A Case of Mistaken Identity

Like most of us, I’ve been the innocent victim of mistaken identity a time or two in my life. For instance, some older ladies at church often confuse me with my friend, Candace, because we both bake kick-ass cookies for all the potlucks. The postman also sometimes mistakes me for my friend, Andrea, because both of us are tall, dark-haired, and breathless when we dash into the post office holding a package in one arm while manhandling a squirming child in the other. And once I was even mistaken for my twin. My twin brother. But since he’s fairly good looking, I wasn’t too offended.

But I’ve never been mistaken for a princess. Until tonight.

While simultaneously washing the dinner dishes and threatening to throw away every piece of heart-shaped candy in the house if my two valentines didn’t park it in the bathtub, my sister-in-law, Erin, called, interrupting the usual, chaotic evening routine.

“Hello?” I answered, expecting a short conversation because of the poor timing.

“Snow White, is this you?” Erin asked with feigned excitement.

Figuring this was some sort of uncanny parenting tactic on the part of my brother’s wife, I went with it.

“Why, yes, this is Snow White” I agreed.

And then, as anticipated, my three-year-old niece, Hannah, got on the other end of the phone.

“Snow White?!” she asked flabbergasted.

And in my best possible Snow White voice – whatever that is – I replied, “Hello, Hannah! How are you my little princess?”

Hannah squealed, “Snow White! I want a dress just like you. It’s blue and yellow with puffy sleeves and I want one for my birthday!”

Bingo, I thought. This is a birthday booty call.

“Your birthday? Well, have you been a good girl this year?” I teased.

“Yes,” Hannah shyly responded.

“Well, then, I think my little princess deserves a dress like me.”

“Oh, thank you, Snow White,” my niece chimed with genuine appreciation. “Can I talk to Cinderella?”

Not expecting a sudden character change, I stammered, “Well, uh, sure, let me see if Cinderella is available.” And then I shot my voice a few octaves higher. “Hello, this is Cinderella.”

“Cinderella!” Hannah screamed. “Are you in your castle?”

“Yes, I’m in my castle getting ready for a ball. Do you like to dance, Hannah?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “And I want a dress like yours, too.” I began to sense a theme. Then she asked, “Can I talk to Sleeping Beauty?”

“Certainly, let me see if she’s awake,” I said, appreciating the opportunity to lower my range.

“Hello, this is Sleeping Beauty,” I muttered.

“Hi, Sleeping Beauty, um, were you sleeping?” Hannah wondered, probably because of the masculine, bedroom voice I was now inadvertently using.

“Uh, yes,” I said, clearing my throat, “I just woke up because Prince Phillip kissed me.”

“Is he there?” Hannah asked, and I panicked, thinking I’d really have to pull out the stops to play the part of a prince.

“Yes, Prince Phillip is here, but we’re getting ready to go to Cinderella’s ball so he can’t talk right now,” I lied.

“Then can I talk to Belle?” she requested.

“Sure, sweetheart, let me get her.” My impressions were falling apart, but for some reason I thought speaking French might help.

“Bonjour, Madame Hannah. Parlez-vous Francais?”

Long pause.

“I want to talk to Ariel.” Hannah bluntly demanded.

And with a certain je ne sais quoi, I explained that Ariel was swimming in “zee ocean” and began to sing a Moulin Rouge-esque round of princess-themed songs.

I overheard Hannah say to Erin, “The princesses are singing!” And Erin, who sounded surprised in the background, replied, “They are?”

Then Erin gently tried to convince Hannah that it was time to get off the phone, almost as if she was shielding Hannah with her arms and slowly backing her away from the singing princesses who’d clearly lost their minds. Of course, this suggestion was met with severe defiance.

“No! I want to talk to the princesses some more!” Hannah whined.

But after promising to make sure Ariel was toweled off and available to chat with her the next time she called, I said good-bye to Hannah. Erin thanked me, er, I mean Snow White, and then later emailed me to explain the reason behind the silly phone call.

Apparently, earlier that evening when Hannah requested a Snow White dress for her birthday, my brother fake-dialed 1-800-SNOW-WHITE, and I just so happened to pick up the phone and play along. Because that’s my family: good looking and ridiculous.

But I have to admit I’m a bit worried about the next time she calls. Even if I could pull off those voices again, eventually Hannah would figure out that Snow White I am not. I’m more like the evil stepmother; my girls heard her voice tonight on the way to the bathtub.

Maybe that’s the real problem with mistaken identities though. Some are just innocent mix-ups over cookies, princesses, and post-office patrons, but others are dangerous illusions that keep people from seeing who we really are. I admit I’ve disguised myself for a long time, trying to don different identities that make me look stronger, smarter, or funnier than the softer, weaker, and needier person I really am sometimes. But like the princess role-playing tonight, living with such duplicity is exhausting and stressful not to mention terribly misleading to all the little girls in my life wearing toy tiaras, looking to be the next queen.

Kids are incredibly forgiving, though, and it might help if I buy Hannah those princess dresses she wants for her birthday. But I think the best gift I can give her is the gift of authenticity, to be the real me inside and out, even if that me is a royal mess sometimes.

Because kids are also terribly perceptive, and mine know this isn’t Disney World. Thankfully, they don’t demand we live there either. But they do require sincerity and consistency. They don’t expect perfection from me, but they don’t want pretending either. I’ll leave that to the fairy tales. My girls just want the real deal, and that’s what I intend to be.

Now if I can just get the princesses to stop singing in my head…

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