Now this is a true story. It happened to my friend’s aunt’s boyfriend. She showed me a song he wrote about it. I think his name was Paul. Paul moved to San Francisco in the 70’s. He was a musician and wanted to make it big. Straight off the bus he went to Golden Gate Park. He spotted the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen sitting under a tree near him. He pulled out his guitar and started playing hoping to get her attention. A crowd gathered around him but she didn’t even look. At nightfall some guys came up to tell him they dug his music and offered him a place to crash. Paul asked them if they knew anything about the girl. They happened to know a lot. All three of them had tried to win her over themselves. Her name was Maria. No one really knew where she came from. She sold drugs in the park most days to keep herself afloat. All the men wanted her, and some women too. But all you could really do was buy drugs off of her. She thought her beauty granted her enlightenment and she was above everybody else. They told Paul not to waste his time, she wouldn’t be into him.
But Paul couldn’t get her out of his head. He went to the park everyday to play his guitar hoping she would notice him. Eventually his hard work paid off and she granted him a date. He found out later that she didn’t even care if he was a good guitar player. She just thought he was almost as good looking as her so he must be enlightened too. They had a whirlwind romance and eloped. I think they got married in that famous chapel in Vegas. When they came back from their honeymoon they moved in together and for a while thing’s were going really well. Paul doted on Maria and they spent their days laying in the park. But after a while Paul missed making music.
He joined a band and spent all his time jamming with them. They started playing these crazy parties where everyone would drop acid and dance all night. This drove Maria crazy, she was so jealous of how much time he devoted to his music. He was always on tour and she felt abandoned. He was back in town one time for this big Halloween party and Maria just snapped. She gave Paul’s band a whole batch of bad acid and they all went insane. None of them ever came back from their trips. Obviously Paul thought she was crazy and left her and left San Francisco. She took the rest of the bad acid herself and disappeared for a while. A few years later people started seeing her at parties, she was always high and crying for Paul. Apparently she goes around shows recreating that night and offering bad acid to anybody that’ll take it. Honest to God, true story. That’s why you should never take drugs from strangers, you never know where it’s coming from.
Out of all of the Cinderella readings of this week I was most intrigued by poet Anne Sexton’s Cinderella. It offers a much darker view of this pervasive fairytale and mocks it’s simplistic ending. In class we talked about how one of the attributes of the fairytale or the folk tale is that they usually use sparse language, are non-descriptive and offer no psychology behind it’s characters motivations. Good is good and evil is evil and how each character came to be good or evil is never questioned or discussed. In Transformations, a set of poem’s based off of Grimm’s fairytales, Anne Sexton casts a shade of grey over the characters and offers alternate interpretations and endings of the tales. As a poet she doesn’t shy away from visceral descriptive language either. Snow White is beautiful but stupid, repeatedly not learning to accept deadly gifts from strangers. Briar Rose, is depressed and suffering from the trauma of sexual abuse .
Cinderella is more of a lesson on the irrationality of happily ever after. Cinderella starts off with an introduction addressing our new ideations of “happily ever after” winning the lottery, marrying rich or making it big. Then we get the known Grimm Cinderella story. Cinderella is emotionally abused by her step-mother and her step-sisters. However her father remains living in this version and completely neglects Cinderella allowing her to become the maid. He showers the others with gifts and gives Cinderella a twig. Cinderella makes it to the ball with the help of her magic tree and it’s birds. She captivates her prince who embarks on a quest to match her left gold shoe to it’s owner. Again for him the only thing that matters is the size of his dream woman’s feet. He’s excited by the “lovely feet” of Cinderella’s two sisters and happily departs with both of them before realizing they mutilated their feet to fit in the shoe. Cinderella’s is a perfect fit. Then they live “they say” happily ever after. Sexton uses language to denote the superficiality and improbability of this. Cinderella and the prince “like two dolls in a museum case” never deal with all of the unpleasantness of life. They never fight. They never age. They never get bored.
I’ve read the poetry of Anne Sexton before and I’m a fan of her confessional style and her poetry (also why I chose this Cinderella story). I know that she struggled with depression for years and began writing after she was first institutionalized. She supposedly first began writing poetry as a form of therapy. Transformations turns fairytales on their heads introducing taboo topics like incest and suicide and it is interesting to approach them knowing Sexton’s background (she was said to have dealt with sexual abuse herself). She was beautiful and intelligent. She was a model before eloping with her husband. She suffered from multiple mental breakdowns and eventually took her own life. There was no happily ever after for her, not even close. I can imagine her reading Grimm’s fairytales through her own disillusionment and taking it into her own hand’s to create a more “realistic” version of them.
In some of our other reading’s different scholars talk about the flexibility of fairytales and how they could adapt to address issues of a time or in a community. Sexton took this to the extreme and used them as an outlet to express her dark world. Hailed as a feminist poet maybe she also made them as a warning to other women. Unrealistic expectations are said tp contribute to depression. To me Cinderella, at least the Disney version that is most prevalent in today’s culture, is the epitome of unrealistic expectations.