September 17, 2014

MUÑOZ | You Are Better Than Disney

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By PAOLA MUÑOZ

One of my earliest memories is that of my mom blowing the dust off of an ancient video cassette tape. From far away, the artifact looked like a giant, dusty hershey bar. This was my first time seeing Snow White. During the scene where Snow White is out cold, I remember vividly her ruby red lips, porcelain white complexion and hair the color of twilight — flawless. I thought, Hey! I kind of look like her (if I had silky hair, pale skin, a nose the size of a dot and gone through puberty gracefully). From the get go, she truly enticed me; she filled my four-year-old mind with dreams of what I will look like in a couple of years, of men whose hearts I would conquer. In the end, she lived happily ever after. I wanted that, too.

Snow White understood me. She lived the life of a pauper, with pigeons cooing away on the steps of her stoop or something like that. My apartment was truly a dungeon with cable. I was a total damsel in distress, and I took great pride in that. And why exactly was I especially proud of my inability to do anything for myself? Well, I wanted a good-looking, Dominican prince for myself. Not only would he be more gorgeous than Romeo Santos, but someday, our lips would meet like hands and pray, as Shakespeare articulated quite nicely (in yet another tale of wishful thinking). When that day comes, all my rags and skechers will transform into Gucci bags and Louis Vuitton. I’ll finally be a whole person.

Except that you won’t. As a teenager, I dated young men who walked like royalty, but behaved like amphibians. Maybe if I kissed them enough, would my frog turn into the prince he really is. Maybe if I held him long enough, his slimy skin wouldn’t keep slipping away between my fingers. Eventually, they grace your life again, for part two. Months later, the toad hops straight back into your life, accessorized with a pathetic pout, leans in uncomfortably close and croaks, “I miss you, stranger.”

(Classic) Disney totally discombobulated generations of children’s perception of what it means to be happy. They teased us with Happy Endings and glass slippers, only to leave us with broken hearts and crumbling self-esteems. The only thing ruby red about me was my face, glazed with freckles, the kind that none of the Disney princesses had. My hair had it’s own magnetic pull, while Belle’s locks remained flawless, even in captivity . It was not Snow White’s innocence that I grew to emulate — it was her naiveté.

In the Dominican Republic, it is a total disgrace if your are not married by the time you’re 30, and this is an improvement. Because of this very logic, my aunts remained tethered to men who dragged around machismo-complexes reeking of entitlement. The men were the bread winner and the woman’s place was wherever he wanted her to be. Like in the Dominican Republic, according to Disney the answer to life is having a man who will sweep you off your feet, like a giant magic carpet, and take you everywhere except for the place you need most to be when you’re a young man or woman: with yourself.

For my future son or daughter, when the day comes to that you want to dress up as your favorite character for Halloween, I hope that you would only have to look as far as your mirror. You are better than a Disney princess, my dear. You are the Albert Einsteins, the Marie Curies, the Toni Morrisons ’55 and so much more. Most importantly, you are you, and you will be my favorite person. I hope that you run up to your friends and show off your scabby knees, or your gorgeously kinky hair. I hope that you won’t have to hide away your freckles.

I hope that one day, when the time comes where you must decide whether or not to stay with someone who causes you misery, you’ll be strong enough to leave. You don’t need a man or woman to complete you. You are already whole. You will love yourself enough to do so, to recognize that you are a person, and that you deserve as much love as you are putting out. I’m not a fairy god mother, but I can assure you that if you love yourself, the rest will follow. You will discover curiosity, ambition, passion and confidence; you will live Happily Ever After.

Paola Muñoz is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at pmm245@cornell.edu. Midas’ Crumbs appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

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