For Jem Cheng, who will always be Cinderella to Belle, and always Jem to Frankie.
I am one of those people who does not like fairytales much anymore. I think I outgrew them when I was twelve, in the fall-out of my first crush (I’ll have to claim it is the first crush, because everything in gradeschool and preschool seemed so unprepossessing and not as consuming as crushes now.), when Prince Charming became the bane of my existence.
Or maybe it was sometime before that, when I was trying to grow up and be brash and be sexy instead of beautiful. But I don’t think so, because I think as late as eleven years old I was still rewinding and rewinding my Beauty and The Beast VHS (before it became the bane of my existence) and laughing at Gaston’s song.
Yes, I WAS A DISNEY KID. As jaded and cynical as I seem now, with a loud mouth and cocky demeanor, I was a little girl looking at pretty dresses and princesses and enchanted roses or shoes or spinning wheels…I wanted to be Cinderella when I was three years old. Imagine an overweight barely-a-toddler in a Cinderella nightgown (those things were made to look like Cinderella’s dress in the movie, minus the petticoat) going to her preschool Halloween party. I’ll scan a picture and post it as soon as I can, just for kicks.
I was a cute kid, a cheeky kid, but definitely not a “fragile princess” kid. Even today I carry a solid stockiness, a broadness of the shoulders, a…er…”manliness” in my frame that makes me look really butch in the Patmos basketball jersey. Grrr…
But I digress. Where was I? Oh, right, fairytales.
I will confess that I should be working on my editorial right now, but my brain is dry. And perhaps I tend to hold on to things that have recently impacted me. So here I go. For a while, I didn’t really care for fairytales. And as for Cinderella, the Disney girl of my childhood…I’d put her down as another blonde bimbo, in a series of stereotypical damsels in distress. (Well, except Mulan. I still LOVE Mulan to pieces. Seeing as she’s the only Disney girl I can decently cosplay.)
The Musical sort of changed my mind. Jem Cheng, my arch-rival for most of my high school life, because she brought out the mean girl in me by simply triggering that old Green Eyed Monster (She’s pretty, smart, everyone LIKED her, and did I mention she’s pretty? Insecurity complexes are very unreasonable creatures.), got the part of Cinderella. In the book Mean Girls, All Grown Up by Hayley DiMarco, the author claims that in every girl is a mean girl. I can’t speak for every girl, but I can speak for myself – Heck yes, I have a mean girl in me.
Digression, again. Let me get to the point.
Anyway, Jem got the part of Cinderella, which I will tell you I never wanted, simply because I didn’t like Cinderella. By then I’d stopped mindlessly hating Jem (Ah, the joy of maturing…ever so slightly.), so I was okay with her getting one of those plum princess roles. Anyway, the fact that she was Cinderella meant that she couldn’t be Belle, so I got it…even though for the first few rehearsals I thought I’d just be the Evil Stepmama.
Do I have to recount my musical escapades all over again? Haven’t we hashed and rehashed them already? This isn’t the point. I’m getting to the point.
Jem didn’t change my mind about Cinderella, but Jem wasn’t blonde and most certainly wasn’t a bimbo (she got higher grades than me, for pete’s sake), so I could make peace with the princess of my past. After all, I was “Belle” for a season. Beautiful, for a time, for two nights, for…well, the insecurity complex likes to dictate limits on the time I was beautiful. I don’t have to be Belle to be beautiful.
I just have to be seriously delusional to be Belle. But please, the B-word scares me a bit now. Makes me have “spasms”, as Derric calls them. I call it twitching, he calls it spasms. To-may-to, to-mah-to, whatever.
So, where was I? Oh yeah, Cinderella. Okay, so we’re closer to my point.
Anyway, after the Musical, I went back to my old fairytale-cynical ways. I think you can tell, if you’ve checked my blogs (Multiply or my Literary Blog, Paradox Park) and read my poem, (Happily Ever After Is) A Happy Lie. Which is true, there are no real “happily ever afters”, but there are “perfect moments”, as another of my favorite books, Sandosenang Sapatos, notes.
But where was I? This post is getting really long. If you feel you can’t handle it, bookmark it and go back to it later. I’d really like for all my readers to finish this post.
I think I started making peace with fairytales again today. I went on a what was supposed to be a quick trip to National Bookstore to buy some gluesticks, a notebook, and scope out the Pilot Coletos. It ended up being a long trip because my driver got caught in traffic. So while I was stuck in National Bookstore, I decided to browse the stacks, see if there was anything I could add to my growing book-lust.
Hey, I’m a bibliomaniac. It is probably the most tangible reason I have for being chosen as Belle. Even during the Musical days, my books went everywhere with me. But ENOUGH with the B-word. It’s become too scary, how it keeps popping up.
So I found some books by Maureen Johnson (a friend of Libba Bray, of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy fame), and added them to my list. I scoped out the Coletos, and bought a new Pilot FriXion pen (that really erases, too cool). But that wasn’t what got me to make peace with Fairytales.
What did was a book. It was a Disney Princess book, but it wasn’t one of those commercialized ones. It was Walt Disney’s Cinderella, retold by Cynthia Rylant. If you click the link, you can read an excerpt and see how beautiful the book is. It’s P.708.00 though, so it’s a bit pricey for a children’s book. Still, that didn’t keep me from enjoying it, for a little while.
Why did I enjoy it? Why me, the chronic fairytale cynic?
You know how old things are different when put in new lights? Well, Cynthia Rylant put the Cinderella story in a whole new light, in a language that was both simple and poetic. And guess what – the story wasn’t about Cinderella triumphing over the old stepmom and sisses…it was about Love. The power of Love. That old black magic that puts stars in our eyes. It wasn’t the story of how Cinderella caught Prince Charming anymore. It was a story about how Love catches us all.
Sounding a bit too dramatic for you? Take a load of this line from the book: “Who can say by what mystery two people find each other in this great, wide world?”
That doesn’t sound like the Cinderella stories I read when I was young. Not at all. It is a stroke of literary genius. When I read that book, I felt like I was three and discovering Cinderella for the first time. (Now will Ms. Rylant please rewrite Beauty and The Beast? I want to see how that could turn out, if I could like that story again.)
Dang, I hate to admit this, but the book almost made me cry. Wow, this post is getting long. Better wrap it up.
There’s something about the love in fairytales, when you take it out of the damsels in distress and sexual stereotyping, that has a universal appeal. There’s something about knowing that you can wait in your cellar, sweeping the floor and doing the dishes, and that even though you just wait until it seems hopeless…love will find you. Sure, it won’t be a prince with a glass slipper, but it will be love all the same. It doesn’t have to be a romance story.
So you’re thinking I bought the book? Nah. I could have. I would have gladly sacrificed my jersey and my Coleto money to buy it, but I didn’t. Instead, I recommended it to a mother and her little girl, who were looking for a book. When I came back to the stacks, to see if they had bought it, the book was nowhere to be found. And though it could have been placed somewhere else in the store, I’d like to think that a little girl, somewhere out there, is reading the Cinderella story as it is meant to be read – as a story about how love finds you, and touches you, no matter how cynical you may be or how jaded you think you have become.
If you’re about to say I didn’t mention God in this post, or that I’m just overglorifying love…stop and think. Isn’t God love? Doesn’t He find us and touch us no matter how hardened we think we have become? I’m waxing sappy and this post is too long, so I’ll stop now.