(update of a reflection originally posted in June 2013)
Once upon a time there was a Little Princess…
She had a Nanny who read her stories about other Little Princesses.
The Little Princess believed that little girls should only wear dresses, and would not leave the house unless her diaper covers AND socks had lacy frills on them.
The Little Princess would not eat a meal unless there was a full setting of silverware AND a FABRIC napkin, and after every single bite, she wiped both corners of her tiny little rosebud mouth.
The Little Princess spent all of her time with adults or alone; she had no princess sisters or prince brothers no little friends (friends got you dirty, you see). Her first full sentence, long before she was 1 year old was “Oh my goodness gracious me!”
One day, the Little Princess was taken to a giant Lake, Erie by name, by her noble Uncle, who was visiting from the far away Mountains. He tried to make her walk on the grass – but Little Princesses are good girls and don’t stray from the paved path. She was even more shocked when her poor Uncle suggested that she take off her shoes and socks to feel the cool blades of grass beneath her toes. GASP! Horrors! Then, he tried to show her how to skip stones on the sparkling water – furious, she promptly lectured him on the fact that he was making the Lake DiRTY and insisted they should go home, RIGHT NOW!
She was a very determined and very opinionated Princess.
One day, the Nanny had to go back to South Africa. She wanted to take the Little Princess with her, but was not allowed. They parted then, and never saw each other again.
When the Nanny was gone, the Royal Family was at a loss. They had no real experience with Tiny People. The Little Princess was suddenly put into jeans and sneakers, overalls and tshirts. She learned how it felt to swing your arms, and stretch your legs. She learned that her Uncle had had a point – it was a lot more fun to go for walks when you could take off your socks and shoes. She discovered the squish sound of mud and the cool, smooth texture of river rocks. She learned that if you put a smooth cheek against the rough bark of the tree and closed your eyes, listening carefully, there was a story of decades whispering up from the roots. She found bunny rabbits leaping in the clouds and brothers and sisters in leaping bunny rabbits.
But somewhere inside, there were always echoes of storiesand songs of South Africa, and there were always two ways of being – a Little Princess, who was a Good Girl, and a loud and rambunctious hoyden. A barely remembered whisper said hoydens were Bad Girls and no one liked them, not even Mommies and Daddies and Teachers, and when the Little Princess was yelled at when she played too loudly, or came home with mud on her overalls, or grass stains on her sneakers, or when she lay on her back during t-ball games and imagined stories for the clouds in the skies instead of watching the ball like a good Little-Prince-In-Disguise (tball left field- seriously? c’mon!), it was hard to know what was “Good” and what was “Bad”….
What was a Little Princess to believe?
I’m not sure who sold me The Dream. It wasn’t just my Nanny, although she certainly did her best to wrap me in pink wool and white lace. It wasn’t just Walt, though he gets the blame; the stories are old as the hills – as old as our fears of being alone, of being without food, without dreams, of fearing that our children might disobey, of being without the hope that even a pauper might aspire to the halls of greatness, of fear that a child, a girl child, might think, of fear that we maybe without saviours be they gods or fey.
I cannot ever recall ever truly wishing for myself a particular fairytale ending – but years upon years of songs, and books and stories and fearsome warnings about bad girls and models of good girls and praised and lauded engaged girls, and magazine racks full of models and models and models of brides and at some point The Dream infected my expectations. If only I could do better, look better, BE abetter person… then perhaps, I too, even I could be worthy of happily ever after…
Then I turned 40, and I was digging around in my TickleTrunk of Old Dreams, Old Hopes, Old Loves and Old Fears. I held some of them up to the sunlight forthe first time in years…
Between the faded lines of my own story, and my memories, I found some truths, like shadows, faded ink behind sharper day-to-day cares that cover the surface of my tales. I have no time to sit around waiting on someone’s palace steps to see if they’ll come out to chase me, especially not until the bells toll midnight – frankly, I want the joy of a good night’s rest, and if it’s my lot to look at the rest of the world from The Outside, then while I’m Out There I’d prefer to watch the dance of the Northern Lights, as the stars twinkle against the inky sky. I’d rather hear the symphony of wind in the trees, rattling the aspen leaves, to the mirage of the fantasy Ball.
My magic is inside me, as is the divine, and if it comes to having to “save” me, well, that’s inside me, too. And that’s ok, because I know lots more than just bibbity-bobbity-boo! (Although it rolls so delightfully off the tongue!) I am my own Fairy Godmother – when I need a drive, I’ll earn the money to pay for it, when I need a pair of shoes, I’ll decide what I want to wear and what’s needed – steel-toed boots for some self-protection? Crocs for kick-back comfort? Fluevogs for kick-ass-funky stylin’? Polka-dot Gumboots to get my own work done? Fuzzy slippers when I need a full body hug? Solid hikers for dog walking, Sorrels for snow wading, snow-shoes for — traipsing lightly across the crust of a pristine landscape … Back up Imelda, I got it covered! I don’t have time for breakable shoes, and if I lose one, I will NOT wait around for someone to try everyone-BUT-me against the perfection-litmus.
Lovely big dresses are fun to try on, and I drew them when I was a girl, but they’re horribly restrictive and then I can’t breathe. When I come to dance, I come to MOVE! I am not a confection with feet, and half way through the night, if I don’t need a change of clothes, and the walls themselves aren’t sweating, well then, the party hasn’t even started yet. Ribbons and furbelows just can’t keep up, so let them stay in pictures and fantasy poses where they don’t crumple and wilt with reality.
I don’t need one night when I am somehow better than everyone else to make someone see me. If they don’t see me as I am every day, then selling them a fakery, one moment, one night, one month of dazzled infatuation does no one any good, because the clock will always strike, and anyone who cannot see the magic of my smile when I’m wearing a fuzzy nightgown, Sorrels, and a parka, humming “Sexy Boots” on my way to the outhouse – well, they just don’t get my brand of magic.
I don’t need other women to be Ugly or Evil in order for me to be Good or Pretty by comparison – feel free to compare me to who I have been, and who I may yet learn to be, but comparing me to anyone else isn’t useful for anyone.
And if I’m covered in cinders, it’s because I’ve risen from the flames, again and again, a little stronger each time, tempered and more able to stand the light, and fly higher, a phoenix in shades of aurora lights.
Yup, I have many flaws and quirks and I’m not anyone’s idea of a supermodel. I’m not photogenic, sometimes (read: often) I’m awkwardly honest and I’m oddly naïve in my determination to believe that people “should” behave ethically. I don’t always “get it”. I try too hard, and a heart on a sleeve tends to get a bit tattered looking, it’s true.
I remain a work in progress.
I have met many princes and princess so far in my life… None of them, as lovely as many of them have been, have been my prince (although I was always flattered when any showed an interest in me, and if a princess showed interest, I always rather felt guilty for being a prince oriented kinda lady – after all, any interest is a compliment, and it never feels good to be told “no”). I have met Frogs. I have even tried kissing them. I have never been the Transformative Catalyst for anyone’s amphibious state. I have met snakes, and other vipers; I have been bitten and stung. I have crumpled and I have fallen to my knees. I have wished myself into the ground, and up and away into the stars. I have always gotten back to my feet, I have always carried on, my wounds have always healed, and I have always been a little stronger, a little more inured to the poison, a little more able to tell the snake oil salesman from the shaman, and the magic from the illusion or delusion.
Most of us have a bit of everything in us – most of us have been someone’s prince or princess, someone’s frog, and most of us have bitten or stung someone. Few of us are entirely innocent and even fewer of us are anything like evil.
If a prince is out there and decides he wants to catch up with me, and he happens to be “my” prince and I’m his fuzzy-pj-motley-foot-wear-dog-family-princess, I’ll know. He’ll give me a Ring Pop not a diamond ring, he’ll go adventuring with me, not try to save me, and instead of trying to take me off to his castle in the clouds, he’ll want to build something with me that is all our own. Until then, I’ll meander on my way, Princess Solo, sans Hans, sans Charming, sans Genies in Lamps, Fairy Godmothers or other mythical critters.
We are all of us characters writing our own stories, but they are choose-our-own adventures, not fables, and while we might venture into the realm of fantasy sometimes, and visit pretty much all of the genres at one point or another, this Cinderella is walking off the pages of the predictable but unattainable.
I already live Where the Wild Things Are – so next I shall try a wild endeavour – to live and experience the chapters of my life as I ‘write’ them, as “scripted improv” as it were. To choose a deliberate direction – not that which society has inculcated in me, but neither will it be a simply reactionary direction either, like a ball in a pinball machine. I will adapt my story as I live it.
My story is no fairy tale – it is my adventure and will remain so, ever after…
Cinderella Turns 40 by RobinCarrey is licensed under a<a>CreativeCommons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License</a>.