So, when I was recently faced with a grown woman dressed as a Disney princess at the "Princess Storybook" character breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway section of Epcot in Orlando, I wanted to ask her practical questions about the gig. I wondered how many wigs she had, if she got health insurance, if she only does Ariel or if she can pinch-hit as Cinderella. But this woman and her ilk — who each come to the table in a successive stream over the course of my meal — do not break character. And if they are surprised to see an adult woman dining alone at a breakfast otherwise populated with children dressed up as princesses, they do not let on for a second. They ask me if I have a prince (Ariel). They tell me about how many gooseberry pies they baked this morning, only to have them eaten by all the dwarves (Snow White). They say they wish they too could have a meal out alone, away from their princes and castle life (Cinderella, nicely done). Or they babble on incoherently about Gaston and his henchmen (Belle). I want to wink at them, to shake them, to tell them it's okay, it's just us.
Instead, I smile and stare blankly at each of them, my anxiety creeping into the corners of my brain. I wonder why I assigned this to myself. I thought maybe I would be at some communal table, maybe no one would notice me, maybe I could just observe the situation and take cute pictures (i.e., creep on families). But I forgot the character breakfast protocol: You get your own table, and every character visits for a designated period of time to sign autographs, take pictures, hug the kids, and listen to the dad jokes before you pay the check and leave.
So I ask them each to take a selfie with me, tell them they are beautiful, then go back to my plate of not-all-that-Norwegian breakfast food. Towards the end of the seating, once the princesses have made the rounds, a male voice announces over the speakers that it's time for the Parade of Princesses. Every princess (and prince!) in the restaurant should gather in the main dining room for the parade. Children dressed in full princess regalia (a rainbow of neon rayon, sequins, ribbons, and tulle) all get up (some squired by the adult princesses) and walk in a kind of conga line around the restaurant as music pipes over the speakers: "The music, the magic, the castle, they share. It's warm everywhere, so real and so rare." It's heartbreakingly adorable. I Snapchat it. Then I hunt down my waiter named Knut, and get the check.