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kindergarten cop-out
i don't want to be a grown-up, i'm a princess
by heather m. millen

I'm five years old and standing just inside the door to our second-floor apartment. My hair is pulled back neatly in two red barrettes and it flips up at the shoulder. I'm wearing a new dress, blue and white checked with a red button-up collar, and my bobby-socked feet stand proudly in my new Mary Janes. I'm holding a small yellow lunchbox with a picture of a bus on it. The lunchbox is smaller than a standard-size lunchbox and the inside always smells of bananas though I cannot recall a single time that it held bananas. But my greatest accessory to this formidable fashion ensemble is an incredibly wide smile with dimples to match. It's my first day of school.

And perhaps I remember all of these details so clearly because my proud mother has taken a photo of this moment and it is emblazoned on my memory. But what I recall rather explicitly is the feeling that I have standing there just moments away from such a major milestone in my life. Big things are happening and I can feel it in the air and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. I feel special.

In approximately five minutes, my mother is going to open that blue and white trimmed door that leads to the outside world, and with the swift breeze that flows in, all of those feelings will waft away. I'm nervous and I take my first tentative steps down the stairway corridor. By the fourth step, I stand frozen with my feet planted firmly on the ground. My mother is behind me, softly urging me to move forward. I grab the handrail with my right hand and stand steadfast. She's beside me now and trying to take my left hand to guide me down. I rip it away and plant that hand firmly on the banister to my left. She's quickly losing patience and I refuse to budge. She's tugging at me, I begin screaming. She's stronger than I am and I feel myself being pulled down the stairwell... my right hand loses it's grip. I'm clawing at the wall, I can feel the plaster rolling up under my fingernails... I'm flailing and screaming, my hair is disheveled, my face is red and I just lost one of my Mary Janes.

This routine will go on for months. I will bounce out of bed each morning, put on one of my favorite frilly dresses, eat my Fruit Loops and allow my mom to brush my hair. And then she will open the door and all hell will break loose again... It's a wonder my mother bothers to get out of bed in the morning.

The funny thing is that when I GET to school, I'm fine. I might even say I enjoy it. I'm a behaved student overall, except at naptime when I instead use this time to play "army crawl" with the boys in the class (An activity that will later compel my teacher to advise my mother that I should "nurture same-sex relationships.") But overall, I'm a model student and I even get to wheel the little red wagon down to the cafeteria on occasion to pick up the class' milk for lunch.

Twenty-some years have passed since I was that little girl torn between excitement and trepidation. Yet, sometimes, I feel like I'm back in that stairwell, my knuckles hardpressed to the wall, being dragged into a future uncertain and terrifying, no matter how exciting it may also be. Because I've already got it so good, right? I stay home all day, watching Inspector Gadget and alternating play between my Bugs Bunny Punching Bag and my Barbie Dream House.

I have been writing for Intrepid Media for four years now. Those that have read my column over those years can surely attest to the fact that I don't turn down a challenge. In fact, you could say that the only real constant in my life IS change. I've crossed the country and back, then criss-crossed it again.

But now I stand at the top of the stairs again and I can feel that big things are happening. I've taken strides in my career that have been very well plotted up to now and I'm faced with the question of what is next. I'm excited to get there, I know there are great rewards and that this will all pay off somehow, but I currently find myself with my hand on the rail, ten seconds away from a crying fit.

In relationships, I admit that I've often been the petulant child. I've generally labeled myself as "does not play well with others" and used this excuse to take my toys and go home. But now my home is with my boyfriend, and it's a rather lovely home and a rather lovely boyfriend, and he even bought me a Sit-n-Spin, the long-coveted toy that escaped me Christmas after Christmas growing up.

Still... every once and a while, I find myself in my new duds, smiling wildly with excitement. And as the doorway cracks open, I'm caught somewhere in between bounding down the stairs and planting my Mary Janes to the floor. Because what's to come is different than anything I've known thus far and I'll have a lot of things to learn when I get there. The kids might not always like me and I'm going to have to share. But I guess that's what growing up is all about. And no matter how old I get, there's more growing to do.


Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen


high school & the promise it held
by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 8.29.03

girl, uninterrupted
heather is home
by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 6.30.04


mike julianelle
2.24.06 @ 10:40a

Nice new pic! No more Morin!

I had to ask Heather what Mary Janes were.

This article sounds a lot like my every day life, except I never had much of a plan to begin with. Just goes to show that all the old sayings are true, about best laid plans and life happening while you make them, etc. Just gotta take it one day at a time and trust yourself. I'm pretty sure you'll be fine, Heather, you're well-equipped to weather the storm. Especially with that trusty Sit-n-Spin!

jael mchenry
2.24.06 @ 11:12a

Wow! That new pic is even more gorgeous, H.

I love the vivid image of your mother trying to drag you down the stairs. I've felt that way (excited but NOT ready) but never been able to describe it -- now I know how.

jason gilmore
2.24.06 @ 12:22p

A Sit N Spin? I'm jealous, even though I did have one when I was a kid. I want another one.

Good read, very encouraging and another testament to what I learned when writing my memoirs: we are still the same people that we've always been. The only thing that changes is the scenery.

maigen thomas
2.24.06 @ 6:59p

I always wanted an Easy Bake oven - NO ONE ever got me one. But now I get to blow up ours all the time, and it's got more power than a light bulb!

tracey kelley
2.25.06 @ 6:13p

Pretty Heather!

See, I never would have imagined you hesitating on much of anything. The "army crawling?" Yes, that I can see.

I always ate the batter from the Easy Bake oven mixes before baking them. What does that say about me?

lisa r
2.26.06 @ 9:24a

I've had moments like that in my life, Heather. Now all of a sudden I don't want to grab that handrail and have to be dragged kicking and screaming---I've turned into a life daredevil, I think.

I always ate the batter from the Easy Bake oven mixes before baking them. What does that say about me?

What's wrong with wanting to eat the batter? I still lick the cake bowl and eat cookie dough!

jael mchenry
2.27.06 @ 1:15p

I didn't get an Easy Bake, but I got some kind of Generic Bake equivalent at a garage sale eventually. Probably used it, like, five times.

Man, I would mix up and eat a whole bowl of cookie dough right now if I could.

Not all that relevant to the column, but really, really true.

heather millen
2.27.06 @ 3:56p

I did have an Easy Bake. Which was, you know, gross but kind of exciting.

Tracey, as for you statement of not picturing me hesitate on much, that's how I picture myself most days. And also a reason why I wanted to write this, because there are definitely time where I feel inexplicably anxious or petulant or childlike... I'd love to hear people's stories of moments where they've really related to this emotion.

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