Each day this week, the Scroll will be featuring a post from a writer at JN Magazine—short for “Jewnited Nations”—a website “here to change the monochromatic monolithic perception of Judaism.” Each post has been commissioned and edited by MaNishtana, the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, a Tablet contributor and editor-at-large at JN Magazine.
My 12-year-old daughter, Kenya, has never been a sugar and spice and everything nice type of girl. She patiently endured pink clothes until she was about three years old, at which point she demanded red. Or purple. Or blue. Just anything but pink, and for goodness sake, no more glitter.
When Kenya was in preschool I stopped wasting money on dolls, which she consistently ignored in favor of basketballs, soccer balls, baseballs, and skateboards. She played running back and wide receiver on her elementary school’s flag football team, and was indignant when I broke the news to her that in junior high, football is not co-ed.
I am smart enough to know that my kids are going to be who they’re going to be regardless, so I generally step aside and let them be themselves. But there were a couple of times a year when my son and daughter were smaller that I allowed myself to nudge. OK, fine: interfere.
Halloween and Purim. Those were mine.
My 10-year-old son has always been malleable and will wear any costume presented to him. He accepts them gratefully, poses for photos upon request, and smiles.
Kenya, who is months away from commencing her teens, does not smile. Kenya glowers. Because for years—years—I have been holding up one frilly princess dress after another and saying, “Please? What? Why not?” At the sight of them, my daughter’s eyes glow red and I can almost feel the laser beams burning my skin.
I managed to get a Tinkerbell fairy costume on her for her first Halloween. At a year old, she couldn’t talk or put up a fight. But in subsequent years she trick-or-treated as, among other things, a skeleton, a dragon, a pirate, and most recently, a zombie.
This is what I’m up against.
I slinked off and licked my wounds in October. But spring? Ah, spring was another matter. In the springtime, I had Purim.
No, you will not be a ninja, young lady. We are commemorating the story of Queen Esther. The operative word here being “queen.” And what does a queen wear?
If Kenya had researched how Persians dressed in Esther’s day, she might have had some defense against the tulle I was waving at her. But I suppose in her view, one kingdom’s feminine royalty was as vile as any other’s, so she slumped her shoulders and submitted.
I had a steady supply of princess dresses from Disney ready through about fourth grade, but after a certain age they don’t make them anymore. Undaunted, I bought second-hand communion and quinceañera dresses, and adorned Kenya’s head with rhinestone tiaras.
She tolerated all this reluctantly until a couple of years ago, when she finally put her foot down and revolted.
My family got in a last parting shot last year over the holidays. My brother, Dave, bought Kenya a Barbie doll. It was wearing a pink dress, and came in a pink box.
When Dave proudly showed the doll to my sister and I, we exchanged nervous glances and asked, “For Kenya? Have you not met your niece?”
“I know,” Dave replied wickedly. “I have another present for her that I’m going to bury under some tissue in the bag. I’m just going to lay this on top of it so I can watch her head explode.”
The expression on her face when she beheld that Barbie doll almost qualified as child abuse. It was nearly as cruel as shoving my fiercely independent budding feminist into princess dresses all those years.
I swear I have.
But I have no regrets. It was great fun while it lasted.
Courtenay Edelhart is a journalist, Reform Jew, and single mother via adoption. She lives in Bakersfield, California, with her two children, an obnoxious Chihuahua, and assorted dying houseplants.