We took our granddaughter to see Disney’s new live action film, Cinderella. Based on the positive reviews from venerable institutions like the New York Times and The New Yorker, I had high expectations. I was not disappointed.
The film is beautiful in the way a Monet painting is beautiful, lifelike yet dreamlike. Cinderella’s dress for the ball was gorgeous. Cathy and I couldn’t decide on the color so we called it “otherworldly blue.” Lily James (Cinderella) looked stunning. Then there was the wedding gown. Oh my!
I cried during the movie – more than a little. My granddaughter kept looking up at me, apparently questioning my sanity. She was more taken by the new animated Frozen short that preceded the feature. It didn’t do much for me. After you’ve heard Idina Menzel curse like a sailor (and quite well) in her Broadway show, IF/THEN, it’s kinda hard to hear her as Elsa.
After my granddaughter stared at me with great concern for about the tenth time, I pulled my act together and held back the tears. We went out for gourmet cupcakes (red velvet) and then Cathy and I drove home. The very next evening I decided to see the movie a second time. I needed to be alone, to feel my feelings and listen to the message in my tears.
I know why I cried. When I watched the Disney animated feature as a child I was confused. I did not know who I was. Was I Cinderella? Yes, I was. Was I the Prince? Yes, I was. The confusion was terrifying. Yes, that is the correct adjective, terrifying. I just knew I was Cinderella. Yet everyone told me I had to be the Prince. Worse yet, some little part of the Prince resonated within. Mostly Cinderella, marginally the Prince. It was quite the conundrum. It might have been the first time I realized no one, oh no, not anyone, not a parent, not a teacher, not a single person on earth would be able to tell me who I was. I was on my own.
I eventually came to realize my terrifying childhood response was so very appropriate. I was both Cinderella and the Prince. I was neither Cinderella nor the Prince. I occupied the liminal space between the two. But do not grieve for me, for I do know I am one of the heroes. Because I chose to come out of the shadows and accept my invitation to the ball, I am. I showed up in my “otherworldly blue” dress. Why the dress and not the Prince’s cream royal jacket and gold-striped pants? Because I know I am far closer to the girl with the glass slipper than I am to the charming young prince. I am mostly a girl, a woman, a female created in God’s image.
I have yet to encounter anyone from my old life who has met me and questioned who or what I am. I am Paula. They all know it, see it, don’t question it. It is just who I am, confusing but certain. The same seems to be true in my new world, the one in which Paul is the hidden one, not Paula. Today a female worker at Walgreen’s asked how tall I was. I told her I was through the roof. She asked if my husband was tall, or my children. I just said no and left it at that. That is my life, treated as a woman and comfortable in this softer skin.
The granddaughter we took to see Cinderella is quite the six-year-old, bright, articulate, observant. Last year she settled on the name she would call me. Unlike her twin cousins who christened me GramPaula, she decided my name was Paula Blossom. I love and cherish both names. I will never bear children or go to the ball, much as I would like to have done so. There is no fairy tale for me. But there is a blossoming that makes all the pain and loss bearable. I am Paula Blossom, not quite Cinderella, but close, very close.
If this touches you, wonderful. If it makes you want to throw up, it might be best if you quit reading my blog. If it leaves you confused, join the crowd and hang in there with me. This is quite the ride.