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Princesses (2/15/06)

Dear Zelda,

My daughter, who is 16, is under the impression that everyone around her is only there to make sure she is catered to. I admit that she is spoiled (we just bought her a new BMW for her sweet 16) and she shops like a Hollywood glamour girl. She hardly listens to anything we say, and just brushes us off like we're a waste of her valuable (non-working) time. I know it's partially our fault, but she's an only child and sometimes I feel bad that we didn't have another child for her to play with growing up. She'll be going away to college soon, and I'm completely fearful that she will be lost.

Do you have any advice for damage control?

The Queen Mother

Dear Queen Mother,

Never fear, you're not alone! "Spoiled only child syndrome" is a common occurrence.  Lots of parents overcompensate for only having one child by lavishing them with treats, treats, and more treats.  However, a lollipop at the supermarket checkout line just doesn't cut it with 16 year olds, and you're beginning to see how these gifts have skewed her view of the world.  We sometimes forget that money doesn't always buy happiness, and at times it can even create. . . well, princesses.

It's important to remember that your royal treatment of her won't do her any favors in the long run.  Once she leaves your home as an adult, she's in for a rude awakening. The world doesn't take kindly to too many princesses. As her parents, what you owe her instead is a healthy appreciation for the work it takes to afford the finer things in life, and that kindness to others will serve her well. (Why else do you think Oscar winners are always thanking the "Little People"?!)

So, good news! You're actually in control, even if you don't realize it, and you still have a few years to remove that tiara.  You own her car, her bedroom, her clothes, and most likely the cash in her bulging wallet.  I'm not saying it will be easy and she may resent being gradually dethroned and living the life of a mere mortal.  But instead of taking away all her things (which would be unfair, you did give them to her), make her earn her next rewards.  New shoes? Wash the dishes.  Movie money? Mow the lawn.  And put in place a set of consequences to use when she disrespects you, her friends, a waiter... anyone.  And if all else fails, pop in "Cinderella" or "Snow White"  to remind her that what makes a princess most lovely is her humility.

Be strong! Making her work for what she wants may cause conflict...but will turn her from a "princess" into a "priceless person."  Now THAT is a no-BULL cause.


Dear Zelda,

I love your column and I'm a huge fan. I saw you on Martha! I noticed you were doing "princesses" this week and it couldn't be more fitting for my situation. My silly problem is that my boyfriend for the last 3 months is constantly calling me "princess." I think he thinks it's cute and he buys me things that say "princess" on them. I'm 32, and don't want this moniker for my pet name (nothing against pet names...haha). I think it implies a certain attitude, and I don't have it. I really do like him, but frankly it's becoming a royal pain. Is there a compromise?

Princessed Out

Dear Princessed Out,

Imagine being blessed with the moniker "bitch" all your life! Trust me, I'd take "princess" any day.

However, I do agree with you. The word "princess" implies an attitude which isn't always positive.  And besides that, you shouldn't have to live with a pet name you not only don't agree with, but are embarrassed about!  But, keep in mind that your boyfriend has nicknamed you princess for all the right reasons. He adores you and wants to have his own special name for you.  By coming up with a nickname and using it in public, he has effectively staked his claim by calling you "princess."  He is saying to everyone else, "This is MY sweet lady, so all other knights, back off!"

So how to tell him you hate his nickname without risking your chances of one day being his Queen? Gently.  Luckily for you, your relationship is still in the early stages where boundaries are being established.  You can tell him you prefer another pet name without too much risk. It's important to tell him that you love that he has a special name for you, and how generous he is, but that you just don't feel it suits your easy-going personality. Try suggesting an alternative name instead. What about Sweetheart? Smoochiface? Loveydovey? (See? Don't you feel better already?! It can ALWAYS be worse.)

Good luck!  Remember that this nickname stems from his feelings for you, so be delicate when you banish the "princess" talk.  Because honey, if you ask me, the man sounds like a prince.


Dear Zelda,

My girlfriend has a little dog she calls "Princess." Princess comes before me in our relationship (or at least it feels that way). We don't go out because she can't leave Princess alone. When we do go somewhere, guess who comes too? She has these get togethers once a week where she invites her friends and their dogs to a "Princess Party." I've thought about this, a lot. I don't think it's the dog that's the problem, I actually like Princess. My girlfriend thinks I'm jealous of the dog, but after a year of Princess I think I've given it the old college try. When we first started dating I thought it was cute. Now, it's just annoying.

I don't want her to get rid of Princess, I just want Princess to be less of a focus.


Dear Dogged,

As you know, thanks to a few Hollywood starlets and gorgeous party girl heiresses, carrying around a little dog can be just as much an accessory as the perfect shoes or purse, (Yes, I even have a tiny little canine friend named “Gucci!”). It's become one way to emulate and feel like you’re part of the "glamorous life" without having to spend a lot of money, and it does garner attention.  

But back to your problem. Have you talked with your girlfriend about your predicament of being pre-empted by Princess? That's really the first place to start and you don’t want the issue to become a bone of contention . Realizing it's not the dog's fault is a fantastic first step, and a great intro into a conversation with your girlfriend about your concerns for your relationship. I do believe you're not jealous, and she should too. You just have to make sure that you phrase your concerns in a way that doesn't consistently refer back to, or blame Princess. The focus should be on time spent together or the lack there of. Point out that you actually DO like Princess, but that a little one on one is definitely needed. With the use of a comfy, well-heeled crate, Princess will even enjoy spending some time alone while the two of you go out for a romantic dinner.  Princess will like it even more when you return with some tasty treats in a doggy bag. There's nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy your partner...alone.

Communication without blame might just be the key to your palace.