The Value in Cinderella

Melissa Grey’s tweets on the subject have been getting a lot of attention, and they gave me something to think about too.

I probably only watched Disney’s original Cinderella once or twice as a kid. I didn’t much like all the mouse vs. cat stuff that frequently pushed Cinderella’s story to the background. I also had a hard time understanding the distorted voices of the animals, so I had to infer what they were singing about through context.

Anyway, I didn’t know what it was like to grow up in an abusive home. My family was great. My knowledge of people being mean or unfair to other people was limited to teachers telling the class, “Bullying isn’t nice, so don’t be a bully.” I thought bullies were no big deal and that everyone gets over it eventually. I thought some peoples’ parents or siblings weren’t as nice as others, but that everyone got over that eventually too. I never had an understanding of the concept of abuse, the extent of some abuse, or the devastating effects it can have on victims.

More recently, when it became popular to look back on the older Disney princess movies with a critical, feminist eye, I easily dismissed Cinderella as ridiculous. I thought it was silly for this young woman to put up with how her step-family treated her like a slave. I thought it was awful to show audiences a girl who just waits around for a prince to come along and save her. I claimed that if I were in her place, I would have told my step-family to shove it and then gone off to create a happy life for myself, prince or no. But Melissa Grey is right. That’s not how abuse works.

Victims of abuse are often led to believe that things are as good as they’re going to get. They are led to believe they are not worth caring about or loving. Often, defying their abusers isn’t an option, and they don’t realize they can seek help from others outside. Maybe they make excuses for their abusers. They might learn to become distant from others, angry, or depressed. Perhaps they’ve been taught that their abusers’ behavior is their fault. Maybe they’ve been led to believe that feeling helpless is normal.

Cinderella dealt with terrible abuse, but she stayed bright and hopeful. She kept smiling. Despite her situation, she believed that she could still find happiness. From this point of view, the silly love at first sight, fairy magic, glass slipper stuff at the end isn’t really the important part. Having the courage to go on her own to the ball was her success. Confirming that she was worth being loved was her happy ending. And for once, the heroine marrying the prince is a good ending to the story, even if it’s not the goal every princess should have.

In reality, if Cinderella and her prince were just regular people, they’d probably start dating and getting to know each other. Even if it didn’t work out between them, Cindy would at least come away knowing it was true that she could be loved and appreciated by others. She could go forward with that confidence and make sure she lived her life happily ever after.

I don’t know if this theme of surviving abuse and finding love was really the focus of the people who made the animated film, but it is there. I was quick to dismiss the story without thinking about what important lessons could be gained from it, especially by people who share Cinderella’s situation as they’re growing up. It’s easy to criticize something as a whole when you see its flaws, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value there too.

Dreamink

I dreamed I was painting this on a big canvas on the floor. I remembered it in detail when I woke up, so I decided to recreate it. The little figures were jumping through from one side to the other like it was ink in water. No idea what it is, but it was fun.

A-P-P-E-A-R

When I was in the sixth grade, all the teachers decided to hold a grade-wide spelling bee. Each individual class would have a bee, and the winners would be put into semifinals. Once it had been narrowed down to six finalists, the last competition would be held in the library. Participation was not optional.

Though I disliked being quizzed in front of my class, I was a great speller. I was too proud to purposefully spell a word wrong in front of others, so I kept advancing until I was one of the finalists. The six of us were taken to the library for the final competition. I was relieved to find our big library was deserted and dark and quiet, and there were only a couple teachers there to judge our performance. No pressure.

Then, the entire sixth grade marched in, class by class. The teachers filled up the room seating them before us. They situated a spotlight on our six chairs and kept the rest of the room dim. My pulse started racing. Why hadn’t I just spelled a word wrong and gotten myself out of this? Nobody was enjoying this game. We weren’t receiving a grade for it. What was the purpose? I had no desire to win at all, but I didn’t want to disobey the teachers or embarrass myself now that everyone I knew was watching.

A teacher sat down in front of us, everyone got quiet, and she announced that I’d be going first. She asked me to spell “appear.” The light was bright, hundreds of eyes were on me, I was tensing up, and my face turned red. I said, “Appear. A-P-P-E-A-R. Appear.”

“Incorrect,” said the teacher. “Please take a seat.”

I was stunned. I shook my head at her. I looked to my friends. I looked to the other teachers. Nobody said anything. They all just stared at me while my face surely reddened even more. I couldn’t understand. Maybe I had been too quiet due to being so nervous. Maybe that was just how I always thought “appear” was spelled even though it was wrong. Maybe “appear” only had one “P.” Didn’t it have two? I thought it had two.

“Please go have a seat,” the teacher repeated.

So I got up, went to sit by a few of my friends in the nearby crowd, and tried my best to hunch down and hide behind one of them so that no one could see me. Those tears that come when something mortifying and infuriating happens kept trying to fight their way out. The next girl in line said, “Appear. A-P-P-E-A-R. Appear.”

“That’s correct,” said the teacher, and she went on to the next word. I don’t remember the rest of that ordeal due to staring directly at the floor and listening to the blood rushing in my ears. I tried to tell myself, “At least you don’t have to keep playing. You’d rather be out here in the dark anyway.”

People seemed to forget about the whole event pretty quickly. Nobody was all that invested in it. But for years afterward the experience was one of those that still came to mind and made me feel awful. For one thing, every time I typed the word “appear” I mentally cringed.

What did I learn from this experience?

1) When somebody treats you unfairly, especially in front of EVERYBODY, stand up for yourself. Tell that teacher that, no, you are absolutely sure it’s spelled A-P-P-E-A-R, and she might want to double check her list or consult the other teachers to make sure.

2) Don’t worry. Nobody is going to remember much less care about who was the best speller in their sixth grade class, nor any of the other silly embarrassing things that happened to you in middle school. You’re the only one who’s going to agonize over it, so you might as well pull some lessons from the experience to use in the future and stop letting it get you down. It’s like a battle scar. It makes you tougher.

Oh, To Be a Ninja

People really catch me off guard sometimes. I’m not exactly the most outgoing person in the world, you see. When I walk into a room, I don’t expect to be the center of attention or for anyone in particular to stop what they’re doing and pay any mind to me at all. In fact, I would prefer to enter whatever public place stealthily, complete my tasks, and leave without anyone noticing me. Every now and then, though, whilst in the middle of doing whatever I’m doing, someone I’ve never met before will say to me, “You’re so quiet!” or “You don’t talk much, do you?”

Why, yes, complete stranger, that’s true. However, I don’t see why you suddenly felt the need to mention it. Nobody else here is talking either. Did you expect me to speak to you for some reason? Care to introduce yourself or anything? We don’t know each other, and I was busy, and you were busy, and now you’ve startled me and all you’re going to get is my perplexed deer-in-the-headlights stare and then an uncomfortable chuckle. What did I come in here for?

What’s the response? Maybe “How good of you to notice!” or “Thanks, you’re quite loud.” How about “Why, yes. I only use speech when my telepathy’s not working.”

A variation on this situation is when I’m the one in the room first. I’ve been in the room for hours. It’s where I work, or it’s a waiting room, or it’s somewhere else completely normal for a person to be. Someone moseys in, looking around or finding a place to sit, and doesn’t notice me. I notice the person, but she seems preoccupied so I focus on what I’m working on or reading. At this point, the person may or may not begin singing to herself or something equally embarrassing. She wanders closer to me. I’m right there in plain sight. I’ve been there the whole time. How can she not have seen me? Have I gone invisible?

I contemplate remaining silent in hopes that I won’t surprise or embarrass this person at all. I decide I will have to move eventually, and therefore I’ll be noticed at some point. It’s better to alert this person to my presence soon rather than let her continue with further embarrassing by-herself habits. Probably better to pretend I never noticed her either. I sniffle or make like I’m looking in my bag for something and rattle it a little. She whirls around. “Oh! I didn’t see you there! You were being so quiet!” she exclaims and follows up with nervous laughter. What’s that, Ms. Unobservant? Oh, I didn’t notice you there either despite your lovely rendition of that Ke$ha song. Hi. I shall now refocus on my book and let you continue with your business completely unmonitored.

This has happened so many times, even when the sound of my computer or throwing wheel or 3DS is making constant background sound, and even when I’m straight opposite the entryway with nothing obstructing a view of me. The solution is obviously that I should study ninjutsu so that I will be able to disappear silently in a puff of smoke at a moment’s notice.

Wood Elf Drama

There are a lot of problems with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, as with the entirety of Peter Jackson’s latest trilogy, and I could go on and on picking it apart, but there’s one big issue I want to explore.

(Spoilers)

When Thranduil decides to withdraw his remaining elf troops from the battle, Tauriel stands in his way because she doesn’t want him to abandon her dwarf friends who are going to meet terrible fates at the hands of the orcs. She’s in love with Kili (because they’ve shared a little witty banter here and there and they’re both pretty so of course she is) and he and his buddies are doomed if the elves leave. Thranduil tells her that her love for the pretty dwarf isn’t real and asks her if she would be willing to die for that love. She tells him that there’s no love left in him.

Legolas implied that his dad is all cold-hearted because when Legolas’ mother died it devastated him. So Thranduil once believed in real love, but now he doesn’t feel it and presumably resents and even denies its existence because he believes it only causes great pain. Okay then.

So when Kili meets his inevitable demise, and Tauriel throws herself off the ledge along with Bolg in an act of heroic self sacrifice, she should have died. But she didn’t. At the end when Thranduil finds her crying over Kili’s body, this somehow convinces him that that love must have been real after all, and reminds him of the love he used to feel. Why? Why would seeing her crying about it again suddenly change his mind on the whole thing? He didn’t care about Kili or Tauriel’s happiness.

What should have happened is Thranduil should have found Tauriel dead afterward, having nobly died and all, and then realized that she was indeed willing to die for her love thus proving that it had been real. That might have been enough to give him his change of heart, and it would have been an appropriate end to that little story arc. Were they just afraid to kill off their made-up lady character?

Leaving Tauriel alive at the end of the Hobbit trilogy leaves a big ole loose end dangling when setting up for the Lord of the Rings. One would assume that after the battle, since Legolas couldn’t return home with the wood elves and now had a new mission to go out on his own to find Aragorn, Tauriel would accompany him on his way just as he accompanied her throughout the entire story. They’ve gone everywhere and done everything together, and now they’re both outcasts. One would assume that she’d follow him at least to repay him for giving up so much to assist her as she defied Thranduil. One would assume that she’d be standing with him during the forming of the fellowship of the ring later on.

Are we to believe that instead she went and cried over Kili for ever and ever, and that even when the world needed the help of a brave, heroic, worldly, elf warrior like her who would be willing to sacrifice her elfy immortality to do what’s right, she’s nowhere to be found? Better she had a heroic end than a pathetic one.

Rudolph is Overrated

Okay. I did a lot of critical thinking as a kid. Often, when adults asked me simple questions I would gaze silently back at them. They were probably thinking I was too shy to answer or too confused by the question, when really I was having a conversation in my head. I was asking myself what the real purpose of the question was, deciding which answer they expected from me and why, and considering that they probably thought I was too shy or too confused by the question when really I was having a conversation in my head. I overthought everything.

The earliest example I can recall is one from when I was 3 years old. My preschool was having a Christmas play, and I was one of a throng of little kids involved. I don’t remember what building it was or how we got there, but I remember very clearly waiting in a long line backstage. To my dismay, my peers in front of me were one by one getting fitted for antlers and bells made of poster board, and getting red paint put on their noses.

At first it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t like doing silly kidsy stuff, but then I started thinking about it. If everyone was getting red paint, then we were all red-nosed reindeer. However, Rudolph was the only reindeer with a bright red nose. That’s what made him unique and useful. Therefore, we weren’t just going to be Santa’s regular reindeer; we were all going to be Rudolphs! The horror!

I supposed some people thought Rudolph’s song was sweet and happy and fun, but I certainly didn’t think so. Rudolph was the worst reindeer of all Santa’s commonly known reindeer. He wasn’t good enough to be a regular member of the sleigh team or he would have been flying with them every time. Instead, he was just a backup. And he wasn’t even utilized as part of the team because of some skill or achievement of his. It was just due to a condition he was born with. The regular eight reindeer all worked hard to get where they were. They probably put in many more hours than the rest, and they were strong and smart and did their jobs well. It wasn’t nice of the other reindeer to make fun of Rudolph’s nose, but that didn’t change the facts. In my opinion, Rudolph was completely undeserving of his fame, and it would have been disgraceful for me to have that red paint on my nose and sing about how he got to unfairly outshine the others. I did consider the antlers. Perhaps I could be a regular reindeer instead. Blitzen was way cooler than Rudolph. But then I decided they weren’t proper antlers. They were just cheap paper things and they’d look silly.

So by the time I got to the front of the line, I was in tears. I couldn’t think of how to explain my reasoning to the teachers. They seemed to think Rudolph was super great. On top of that, I absolutely always did as I was told by teachers, and I didn’t want to get in trouble for the first time. Luckily, they noticed how upset I was and allowed me to go out on stage without the getup. I stood still, mouthed a few of the words, and waited for the traumatic ordeal to be over. I stared straight out at my mom hoping she would get me out of there. I remember, too, having a huge smile of relief on my face once I was allowed to go to her at the end.

Afterward, every time I heard that song about that red-nosed reindeer I’d think of that evening at the play and wonder why everyone seemed to like that overrated creature so much. He just went around feeling bad about himself until Santa gave him a break. The story would have been better if Rudolph had decided one day not to let a bunch of bullies get him down, and instead he had gone to Santa and made a case for why he could handle the challenge of leading the sleigh in rough weather despite what the other reindeer said about him. He could have decided to show the other reindeer that people who are different are just as good if they work hard too. Then he would have been worth singing about.

Teen Hero 6, Go!

After seeing the clip in the trailer with Baymax and the tape dispenser, it was impossible not to go see Disney’s Big Hero 6. It was good fun for all, and Baymax was indeed hilarious in just about every scene. I wasn’t terribly attached to any of the other characters, and the movie would have been blah without the inflatable, huggable, lovable robot sidekick. When a character is innately funny in his normal state, though, it’s generally a bad idea to try to make him funny on purpose (see the less humorous low battery sequence). That mistake was made only once, thank goodness. I did guess the villain’s identity right away and who would die and who wouldn’t and what the lessons and twists would be, so I was longing for a story that was a little more unpredictable as in Up or The Incredibles. I could have done with some more development of the characters, too, for both the villain and the nerd school heroes. The Stargate reference could have been a little more subtle as well. Still, it was enjoyable all in all. It’s a great alternative to your standard Marvel super hero movies if you need something a bit more lighthearted.

Oh, and this comparison occurred to me in the second half of the movie, and it’s driving me nuts:

Pumpkin Carving 3

It’s that time again! Like always, my friend Gloria came for a visit and brought with her a lovely jack-o-lantern-to-be. This year we went with a scene from my work in progress, Dragon Scales, featuring two girls offering a gift to an intimidating sea dragon. It was a little tough to sketch out, and the ripples in the water were difficult to cut, but there were no major mishaps. Success!

Since we carved our pumpkin a little early, it may not last all the way to Halloween. Luckily I know some tricks for keeping a jack-o-lantern looking great for as long as possible. One method to keep it from drying out and shrinking is to coat the carved edges with petroleum jelly. It’ll get a little gooey, but it’ll still look nice when it’s lit up. Pumpkins will also last a lot longer if you keep them cool in the refrigerator until it’s time to set them out on the porch and show them off. Unfortunately, I don’t have much space in my fridge this year thanks to the heaps of extra spaghetti my husband decided to cook last night.

Kidneys and Things

In March of last year my husband was feeling really tired. Nothing else was wrong; it was just hard to get up in the mornings and he had little energy during the day. He had a new job, so we figured it was stress plus our tendency to stay up late talking and watching movies. One day he felt faint at work and asked me to drive him to our primary care. They did one little blood test, and the next thing we knew, the doctor came in, sat down, and told us my husband’s kidneys had stopped working. He told us to go straight to the nearest kidney clinic in the next town over and hurry. Once we got there, they told us to skip the tests and go straight to the ER. Once there, they immediately admitted him to the hospital and started him on dialysis. This was all very shocking and confusing and sudden. We were scared, we had no idea what was going to happen to him, and we weren’t getting many answers.

In the following months, after we were finally able to get him home from the hospital, we had to learn a lot about the kidneys and how to deal with kidney disease. We started off with 5 a.m. trips to the hemodialysis clinic three times a week. Sometimes I was kept waiting long past the time his treatments were to have been finished. They’d finally wheel him out and tell me his blood pressure had bottomed out. He looked like the life had been drained out of him, and he couldn’t even carry on a coherent conversation with me until he had slept most of the day to recover. He told me his treatments were terrifying and no one would explain to him what was happening when his blood pressure dropped and he faded out. It scared me to see him that way, too.
We decided to switch to peritoneal dialysis after the cheerful spokeswoman told us all about how he’d have more free time, and we’d be able to do treatments at home, and it wouldn’t be as harsh as hemo. He’d have more energy and be able to eat a wider variety of foods. We optimistically thought he’d be able to carry on with working a regular schedule. Turns out he had to be hooked up to his cycler every night for almost 12 hours. He was able to spend less time working and eventually had to resign. We have a whole room full of boxed supplies, we can’t travel, we have to scour every nutrition label at the grocery, he has to take a page of medicines while I have to give him shots, and he’s still tired and in pain at least once every day. Not to sound all negative, but sheesh. My husband thinks he might have preferred hemo.

I can’t count the times, during all of this, that my husband and I turned to each other and said, “I wish somebody had told us that.” From what the kidneys actually do for the body, to what the different treatments really involve, it’s amazing what we weren’t taught beforehand. I keep thinking that maybe in that Health class we took during high school they could have told us about organ function or nutrition or common medical problems instead of just trying to convince us that abstinence is for winners. Maybe in Biology they could have explained what the kidneys do and why instead of having us dissect that smelly frog for no reason.

A lot of people don’t seem to have a good idea of what kidney disease is like for those who have it. My husband would occasionally hear, “Hope you get better soon!” and just cringe because that well-wisher had no grasp of what he was dealing with. He’s struggled against feeling depressed and angry about it, but what did make him feel better was reading the I Hate Dialysis forum. He would stay awake during his treatments at night and read about people going through the same experiences he was. It’s a great place to get information on what dialysis is like for those who have to do it, and for those who are going to begin dialysis it’s a good place to get some answers.

Nowadays, having become experts in dealing with dialysis and having remained surprisingly positive throughout it all, my husband and I eagerly await the call from a transplant group that says they have a new kidney ready. We’ve probably got a couple more years to wait yet. There’s a ton of information to absorb about the transplant process as well. I never considered organ donation before, and I bet a lot of people don’t. The whole idea was just a little squicky to think about I guess, and I didn’t know anything about it. Now, though, I don’t think there’s any reason not to register as a donor. If I can make better the lives of people like my husband who are having a rough time and can’t live the lives they want, why not? And one can even donate a kidney and live perfectly normally afterward since everyone’s got two.

The National Kidney Foundation has a great deal of information on kidneys, kidney patients, and donation. Take a look. And if you want to learn more about becoming an organ and tissue donor, check out donatelife.net or organdonor.gov.