I talk to women for a living. It's pretty much what I do with my day. I start my morning by talking to some or all of my 70 girlfriends. And when I'm done talking to them, I strike up conversations with other people's girlfriends -- at Starbucks, on cruise ships, in the toothpaste aisle at Target, and/or on Twitter. We talk about our lives, our friends' lives, and the lives of people in Us Weekly. Later, when I'm avoiding the gym, I think about the stuff I've talked about with women that day, I notice things about our lives as a result of those conversations, and then I go off and write about what I noticed. (This is called being a writer, btw.)
Every once in a while I stumble onto something huge.
Like two days ago. I just noticed this thing. I can't believe it took me this long. You know how when something is so right in front of your face, sometimes you can't even see it? It was like that. And here's what I noticed:
A lot of us ladies don't want to grow up.
Not all of us, naturally, but a whole bunch of chicks -- we want to stay young and carefree and wearing skinny jeans, possibly forever. (I include myself, with the caveat that I am really trying to be "in recovery".) I even coined a phrase for us: Princess Pan. A female Peter Pan.
We all know about a male Peter Pan. A guy who dabbles rather than commits, who would rather bro down than man up, who winks and grins (or worse, blames) when he behaves badly. Perpetual childhood is a bad look on guys and we (perhaps rightly) give them a lot of s**t for it. But how did we never even realize we're doing it, too?! I can't tell you how many ladies out there are 38 or 48 and still dressing, acting, and thinking like they're 28, or god forbid, 18. On a bad day, I'm one of them.
So what is a Princess Pan? It's complicated, of course, but here are nine signs it might be time to hang up your green tulle mini-dress and your tiara:
1. You're the center of your universe.
If I had to summarize what makes a Princess Pan in a single point, this would be it. A Princess Pan is self-centered. She's the sun and the moon and the planets, which is impossible, but then, often so is a Princess Pan. For her, life is an episode of House Hunters and there will be granite countertops. Other indications of selfyness (not a word, I know) include thinking your friend/mom/boss didn't just do something, she did it to you and/or wanting to speak to the manager about your French fries. Being all about me is not a good thing -- I don't care what 1978 tried to say -- because as long as you mostly think about yourself, you're not going to be a wonderful person. You're just not.
2. You're cool.
Nothing says Princess Pan -- and unremitting adolescence -- like being cool. That's partly because being cool is very dependent. It requires other people -- to notice it, and validate it. Like, if you talk about the French New Wave in a forest, can anyone hear you? There's also something terribly conformist about being cool. It's why when you go to the new It Bar and see all those beards/glasses/topknots/insane-asylum-bangs in one place you suddenly realize what a cliché it all is. Or you don't, because you're too busy talking about Urs Fischer. (Google it.)
3. You're uncommitted.
A Princess Pan is allergic to commitment. I mean, you're not even sure you want to commit to dinner. You'd rather see how you feel later and text if it looks like you're going to want to eat. With that person. At a certain time. A Princess Pan likes to think everything should be completely spontaneous, because most of the time she sees herself as someone who is starring in her own Zooey Deschanel movie. You might think having a pet disqualifies you from this one, but actually, only having (alive) houseplants truly counts -- because they don't think you're awesome. For every year past the age of 27, you need to take another step toward commitment somewhere in your life Instead of freelancing, you get a staff job. Instead of renting, you buy. Fine, instead of couch-surfing you rent. Just, you have to sign something, okay?
4. You're over it. By "it" I mean everything.
I have a 16-year-old son. He's a very good kid, but he's still a teenager and that means he has to rebel. Somehow. I suppose he could hold up a liquor store, or pierce his face, but that would take, like, effort. So instead, he's bored. (So bored.) He just can't. If he had a motto it would be Non Mihi Curae Est -- Latin for I don't give a f**k. A Princess Pan knows how he feels. In fact, a PP would get that tattooed down her rib cage in a dope font and post it on Instagram. Caring -- about people, about things, about life -- is an act of maturity. It feels vulnerable at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's actually better than getting a pointy manicure and smoking a blunt.
5. You're Uncompromising.
Grown-ups compromise. They sell out. They do things they don't want to do because they're responsible for boring-ass shit like the rent and health insurance. Deal with it.
6. You love reality shows.
Okay, I know I worked on a reality show (see: Ready For Love) so I don't think they're all bad (or maybe I just sold out, whatever, see number five.) One thing is for sure, reality shows are basically instructional videos in Princess Panhood. Think of them like alcohol: there's having a glass of wine with dinner, and there's slamming tequila shots and throwing up on the dance floor. It's fine to indulge here and there but you have to draw the line at discussing them on message boards and talking about Desiree as if she's someone you know in real life.
7. You sleep with Peter Pans.
Obviously. Which is fun, until the morning you ask him if he could pick up some toilet paper because you're almost out and he tells you he doesn't think he's going to be near the toilet paper store that day.
8. You live downtown. Or in a loft. Or in Portland.
There's nothing wrong with downtown, or lofts, or Portland. Heck, I've lived all those places -- at once. The point here is that Princess Pans are trying to live in a fantasy. Lofts (like downtown, and Portland) are aspirational places -- places that prove to yourself and others that your life is what you imagine it to be. And for every second you're imagining your life, you're not actually living it. Yes, I can hear you saying, But I really am an art director at a happening advertising agency. And what I want to say back is: so what? Your job is also an illusion. (At least it will be in eight-12 years -- aspirational jobs have a notoriously short shelf life.) Whatever meaning it has is all in your mind. If you don't know this yet, you will when you're on your deathbed. Why wait until then?? You will be much more useful on the planet if you start getting more real -- as real as possible -- right now. You'll also be happier. Which brings me to my final point:
9. You think you're immortal.
Between the kale and the botox, it's tempting to think you're not actually aging and you're never going to die. But no matter how fantastic you look, your eggs are a day older than they were yesterday. I'm not trying to scare you. I'm trying to tell you I have humbly witnessed the very real grieving process of women friends who figured they could keep pushing the snooze button on their biological clock because Halle Berry is somehow 47 and pregnant. Who knows what Halle had to do get pregnant, and besides, isn't Halle Berry's whole deal that she's got a painting in a closet somewhere?? The immortality thing isn't just about babies, either. It's about time in general. Time is a precious resource and Princess Panning (also not a word, I know) is a gross polluter of the temporal plane. Time isn't some random thing, it's actually what your life is made of -- and your life is worth something. You only get one. Don't waste it.
So. I hope you get that I'm not mad at a Princess Pan. I understand that there's a part of every woman (like there's a part of every man) that stays childlike. What I'm trying to say is that the Princess Pan part of you (and me) might get Texas and even Florida, but it shouldn't win the electoral college in a landslide and become president. Not only because it's not your best self in the Oprah sense, but also because I know you have dreams (we all do) and the only way to achieve them is to grow the eff up.
Besides, the world needs you. Grownups are able to delay gratification and put the needs of others ahead of themselves when necessary. Every good thing you can imagine happening in the world -- from the eradication of hunger to the end of Citizens United -- will happen sooner if each one of us takes responsibility for ourselves, and from there, reaches out to serve others. After all, isn't that what a truly great princess does?