Princess Mia by Meg Cabot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've read most of the Princess Diaries books, but I never really sat down to write a review for any until now. I've enjoyed them all, because I relate to Mia (what female never spent time as a teenager convinced the world was going to end because of something insignificant?). In fact, I almost *was* Mia. I spent most of my life in my friend group as the one who would just go along with what everyone else wanted to do. I didn't argue, I didn't fight, I didn't stand up for myself.
I saw myself in Mia, constantly going along with things she didn't want to do, because I did the same. It was so bad that, when I tried to figure out what things I liked a few years ago, I couldn't put anything down on the list. So I identified with Mia through the earlier books. But this one. This one really struck home.
After I got married, my husband forced me to make decisions, like where to eat. I was terrible at those decisions, still am, because I was so used to those choices not even existing for me. If my friends wanted to eat this, then that's what we ate. If they wanted to do that, then that's what we did. But suddenly I had choices, and a husband who would let me choose what I wanted to do, without freaking out, trying to force me to choose something else, or making me feel guilty for picking something he didn't want.
And that's when I started losing my friends.
One after another, as I asserted myself in my friendships, I lost them. I didn't want to be treated like that anymore. I knew what I wanted, now, and I wouldn't sit back and let them make all the decisions for me anymore. I started to tell them when I thought they were wrong. But they wouldn't respect that I had opinions too. That I wanted things different from them sometimes, and expected them to occasionally humor me, or bend their wants enough to compromise. And so they got angry. I refused to back down, and got the silent treatment, among other things. As I continued to refuse to back down, they went, accusing me of being unreasonable, even of being mentally ill, as they left me.
The moment when Mia had the chance to beg Lilly to forgive her and be her friend again was cathartic to read. She hadn't done anything wrong - she didn't need to ask for forgiveness. And so she didn't. Instead, she went home, and, in the interest of starting over fresh, rearranged her room. She realized that Lilly wasn't as good of a friend as she had always thought.
I'd come to the same conclusion. If my friends can't accept that I'm different from them, if they won't treat me nicely unless I'm behaving the way they want, then they're not very good friends. And it's time to let them go.
I'd been struggling over my decision to do just that when I got this book in the mail. Some of us had been friends for decades, and I was going to write them off. Was that really the right choice? Shouldn't I fight harder for them?
But Mia hadn't done anything wrong. Expecting Lilly to come and talk to her about whatever problems she had with her wasn't unrealistic. Expecting Lilly to believe *her* over magazines and articles about her and expecting her to be there and try to understand her feelings was perfectly reasonable.
Expecting my friends to compromise so that I get my way every once in a while isn't unrealistic, either. And neither is expecting them to continue to treat me nicely when I ask them to. Why apologize for that, and then back down and stop asking it of them? If they're not capable, for whatever reason, of being good friends for you, then why continue? When you and your friends change, and neither of you can tolerate those changes, it's time to leave, no matter the history.
It was validating to read, and an incredibly valuable lesson worth learning (even if, now that I've read the next few books, I know that Lilly wasn't nearly as unreasonable as she seemed).
I've enjoyed all the Princess Diaries books on one level or another, but this one is by far my favorite. Mia has always been entertaining in her overly-dramatic way, and I've always identified with her emotional sensitivity, since I've struggled with that too. But watching her make the same decision I had elevated this book above the others for me. It gave me a little more confidence, that, despite how much I miss those friends and wish it had gone differently, I still made the right choice. Those particular challenges are not limited to teenagers.
Anyone who, after the last book, isn't sure they want to continue, well...I'd urge them to read this book before they decide for certain they don't want to read any further.
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