye contact.
My stomach, which was already sucked in, tightened involuntarily. What did he mean? I wasn’t sure what I wanted him to mean.
Our eyes met and he touched my hair. His eyes were dark and kind.
“You know,” he says, also lightly. “Not everyone can pull off glitter eyeliner, but you really can.”
All the things I didn’t know snapped away and I was left with one overwhelming truth: I was not the person who could pull off glitter eyeliner and I was very tired of pretending that I was.
I left the nice lawyer sitting on that modern sofa inside that tasteful house while I drove home barefoot. The tight pants left a red mark on my stomach and I had to rub the glitter off my eyes with a washcloth.
The movies never showed the scene after the princess goes back home. There was no dramatic music to the transformation back to myself, just the comforting sigh of putting on clothes that fit. I was back in my own skin, my own face, my own clothes. I was alone, I was me, and I was comfortable.