F*cked up fairy tales: Cinderella, get your sword.

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special thanks to Drew Barrymore – while using her an an ongoing illustration wasn’t my intent, it’s nifty that things turned out that way.

So I’ve made several references to Kevin Smith v. Southwest Airlines since Prez Day weekend when it happened. Why? Because I kinda love this story. In truth, I’ve been a fan of Smith since the day I spent 8 hours in high school running Blue Light Specials at a KMart in suburban NH, and went home to find my sister had rented this new movie called Clerks. Other than the obvious gender issue, I grew up in much the same way as Kev – blue collar (in my case, closer to the “poor” end of the spectrum), creative in a factory-worker world, annoyed by the fuckers who thought they were awesome ’cause they had more money, and working in a crap job because that was the only way to survive in the hopes of one day getting out.

Plus, much like Kev, I also grew up fat.

There is, you see, a great difference between growing up fat and becoming heavy later on in life. Growing up fat means that you are literally raised to be a little ashamed of yourself. You hear things like, “You would be lovely if you just lost a little weight, dear” or “You know, your sister does track and she’s in very nice shape. Maybe you should try that.”

Bad enough for guys, but when you’re a girl… well, first step is that you’re put on fad diets. Trust me, as the overweight daughter of an overweight mother, I did most of them before the age of 18. Let’s run a couple:

Jenny Craig, whatever the cover diet was in Womens’ World Magazine – gods, you name it, and I think my metabolism got bounced through it when I was a kid. But quietly, because no one was supposed to know. Hell, I remember at one point my brother-in-law startled my older sister by referring to a conversation he & I had once where I mentioned that my mom had me going to Weight Watchers when I was in high school — Chris asked Pat what the hell he was talking about, since she’d been away at college & had no idea that had even happened.

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I live my life fat & I have to navigate through a thin person’s world all the time – Kevin Smith

You see, you’re not supposed to make a fuss when you’re a fat kid. That’s what you get taught. You smile, and you take it, and you pretend everything is fine, no matter what is happening. After all, you are fat. You are not pretty, you are not desirable, you are fat. And everything in our society teaches us that no one wants fat. So the best thing you can do is to smile, and be pleasant, and get along with everyone, and fly under the radar as much as possible. You don’t wear prints. There are no ruffles. Dark colors. Tailored. Plain.
And when it comes to romance… well, you’re better off concentrating on doing other things rather than getting your hopes up in that arena — after all, no one wants a fat girl. Who and what you are is not socially acceptable, and it’s best to simply try to stay out of everyone’s way, do a good job at whatever your job is and be happy with that.

Then, I graduated high school and this nifty thing happened – the weight started to go away. I got one job working 40 hours a week instead of the two or three I’d juggled in high school for the same amount of hours. I had a year off before I went to college, and decided to join a gym, where before I ever touched an oar or contemplated rowing, I discovered that years of being treated like crap as a pudgy kid could be channeled into a fantastic talent for beating the living shit out of people. And slowly, over the last decade or so, I went from 225 lbs to my present 160 – 165 (depending on time of the month).
(Before anyone asks how I did it, along with the normal diet & exercise changes, a good portion of that last part also came from moving 3,000 miles away from my mother. Depending on your family, you may have to explore different techniques.)

So here’s me, sixty pounds less. I mean, I’m not friggin’ Twiggy – I could still lose about another 15 pounds or so, and that’s something I’m considering. However, the reality is that somewhere there is a nine year old boy whose body is the equivalent of how much weight is no longer on my body.

And yet… I still think like that fat kid.

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While interventions by several female friends over the years (combined with working at the Gap in West Hollywood with a trove of fabulous FIDM boys) means that I no longer roam about in the jeans, tank top & untucked size XL men’s button up shirts that I used to skulk about wearing through high school and college in an attempt to hide what I was always taught to think of as my less-than-desirable figure, the truth is that I still dress according to fat girl rules – no frills, no prints, no overly bright colors. Hell, a small Nike swoosh is normally the biggest logo on anything I own – after all, you can’t wear logos, because if they stretch out of shape, it just emphasizes that you’re not tiny.

Because everybody wants tiny. In a girl, anyway — if you can’t be thin, you’d damned well better at least be short. And if you’re neither of those things… you’re screwed. Thus when it comes to guys, you will at best be a friend, but never a girlfriend.

Least, that’s what I was always taught. And, really, it’s how I lived, because much like the dietary habits that made me heavy in the first place, I had never encountered anything to show me what I had been taught might not be the only way things could be done.
Where other kids did… whatever it is everyone does in high school… I worked. At one point during my junior year, I had three jobs. It’s just the way it was. In college, I had to pay my own tuition, so once again… I worked.
I worked, and I went to school, and because I was raised as a fat kid, I didn’t even consider romance a viable possibility in my life because… it just wasn’t. I went to my senior prom, sure – and I found out later that the guy I went with didn’t actually get sick after, he dropped me at my house & then went to party with his friends because I wasn’t cool enough. I didn’t get my first kiss until I was 21. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 22.

And much like my clothing, while the outward appearance is a bit more streamlined, the basic operating principles have remained the same. While I am no longer completely ignorant as when I first moved to LA, I’m still no female Casanova. In a twist of irony, I once inadvertently crashed an organization when the head of it decided she was going to make stuff up about my sex life, and it never occurred to her to check and make sure I had a sex life. So ya know – in that case it kinda worked in my favor, but for the rest of my life… not so much.

I’m great at being friends with guys. This is because, for the most part, there’s really no sub to my text. More than one male of our species has remarked that talking to me is like talking to a guy, which makes sense because I was basically taught to think of myself on that level – after all, fat girls have no gender. We are asexual. Romance is for tiny pretty girls. So when the time came that I began to be “acceptable”, I really didn’t know what to do. And to a point, I still don’t know. There are girls who can walk into a room and seduce a man with no shame and utter confidence. I am so totally not her. You give me a factory floor to run, within a week I can turn out a significantly higher output yield like :snap: that. You leave me in situation requiring the basic romantic skill & knowledge contained in the brain of most 17 year olds… yeah, I got nothin’. After years of observing the game, I’m great at seeing what’s going on with everybody else — I can often spot that sh*t for others a mile away. But for me to actually do it myself?  Well, to borrow from Willow Rosenberg, “I can usually make a few vowel sounds. And then I have to go away.”

The result is that to get my attention you basically have to walk up & say, “Hi, I’m going to hit on you now.” Unfortunately in Los Angeles, this means that I don’t get asked out much – instead I get propositioned by a lot of guys looking to have affairs. Nice to know that if I was ever willing to go the Ashley Madison route, I could totally clean that shit up.

So the habit of assuming myself to be ineligible combined with a shyness borne of ignorance has over the years combined to a reflex of simply assuming that I would always lose out to the tiny pretty girl, because that’s the way its always been. And what I felt didn’t matter, because trying to break out of that shell would just end in heartbreak and public humiliation.

Incidentally, several of us former high school rejects would like to strenuously protest that there was no warning label for this scene in Never Been Kissed:

Because that’s what we’re all afraid of. That in an honest attempt to try to not be alone anymore, you will end up in the situational equivalent of hiding in the bushes from your mom because you don’t want to admit that everyone you have to see on Monday morning will have been laughing at your humiliation, but you have to walk in and pretend nothing’s wrong and carry on business as usual in the hopes that if you don’t show you were hurt, this will all be over sooner.

God knows enough of us have been there – why do you think there are so many books for women on how to avoid getting hurt? Let’s run through a couple:

The reason I know about these books is because when you don’t have a man, well-intentioned friends tend to give them to you. Once your status has been outed, you become a joke, and receive things like, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex as gifts, because they figure maybe if you’re more educated, something will happen. However, while books such as Sex Tips For Straight Women from a Gay Man are interesting, according to The Rules, that’s not something I should even consider until at least the third date, so I gotta work on that part first.

Then there are always the friends who simply think the best way to get you in gear is casual sex, and upon your email joking that you signed up to be an affiliate for a site called OnlineBootyCall.com just because it exists, they write back to you & say, “Have you considered trying it?”  Which is just… well, I didn’t reply to that email.

Because out of all of this – the gifted books, the occasional raucous conversation, the well-meaning advice, and many, many a joke at my expense, I have to say that the most valuable lesson I was reminded of lately came not from any of these, but instead from an odd business interaction with a guy who will never know he did it, and an old friend – Jane Austen. Or rather, one of Jane’s students.

Here’s the thing – we as girls are taught to look for the knight in shining armor. He will come sweeping in and solve everything. Even those of us who are ridiculously independent and teach ourselves that such things will never happen… at heart, there’s a part of us that gets tired & every so often thinks that it would be really nice not to do it all on our own. But we’re still expecting them to do all the work.

My biggest problem with what I often see in many relationships is that so much of it is simply an arrangement – financial, sexual, social, circumstantial – whatevz. A lot of people aren’t with the people they’re with because they feel for them. They’re there because it’s easy. Because they fit the parameters that we’ve all been taught we should fit into. Even me – by being alone, I’m continuing to live within the structure that I was told I’m supposed to.

Why do we do this? Because to do something different is…scary. We could get hurt. We could get an egg in thrown at our face as the limo drives by. And nobody wants that. So we each sit back, and wait for the other side to make the great gesture. Women look to men to add the flourish and do all the work. A lot of the time, we expect them to take all the risks.  We expect to be rescued.

One of my favorite fairy tales is Cinderella. But not the Disney version with singing birdies. My favorite is Ever After – because really, what’s better than Cinderella with a sword?

Here’s the thing that trailer doesn’t show – at the ball, when she shows up all spiffed out with the pretty wings & it’s just the most romantic thing on earth, do you know what happens?

Prince Charming fucks up.

Something happens that he didn’t expect, that’s outside of his comfort zone, and in a moment when he’s in a situation that he can’t control and scares him… he abandons her. He betrays her publicly, she loses what little she has, and he goes off to try to live his life with the 17th century royalty version of the tiny pretty girl – in this case, a Spanish princess whose willingness to conform turns out to be hilariously worse than his.
Dear Internet: why do you not a clip of the Spanish Princess for me to link to? Bad Internet! FAIL Internet!

In the meantime, what is Cinderella doing? With the aid of a sword & some bad-assery, she’s busy saving herself. Because sometimes, that’s what a girl’s gotta do. In fact, by the time Prince Charming comes to his senses, there’s no grand gesture left for him to execute, and it is in admittance of his own fallibility that he regains the heart of the girl.

The point being that in our worry to defend ourselves, in our want for the other person to just make everything all right, the thing that we often forget is that if you’re scared, there’s a good chance he is too. If your feelings can get hurt, so can his. If you have huge insecurities, he probably does too. And if you can fuck up, so can he. And if you’d like a chance to be forgiven for your fuckups… he probably would too.

Life is not run by rules. You don’t always have to be what you were taught you’re supposed to be. You have a right to be happy, even if inside you’re still the little fat kid. But never forget to recognize that you feel that way – because for all you know, the other person might be a fat kid too.

Just remember – you’re not Josie Grossie anymore.

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Ever After: A Cinderella Story
Never Been Kissed

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