On my seventh birthday, my mother gifted me with a game my sister and I would play for five years, before all the pieces were lost. It was a game we both bonded over and had fights over.
The game was called Pretty, Pretty Princess.
The point of the game was to collect four pieces of jewelry; a ring, a necklace, a bracelet, and a pair of earrings. They all had to be the same color as your game piece, which moved around the game board that circled the jewelry box. Beyond having to collect all your color jewelry, you also had to collect the crown, which there was only one of. There was also a house rule that to win, you had to wear all of the jewelery you had collected. You could also steal jewelry if, say, you already had your bracelet and landed on a bracelet space again, you could steal an opponent’s bracelet.
This game was even more fun when our neighbor Spencer would play with us.
Spencer was my sister’s age, a bit pudgy, and considered “weird” by most people in school. But he was one of our best friends. He would let us play Super Smash Brothers on his N64, he would play pretend super heroes with us without insisting that girls couldn’t fight crime, and he would endure our endless requests to play Pretty, Pretty Princess.
When Spencer played, there was one goal. It was to get him the crown so he could be a princess. When you’re young, there is nothing more fun than making boys look like girls. (Come to think of it, that’s still fun.) We saw nothing wrong with it; after all, we wore overalls and T-shirts of blues and greens since that’s what we liked. And while at first he would never for the life of him wear it, or any of the other jewelry, he slowly got used to the idea that he couldn’t win unless he was wearing the fabulous plastic gems. And after that, he began accustomed to wearing the earrings. He’d come to lunch still wearing them, long after the game was over. My mother, who would have made him a dress for Halloween if he’d asked, thought nothing of it.
One day, Spencer’s mom came to pick him up in the middle of a game. She had his two older brothers in the car, and she came into the house to talk to my mom for a bit. Spencer came to see her still wearing the earrings.
“Spencer,” she said, “what are you wearing?”
“Earrings. We’re playing a game.”
“Take them off.” She turned to my mother. “I can’t believe you let him behave this way.” She grabbed Spencer’s hand and lead him to the car, speeding away.
The next time Spencer came over, he said he wasn’t allowed to play Pretty, Pretty Princess with us anymore. A very long call was made that night from my mother to his that night; so long it bought us an extra hour before bedtime. I don’t remember much about it, other than she got very loud and very angry. Spencer didn’t play with us for a long time after that. Finally though, he was allowed back at our house. He sat down on the couch and was quiet for a minute.
Then he asked if we could play Pretty, Pretty Princess.