Sunday, June 17, 2012

On my love of fairy tales

Since it's Father's Day, I figured it would be kind of fitting (in an odd way) to work this post in.  First of all, to everyone that has/had an awesome father or who is/was an awesome father, Happy Father's Day!  Congrats on your awesomeness!

Now, for those of you out there like me who either a) grew up with a terrible father or b)had little to no contact with your father over the years, just know that you're not alone in your immense dislike of this day. For those of us that never really had that paternal figure, today is just another bittersweet reminder that we are severely lacking something that a lot of people treasured growing up.  And I'll admit that I'll never fully be able to understand the father/daughter relationship because I haven't had one ounce of contact with mine since I was about 8 or so.  And none of the memories that I have of him are pleasant.

So, with that vague mention of my life, I'd like to dedicate this post to why I love fairy tales.  It sounds terrible at first, but one of the main reasons that I've always clung to them is that most of these characters have horrible fathers.

Look at Hansel and Gretel, who get left in the woods by their father because he'd rather abandon them than stand up to the woman he married.  Sure, he feels kind of bad about it, but he leaves his children in the woods.  If this happened in real life, he'd be in jail.  That's neglect, friends.

Or how about Cinderella?  Or Snow White?  "But their fathers loved them!  They just married terrible people!"  You might cry out.  And yes, it's true they loved their daughters.  But don't you think they could have had a better vetting process for the women that married?  Nah, if she looks beautiful, she's gotta be good with kids, right?  Or, if she has her own kids, she's not gonna make my daughter cook and clean, or abuse her emotionally, which leads her to talk to a tree for comfort.  That can never happen.  But these things do, after Snow's and Cinderella's dads die, and, well, you know how the stories go.

My favorite one, though, is in the tale of "Rumpelstiltskin."  In it, a miller brags to a King that his daughter can spin gold into straw.  The King then locks the miller's daughter in a room and demands that she does as her father promised.  If she's successful, he'll marry her!  Yay!  If she fails, he'll...kill her?  A little extreme, no?  So the daughter makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin, and everything seems great.  She marries the King and even gets pregnant.  But then good ole' Rumple wants his reward - her first-born child. I'm sure at this point she's thanking her father for being such a hardcore bragger and getting her into this mess in the first place.

But I don't love these stories because the father figures are lacking.

I love these stories because, even though they are put in some pretty terrible situations by their fathers, these characters still persevere.  And, even better, they win.  They defeat witch, or the evil Queen, the step-mother, and even Rumpelstiltskin.

For someone that tries every day to be better than their own father - to persevere, to do something that leaves a positive mark on the world - these stories give me hope.  Hope that I can defeat whatever obstacle I face, and become better than I ever intended to be because I refuse to make those same mistakes or go down the same path that he took.  Carelessness and apathy have left me and my younger brother without a father figure, but, without it, I might not be as driven as I am today.

So yes, I am resentful, yes, I am jealous of everyone who had a stable father, and yes, I hate him for leaving - but I am also thankful that he left us.

Saying that my feelings about my father are complicated is probably a huge understatement, but it's the best way to express how I feel.  I'm just glad that I have lots of fairy tales to lose myself in - it's nice to know that others, even if they're fictional, have gone through the same confusing thing.

Now, it's time for me to stop whining and channel all of my mixed emotions into a damn good story.  I promised myself that I would only work on father-related scenes today, and the result has been quite cathartic so far.

Here's to getting left in the woods, but being smart enough to leave behind a few breadcrumbs.

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