The other day, I went shopping with my three-year-old niece, Lucy.
Sue Carswell: We were going up and down the aisle facing the yearly (and dreaded) costume assessment that I had volunteered to do at her baptism when I was made her godmother. "Would you like to be Winnie the Pooh?" I asked, as we turned the corner to Pooh alley. "No Pooh, somethin' else," she said like she was on a determined mission. So we carried on. "Oh you'd be a wonderful ballerina, you love 'The Nutcracker,'" I said, showing her the lovely pink tutu and matching leggings with a princess tiara. "No Aunt Sue, no. I don't seeee it." Was my niece that high maintenance that an entire four rows of costumes weren't perfect enough for her?!
Finally, I gave up and said, "Lucy, what! Who do you want to be?" Her response: "Ovrah! Lucy wants to be Ovrah." Ovrah, I thought? Was I really that out of touch with the cartoons she watched, or the characters in her children's book? "Who is Ovrah?" I finally sheepishly asked my niece, not wanting to seem too out of touch with a 3-year-old. "Mommy watch her on TV!" Oh my God, Lucy wanted to be Oprah Winfrey, whom my sister did watch on TV at 4 PM five days a week. But there was no outfit created for Oprah even in the adult section. (Wouldn't you think there would be one?) I decided, against my better talents, to become a more creative and crafty aunt, instead of just plucking down a ready-to-wear costume on my credit card. On the way out of the department store, I picked up an issue of Oprah's magazine.
My blonde-headed, blue-eyed niece was going to be Oprah Jr., and I decided she'd be the best. I bought Lucy a skirt that Oprah might wear, stuffed my lone pair of black Prada high heels, put a long beige wrap-around sweater on her with a big leather belt, a set of my Mikimoto pearls, and then I took the microphone from my nephew's Wii set and handed it over. Lucy looked perfect, but then she said, "No Aunt Sue, I want me to be Ovrah." And with that said, she pointed her finger at the magazine and said, "Lucy needs Ovrah's face." Oh my, now this was interesting.
I then immediately cut Oprah's head off the cover of the magazine and lightly roped Oprah's face on Lucy's. Was this unusual? Was this considered blackface? You know what? I was overthinking it.
My niece's dream was to be her daytime 4 o'clock hero, and I let her go with it. Next year, Lucy already told me who she wanted to be in advance. I'm trying to figure exactly how to make her into "Simon (Cowell)!" What would my sister be watching on TV the following year after that?
|Sue Carswell is a Vanity Fair reporter/researcher. She is a published author, former senior story editor for "Good Morning America," contributing launch editor for "O, The Oprah Magazine," former executive editor for Random House Inc, senior editor at Simon & Schuster, and former correspondent for People magazine.|