Resting eleven places behind the first racer, I prepare myself for a blood battle. The chrome of my vehicle glitters in the sunlight and the wheels sit taut on the dust. My hair is pulled back into a shaggy, blonde ponytail, my curves accentuated in a tight, pink and white racing uniform. The system always places me at the back where I can show off to no one, but I grit my teeth and determine to show them all up.
The announcer calls out, "Three, two . . ."
I rev my engine. Focus.
"One!" He screams.
The flags raise, my Sugarscoot rockets forward, and as I battle for a good spot on the rocky cliff side of Koopa Cape, I quietly vow that the last thing these other racers will see is my golden crown zooming past the finish line ahead of them all.
Because they all think that a plumber can race better than a princess.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mario Kart: it's my siblings' latest summer kick. We pile on leather couches that stick like dew in the heat, brows furrowed, spines arched over, fingers dancing over our Wii remotes. Four player split screen. Just the way we like it.
Ridge and Jesse pick Mario and Luigi, their mustaches full and their dragsters shiny. Kori inevitably picks Yoshi, who jumps for joy and pumps his little fist on the screen when she clicks on his picture. My pointer scrolls with indecision before landing on Princess Peach, one of two girls we've unlocked so far. The reactions of my brothers and sister are unsurprising.
"Why'd you pick a chick?"
"Peach is an idiot."
"Not Peach again. She sucks."
Their protests make me stubborn. I don't change my mind, even if she's awful.
I struggle to win races, but only because I don't play video games that often. I do fight harder than the rest of them do, though. For some reason, I'm desperate to prove that Peach is good, that Peach is a fighter, not this puffy, dainty damsel in distress waiting in some castle to be saved. She giggles and they grumble. She's a Barbie in a Call of Duty world to them.
And it makes me wonder if other people hate Peach like everyone in my family seems to.
One day, I Google search "nobody likes Princess Peach" and get a list of why:
She's a stereotypical brat.
She's got babyish looks.
She gasps and cries over everything.
Her attitude stinks.
She's got no fighting skills.
Her voice is annoying.
She's way too girly.
For some stupid reason, I sympathize with this video game princess. It's not like she can help being babyish looking or crying or not having fighting skills or being "too" girly. Just like I can't help being sensitive or imaginative or having a gap in my teeth or a big forehead. She was made that way. She was designed with imperfection.
I decide why I play with Peach all of the time instead of someone rough and tough like Bowser or some wicked debonair like Wario. I play with Peach because the boys think she's too girly. I play with Peach, because in the modern world, Peach would be the epitome of the helpless female stereotype girls should never embrace. I play with Peach because everyone says she's just a damsel in distress, but she's not. I play with Peach because I am sick and tired of girls being beat up from both males and females for who they aren't instead of being celebrated for who they are.
You aren't feminine enough, you're too feminine, you should want a career over a family, you're too sensitive, you're too girly, you're too tomboyish, you don't fight hard enough, you settle too much, you're not loud enough, you're too loud, your body isn't curvy enough, your hair isn't long enough, your makeup isn't pretty enough, you're too fat, too thin, you don't dress in cool clothes, you're not independent enough, you're not beautiful, you're not successful.
You just aren't good enough.
I think about Peach in today's world and imagine her torn apart by radical feminism or objectified by pornographers and the film industry. Just because she's "girly". Why is that such a bad thing?
Another day, another race, another chance to pick an abrasive male racer. I can already hear the groans revving in their throats as I slide my cursor past Bowser, Donkey Kong, Mario, and Yoshi. I click on Peach. She twists in her pink dress and bubbles, "Alright!"
I grit my teeth and promise that princess that she's good enough to win.
"Alright," I say.