When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why I Lost Hope but Kept My Faith

Hope vs. Faith: What's the difference? Aren't they both gifts from God? Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. Perhaps they are gifts that we give God as well.

Hope has become a "dirty four-letter word" for me. Aside from a brief 3-month project, 4 days "in training" at a pyramid scheme organization (so glad I got out when I did!), and 4.5 days as a temp, I've been unemployed since I moved here to Orlando in June of 2014. That's a very long time to be dependent on my parents and the little bit of assistance I get from "the government" for food assistance. That's a very long time to have nothing to provide for my daughter. That's a very long time to be a single parent battling depression (I suspect I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, though I've never been officially diagnosed because I can't really afford to see a psychotherapist). That's a very long time to hide the full truth of my financial situation from the world. That's a very long time to suffer heartbreak every time my daughter's school has an event in which she can't participate because I don't have the extra money to throw around like all the other parents. That's a very long time to not be able to purchase much-needed work clothes so that I can make a better impression in an interview and possibly get that job; I've patched, hemmed, and/or repaired every single pair of my work pants and it significantly limits me every time I have to take a pair out of circulation because there's only so much even the best seamstress can do to prolong clothing. That's a very long time to repress my true stress and anxiety levels as much as possible because I don't want people feeling sympathy for me or feeling bad for me; I don't want to be your emotional (or other form) charity case just so you can feel good about your existence and brush me under the rug again once you have expunged your "human duty" to feel for you fellow man, returning to your "perfect" life. That's a very long time (even longer for me, actually, because of the duality of lives that was my marriage) to have to justify every decision of my existence ["If you're so poor, why do you have ____ or why do you get to do ____?"]. That's a very long time for my already life-long ground-floor self-esteem to continuously find new bottoms to drop below. That's a very long time to give everything I have to try to insulate my daughter so that she suffers as little as possible, even at the expense of part of my own humanity (free expression of thoughts and emotions is necessary for mental health, but I must suppress as much as I can to make sure I don't burden her). That's a very long time to let only the bubbling over, tip of the iceberg emotions spew forth; there are too many "feels" still boiling inside and I get an extra double-dose of guilt any time I let even a little bit out, even though I know it's necessary.

So, why have I given up on hope? Before you mentally bash me as a whiny baby because "Hey! There are starving people in ____!" or "At least you don't have to deal with _____!", ask yourself if you use these guilt-tripping platitudes to shame the suffering person into "happiness" in a twisted psychological ploy, or if you use them to make yourself feel better by shaming them so you don't have to think about how much better you have it than the sufferer. Okay, so it could be worse. That doesn't make the bad situation less bad, it makes the bad situation seem more hopeless because there's still a bottom to drop out of the floor and is seems the world apparently feels you still haven't suffered enough because it could be worse still.

For me, hope has become illogical and meaningless. To have hope is to expect that what you want or need might come to pass. In my experience, hoping never did anything beyond causing more anxiety. Any time I hoped that this next interview would be the one to land me a job, I worried because my fate was in the hands of someone or something beyond my control; there was nothing I could do to affect the outcome. Hope means that I have to wait with baited breath, to roll the dice, to live in complete uncertainty of what is to come. Without hope, my anxiety level has dropped because I no longer count on things that may be but rather, I look at what is at the moment. I know some people would be shocked, worried, upset if I told them I have lost hope. I don't see the point any more because it only made my emotional situation worse without improving my real situation. Hope doesn't work if it is constantly dashed. Besides, why would HOPE be in a box with the world's troubles such as pestilence and war if it was such a good thing?! Hope is an empty promise, that's why!

Faith, on the other hand, is much more powerful. Faith is confidence or trust, a certainty. Rather than concerning itself with what might be, faith is the feeling of what will be. I have faith in God, in my parents, in my daughter. I have faith that our basic necessities will be provided--the promise of Saint Anthony of Padua is that God will not leave His people without bread to eat. I have faith, I do not have hope. I have cast aside wishes and desires. I now live with what is in front of me. If things change, for the better or if I find yet another sub-level basement to drop through, then they will do so of their own accord, without my increasing my anxiety levels and disappointment by hoping that the bad doesn't get worse. See, that's the thing with hope. When your wish doesn't come true it is even more devastating because your emotional level was elevated, so it has further to drop. Without hope, I can stay on the ground floor where less emotional damage can occur because I don't have as far to fall.

I am by no means advocating that anyone else give up on hope. I understand it can be a useful motivator for many people, especially those whose lives are particularly attuned to it. I'm saying that it doesn't work for me, personally. Do what works for you. No one needs to follow my footsteps because my path is not for anyone but me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Another View of the Damsel in Distress Trope

I know I may boil some blood with this post. I have a few friends who will either think I've totally lost it or who will threaten to take away my "female" card for this post. However, like many of my previous posts in which I attempt to find the positive in otherwise negative topics, this is another instance when I see such negativity about something that I am inspired to peel it apart to find a kernel of goodness.

For years, Internet writers, most of them female, have found any and every chance to complain about the portrayal of female characters in popular media, especially movies. No feminine portrayal seems to be good enough. Either the main female character is perceived by these writers as being marginalized and/or objectified in a presumed effort to highlight the male protagonists, or they are simply "too girly" to be satisfying to the complaining poster. Even "strong" female types are criticized because, in order to be seen as strong (so the complaint goes), the female must drop all feminine pretenses and become a curvy male or "butch lesbian" stereotype. "Why can't a woman be a woman and be ...?" many wail.

Before I get into the damsel in distress idea, specifically, let's look at this quoted generic complaint. How many real-life women do you know, strong individuals who can take care of themselves AND others, who don't exhibit characteristics of both the masculine and feminine? Psychologists, starting with Sandra Bem, have been arguing for decades about the benefits of traits of both genders, to the point that many have even called for the removal of the labels so that we can perceive traits as more neutral--as expressive (people-oriented) and instrumental (goal-oriented). I have a post on this particular topic in my Psych Vocab blog. Every time I see a post or article with "female character" or some derivative in the title or description I cringe. Many times I read them with a growing concern that some people are arguing for the sake of arguing so that they can gain notoriety. After all, Internet life is all about clicks, shares, and likes, and unless you're creating "adult content" or posting something with cats, the best way to get a click is to fire up the blood! Who knows? Maybe some of these writers are doing something like I am, playing devil's advocate, arguing one position to get people to think.

The only problem with that assertion is that "devil's advocate" means you are working against group think, bringing up points that people haven't already thought about in their discussions in order to prevent us from blindly agreeing with what "everyone" says simply because "everyone" says it. Too often these articles about feminine topics feel like the same mantra--women are marginalized, mistreated, misrepresented, etc., etc., etc.--that has been mindlessly spewed over and over ad nauseam for decades. I'm not going to deny that some objectification and stereotyping in possible. However, a lot of the "message" is in the decoding. In other words, how do you perceive the characterization? Did any of these complainers actually ask the writers, directors, producers, or actors what the intention of the portrayal was supposed to be? I'm willing to be dollars to donuts that they didn't and instead decided to find an offensive interpretation in what may have been an initially innocuous or (gasp!) many-layered message.

*Full disclosure* I did not consult any original authors to come to my following conclusions on their intentions for the "damsel in distress" ideas. I am engaging in a thought exercise in the hope of encouraging true discussion, encouraging others to bend the lens and see other angles.

So, the most common complaint I come across any time a female character is in need of rescuing is that this presentation of a female objectifies all women. She becomes a prize waiting to be claimed by the male hero. She is shown as a helpless and useless piece of pretty flesh that can do very little for herself. Even, though not nearly as verbalized, she (and by extension all women) is lazy, waiting for someone to provide for her every whim so that she won't have to lift a finger or soil her hands to get anything she wants. Let's look at some examples from the (seemingly) most reviled source of this trope: Disney movies. Keep in mind that I did produce an earlier blog post on the lessons of strength of character seen in these princesses.

  • Snow White: needs the male dwarves to give her a home and scare away the evil witch; needs her prince to kiss her to save her life.
  • Sleeping Beauty: needs her prince to defeat evil and kiss her to wake her.
  • Little Mermaid: needs the prince to acknowledge her (i.e. read her mind) and vanquish the evil witch.
  • Cinderella: only way out of her destitute situation is through marriage to the prince.
  • Beauty and the Beast: [okay, it takes a whole lot of  stretching to find any damsel in distress ideas here, so we'll skip this one. Let's not talk about the expectations of illiteracy and home-making, as that's not the topic at hand here.]
  • Peter Pan: Wendy (and the Lost Boys, by the way) require Peter to defeat Captain Hook and save them from walking the plank; Peter also has to swoop in to save Tiger Lilly.
  • The Lion King: despite the fact that it's the female lions who hunt, Nala needs Simba to return in order to get rid of Scar.
  • Atlantis: Kida is taken prisoner and has to be rescued by Milo and his friends, despite the fact that she is filled with the most awesome power humans have ever known. 
  • Mickey & Minnie Mouse: there are countless shorts and films in which Minnie is whisked away by someone, usually Peg-Leg Pete or Mortimer Mouse, and Mickey has to come to her rescue while she shouts "save me!" and flails her arms.

Okay, I can go on for a while longer, but I think you can start to see the arguments forming. You may even start to see some that were missed by other complaint writers. So, in all of these cases, it appears that the female characters need the male characters to rescue them, that they are pretty much helpless against their captors and the only way out is through the salvation from a male. And yet, there could be another, entirely different message embedded in all of these circumstances. A lot of the complaints about a damsel in distress is that it gives girls the wrong idea (you have to be helpless and should rely on others to save you because you're totally incompetent). Some have even proposed that the secondary message to boys is that girls are the inferior sex because you're going to have to save them from whatever they get into during your journey to becoming a "true hero" (an act usually fulfilled by saving a damsel in distress). What if there's another set of messages here?

Another way to look at the damsel in distress is the importance of a solid interconnected relationship with other humans. One of the important and (for some like myself) lessons about life, especially adulthood, is that you don't have to do everything alone in this world. You don't have to be the super-human who always helps but never needs help. It's okay to be vulnerable, to not be perfect. Even Fiona from the Shrek movies learns that freeing herself still doesn't remove her "curse", which can actually be interpreted as lack of self-love. It's much easier to love yourself once you see that others love you. I have personally felt so vulnerable and lost in life many times, almost like a prisoner of my circumstances. It took friends and family "rescuing" me as I stood helpless to show me that I don't have to do everything alone.

Another positive lesson from the damsel in distress is not that the female must rely upon the male hero, but that she can rely upon him to be there in her time of need. Perhaps another interpretation of Prince Philip defeating Maleficent is not that Aurora is useless, but that she has someone in whom she can trust to fight for her when she is helpless to do so for herself. Snow White's prince shows us the power and importance of love, without which life is pretty empty. Prince Eric's defeat of Ursula and his acceptance of Ariel help her make a very important adult decision--breaking some of the ties of childhood family in order to venture out and start her own. Let's be honest, Cinderella was getting nowhere with her steps regardless of her kindness toward them. She was in a battered relationship and her prince showed her that there could be a better life for her, that she didn't have to take the abuse. Peter Pan is responsible for his Lost Boys and the Darling children. His need to rescue them (and even Tiger Lilly) at the risk of his own safety is an illustration of the importance of a leader setting aside his (or her) own personal desires in order to do what is needed for those under his care. Nala saw Simba as additional aid because she and the other lionesses were beyond their abilities to oust Scar and his hyenas. Simba wasn't simply the "male" hero, he brought a different viewpoint to the dilemma faced by the pride. Like Peter Pan, Kida was the leader for her people. She was captured in her effort to spare her people from the threat they faced. Milo used his various skills and social network to save Kida in turn. A leader also has to know when to bring in an outside source of aid when the internal sources are insufficient for the problems at hand. Finally, the many times Minnie is captured, she calls to Mickey because she knows that she can count on him. His enemies, her captors, are always bigger and stronger than he is, yet Minnie has complete confidence in Mickey's abilities to help her when she needs him the most. I'm willing to bet many women wish they could say the same for their significant other; unfortunately, I couldn't say that about my ex-husband even when we were married and it always left me feeling more vulnerable, bitter, and helpless.

Maybe the idea of the damsel in distress is a lesson for our sons to teach them that it is part of their responsibility as a good life partner to defend the women in his life, to stand up for them and aid them when they might be too weak (or too proud) to call for help. Perhaps it's also a lesson for girls to learn to trust that others will be there for them when they need it.

Living life alone, with the idea that you have to be so strong that no one needs to rescue you from anything, ever, is extremely burdensome. Human beings are social creatures. We rely upon a community, even a loosely defined network of others, in order to navigate life's waters. When we build up such an impenetrable strong-hold around ourselves that it shuts out everyone else, we encounter devastating loneliness and depression that can leave us even more vulnerable that the most debilitating physical deterrent. Yes, it's good to teach our girls to be strong and independent and to teach our sons to be respectful of the females. However, it's also good to let the girls know that they have someone they can count on when things are so overwhelming. It's also good to teach our sons to be solid, supportive, dependable, reliable heroes when the situation calls for it. In the same token, it's okay to round that out by teaching our girls to be reliable rescuers and our boys to call for help when they need rescuing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Moment of Humility

There's nothing quite like a moment when you realize you were wrong--either saying something incorrectly, or socially stepping out of bounds--to bring about a sense of humility. I realized this today after an disturbing day at work. It wasn't disturbing because things were horrific, but I did get my eyes opened up quite a bit as to my own behavior. I found that I was spending too much time judging others and complaining about things that didn't go my way than I should have spent minding my own Ps & Qs. Perhaps a little background is in order.

I got a job (finally!), but it's a temporary contract (of course!) with a consulting company. I thought I was hired as a classroom trainer to teach a software program to the employees at the client company. There are 3 companies involved in the mix: my company (the trainers), the software company that built the system, and the client (a large hospital system that has their own MIS department who seems to have a hand in building the system as well). I went into the project assuming that I would have to answer to my company, as they are the ones paying me. So far, the software company has had very little interaction with my team (the trainers and our coordinators, who are all paid by the same consulting company). However, there is a lot of conflicting information coming down to us as we teach the classes. Our manager sends down information, sometimes to all of us, sometimes just to our coordinators. On top of that, the manager of the project at the hospital is giving us directives. On top of THAT, the MIS team at the hospital feels the need to dictate things to us about how we teach the classes. My biggest problem is that I can honestly see the world through all of these different lenses. I understand why they are all involved in telling us what to do. I even understand why they feel the need to tell us what they do (when they feel like telling us directly instead of expecting us to read their minds). Unfortunately, this doesn't make it any more palatable. It's a little disquieting when we are told to teach the classes in our own personal style on one hand, and then told to not make any improvisations or adjustments to the classes on the other hand. I can adapt to either demand, but not at the same time. I'm feeling like a chameleon being asked to match a plaid pattern. Maybe I'm missing something in the instructions.

When I joined I was afraid that I would be the baby on the project. On my first day, which was one to two weeks after the rest of the team started, we introduced ourselves and stated our experiences. In the whole room, I felt that I was the only one for whom this was "my first rodeo" because, though my education in I/O psychology trained me in the science and theory of corporate training (among other things in the workforce), I never actually had a job to do any consulting or corporate training. I also have no experience working with hospitals. The training team consists of people who have trained professionally in software, law enforcement, and/or clinical electronic systems. The team also had many people who had experience with this hospital system directly or who had clinical backgrounds themselves. I truly felt that I would have to fight to prove myself in the arena. I was worried that they would drop me early on, and I think they felt the same way. The original consulting manager actually asked me what I was doing there! I got a couple calls from my recruiter at the company in my first week that sounded as if she expected me to jump ship immediately because I didn't belong! It hurts just thinking about it. For two weeks I was tossed around from team to team as they tried to decide to which of the seven sites to send me. It felt like no one wanted me on their team because everything was already decided before my hiring paperwork was completed and I was seen as just another useless warm body thrown into the mix.

We went through two weeks of training as we learned the system ourselves so that we could teach it to the employees at the hospital. The truth is, our "training" was more like beta-testing the software and the training materials they hospital staff was developing for the end-users. I quickly proved that I could learn the information and teach it back. I may even have become something of a teacher's pet. That was not my intention. I am always hungry to learn new things and when I learn something I want to share it. I may not get something immediately, but as an INTJ, I sometimes have to have things sit in the back of my mind before the flashes of insight come through and I make the connections. Unfortunately, I fear I started to appear as too much of a know-it-all to many of the rest of the team. One of the trainers actually snapped at me when we were told that we were supposed to be training in the first week when we thought the SMEs were supposed to be teaching. I don't remember exactly what I said, maybe I had too much confidence in my knowledge because I did pipe up to help out in the super user class that day. He said something about not everyone learning the information completely like I did. He quit the next day. After today, I started looking back on my experiences during our training. I see now that moments in which I thought I was being helpful by answering questions that others had were actually moments in which I should have kept my mouth shut and let the "right person" answer the question. I received a good number of dirty looks any time I tried to help someone else. I realize it was not my place. The ones training us were supposed to answer ALL questions; it was not my place to help anyone. I step on too many toes at times, even if I think I'm helping, sometimes even if all I'm doing is being confident.

Today I was called away from my original assignment to teach a major class at another site. We have a couple of one-hour classes for techs and their managers, a couple of two-hour classes for specific departments, and one five-hour class for the group who will probably be using the software more than anyone else. This last one is the one I consider to be the major class. I honestly felt like I was coming to the rescue of the site, and that's how the request was relayed to me, by coming to teach the five-hour class. When I got there, though I was told that I was "in charge" because it was my class, I got the distinct feeling that I was an invader into their space. There were three "trainers" (I use the term loosely) from the team there already. The problem is that they all refused to teach the class. I was told that one of them actually pitched a little fit about teaching the entire five hours; she has a background as a performer. Despite the fact that another one constantly reminds everyone that she has 19 years of nursing experience and she is (not was, but IS) a professor, she wouldn't step up to teach the class either. I interpreted that as a lack of knowledge or confidence in the software, so when I thought she was struggling a little in showing a student how to do something I stepped in to help so that I could get the class back on track (we were waiting for that one student to catch up). This experienced "professor" nurse got peeved and stormed out of the classroom. I humbly apologized when we had a break because I realized that I stepped over a line. She explained her feelings, throwing in the obligatory "professional" and "professor" references, and I said "yeah, that's why I'm apologizing." I realized my mistake and I was atoning for it. She didn't seem satisfied that she couldn't slap me around and teach me a lesson because I already learned it myself.

I didn't even say anything when the other trainer (the one who refused the teach the class, the performer) interjected so much towards the end that she started to take the class away from me. I let her have her say. My toes can take a lot of stepping, apparently. The third trainer, whose background was in education and developing training systems, was running the slide show and showing things live in the software for me because the projector & laptop were in the middle of the room. I wondered why he wasn't teaching the class, but he ended up leaving before it was over, so that might explain it. There were many times, unfortunately, when he spent time helping the student sitting next to him, so the whole class had to stop because he was supposed to be driving but was acting as proctor instead. Afterward, he sent a message to the team asking about logging into the laptops because they (at the site) always let the students log in with whatever they want and I started my set-up by using the generic MIS log on that we were told to use in all our classes to get into Windows. I apparently offended him by doing this type of set-up. Again, I felt like I was perceived as an invader. I didn't want to be seen as a hero (that's insulting to any true professional), but I would have liked to be allowed to run the show I was asked to run my way.

I don't know if this group felt insulted that I came in to do their job. They asked me if I needed anything. They told me they would help out however I asked. Then they were not happy that I was confident and capable enough to run most of the show myself. Miss "professor" even interrupted me, quite embarrassingly, at the beginning of the class, telling me how to demonstrate things so the students wouldn't get lost. I didn't bite off her head, though I know many others on my team who would have. I did make a mental note later when I quietly shushed the whole class to get us back on track because too many side conversations were popping up and the small room was growing too loud. Miss "professor" had the gall to say "who's shushing?!" I guess she was offended that the person teaching the class would dare to get it under control again.

So, where does the humility (and the positive lesson) come in to play? So far it sounds like all I'm doing is ranting (and not getting any work done for tomorrow). Well, after some soul-searching and a lot of self-evaluation, I have come to the conclusion that I complain about this job too much to the people who have this job. I have started to become THAT person--the person who complains so much that everyone wonders why they keep coming to work. I don't want to be THAT person. I have always tried to squash those thoughts. When other co-workers complained about the job I tried to listen, but quietly envision what another side of the story might be. I am still doing that a little bit with this project, but I'm finding myself soaking up the toxicity too much lately, agreeing with the complaints, launching too many of my own, listening to and spreading gossip, perhaps not giving the sympathetic ear that people expect from me as often. Therefore, going forward, I'm not going to complain about anything about the job. I'm not going to whine or imagine that unforeseen circumstances or last-minute changes are the end of the world. I am going to truly roll with the punches, take everything in stride, keep my fool mouth shut. This contract will be over soon enough and I will once again be unemployed before I know it. It's not worth my soul to fit in with everyone and their complaints. I'm putting on my turtle shell, eating my humble pie, doing everything a good little soldier should do, and saying nothing to anyone about anything. I have been slapped with humility and, like the Blessed Mother, I will keep all these things in my heart but I won't speak of them to the people involved.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Being Used as an Excuse for Others

It's been quite a while since I posted a "grateful" thought on this blog. It's not that I haven't been grateful. On the contrary, despite the fact that (at least on paper) my life is pretty dismal, I've discovered many blessings that I might not have appreciated as much if I were employed and financially independent. That being said, I'm going to take a step back and preface this positive spin post with a rant.

******************WARNING! Rant ahead!*******************
Skip to the bottom if you wish to avoid the following negative vibes.

I am sick and tired of people using my daughter as an excuse to do whatever they please. Her father's family had (probably still does, but she hasn't seen much of them thanks to the divorce) a nasty habit of asking my daughter if she wanted to do something, then completely ignoring her requests. Also, they have a tendency to "do things" for my daughter that she neither asked for nor wanted, such as shopping "for her" only to get something for her that is either inappropriate for her age or that doesn't fit her properly or that isn't her style. When they take her to places that are supposed to be fun, like a theme park, she spends almost the entire time being dragged around to whatever they want to do or what they "think" she might want to do, without actually consulting her. She is also forced to eat on THEIR meal schedule, instead of when she actually gets hungry. The same goes for bathroom breaks and rests. If they're not tired, then she must not be.

I'm trying to teach my daughter how to find the positives in even the bleakest of situations. However, she's a very intelligent child, always has been, and she can tell when she's being used. No one deserves to be ignored or forced to do what others want. I understand that it is not easy to find balance among people, especially when the number of different personalities and interests increases with the size of the group. However, completely ignoring any one person almost all the time, or completely giving in to any ONE person almost all the time, does not build relationships. Each person deserves at least close to a fair share of time and attention when in a group. The modified exception might be if you are celebrating one person, such as on their birthday. Even then, to completely ignore everyone, treating them as accessories or slaves, defeats the purpose of inviting them to share in your celebration. It's even worse when the person who is supposed to be celebrated is the one who is ignored.

Enter my real rant for the day [I promise, I WILL get to the optimism later in the post!].

My daughter is new to her school. It's a pre-K through 8th grade Catholic school. I knew it would take a while for her to make friends for a variety of reasons--she's living in an apartment with just her currently unemployed single mom and our turtle while almost all of the other kids come from well-to-do families of multiple siblings and professional working parents; she's advanced in all of her classes except English because of a speech issue; we're relatively new to the area so we had to establish ourselves in everything; my daughter is a "warrior princess" type of geek (loves typical girly things like Disney Princesses and MLP: FIM as well as typical boy stuff like comics and video games); we don't have cable so she doesn't keep up with the latest trendy shows and she's not on Facebook (thank God!) or Vine [she does have a Google account and Twitter, but doesn't check them often]; she's also highly emotionally intelligent, so she doesn't suffer fools very well, but she's sensitive and has a strong moral compass, so she ends up fuming inside and getting hurt because she's not the type of person to bully back. 

After all of this, she was thrilled to have made two friends towards the beginning of the school year who seemed to actually care about her. My daughter poured out some of her burdens to them, letting them know about the divorce and how our budget was stretched so tight it would snap at any moment. The friends seemed to be genuinely caring when they suggested that they plan a special day for her. See, many people who have been to a Disney theme park in either California or Florida have seen the tiny little tots flouncing around in their store-bought frilly princess dresses and glittered hair and make-up. What I didn't know was that there is an age cap for the service at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where all the little princesses are transformed. They supposedly don't take any girls (or boys, if you want the "prince" hair package) after age 12, or so it is if you follow the rules. So, my daughter's new "friends" heard the she had never done BBB (her dad always dismissed the idea as too expensive and I never had the money myself), so they convinced her that they wanted her to get to feel special, too, as they had been to the Boutique a number of times before and it was supposed to be a lot of fun. One of her friends even gave my daughter the money to pay for most of the hair package. We would have to buy a dress because Disney princess dresses only go up to size 12, which is nowhere near my daughter's size. My daughter has much eastern European stock in her genetics. She couldn't fit anything in the children's section of any clothing store after age 8 due to her height and bone structure (okay, also excess girth and early onset of puberty). 

So, we made what would be the first and last reservation for my daughter at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and bought an "Elsa" dress online (horrible dress that did not fit well though it was the largest size available, was intentionally split up the middle in the front past the panty line instead of along the side so I had to make an underskirt for it, had all its gems fall off). My daughter was already self-conscious because she'd never gotten her hair done and never wears make-up except when performing in a dance recital. Plus, she is well aware that she is not "princess" sized. Saturday, we got up early so we could grab breakfast and park at the Magic Kingdom, then we took transportation to BBB at Downtown Disney. Her friends were barely waking up by the time we parked. She was feeling a little special because she would be able to share this magical moment with her friends. 

I was perturbed with the girls from the start, though. Her friends showed up late, despite the fact that they made their appointments for a few minutes earlier than my daughter's, telling me that they made their reservations before she got to make hers. It also turns out that this once-in-a-lifetime moment for my daughter was mere routine for these girls. The part that peeved me very much, besides their general bearing and attitude (want to see a diva princess? I got to spend the day with one of them!), was the fact that they not only lied to Disney, but also to my daughter. They made a big deal to my daughter about this not only being her first and last chance to do it, but also their last chance, implying that they were twelve. Both girls were well past their 13th birthday when we went. One had even turned 13 before making the reservation back in November. These girls are blessed with perfectly waif-like frames and they did look pretty in their get-ups. They took almost no time to get their hair, nails, and make-up done because they have the standard shorter shoulder-blade length hair cuts and they requested the standard princess buns. They were also seated 30 minutes before my daughter even got started. Oh, and my daughter took a bit longer because she has a full thick head of waist-length hair. The BBB staff were fantastic. My daughter really did feel special, and she was a great princess to work on, as she didn't complain or demand or fuss. Unfortunately, her friends (let's call them EJ for the one who opted to wear the belly dancer Jasmine outfit and SS for the Snow White) were done so much earlier than her that they wandered around the shop together and started giving her antsy looks (the ones that say "Come on! We're ready, so you should be too!) towards the end. To their credit, they didn't voice their impatience, they simply completely ignored my daughter while she was experiencing this special time for her. I wanted to make it special, too, so I opted to pay for the photo package so all three girls could have pictures of their time together. Not surprisingly, none of the other parents even thought to offer this. I paid for the whole thing together, as I didn't want to complicate things for the cashier with my daughter paying in cash and me paying for the photo package with my card. I told my daughter to use the cash to pay for lunch for the girls, since this is something I was going to offer them.

Okay, my rant is getting too long. I feel I've set up the situation enough. Let me summarize the next 8 hours we spent at the Magic Kingdom after the photo shoot. It became the EJ show from the moment we got there. If EJ didn't know what she was doing, then we stood around for too long waiting for her to make a decision. See, EJ thinks she's a Disney expert. She tells my daughter that her parents frequently drop her off at the Magic Kingdom (I don't know if she's been to the other parks) all by herself and she roams around chatting up the characters on Main Street. By the way, this is expressly forbidden by Disney policy, which requires all minors under 17 be accompanied by a ticket-bearing adult. EJ likes to brag about everyone knowing her at the parks and about getting to see this or do that all the time. She likes to believe that she knows all there is to know about Disney. She's also the impatient type. I had a feeling there would be trouble when we finally got to our first ride, after wandering around Main Street because EJ wanted to meet with the citizens of Main Street and she wanted to get SS to play her Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game so EJ could play hers. The wait time for our first ride said 40 minutes. She immediately wanted to walk to the other side of the land to get FastPassses. Keep in mind that we would have had to coordinate THREE different accounts--EJ's, SS and her mom, my daughter and I--to get the passes for everyone. We convinced her that any wait time under an hour was pretty good. By the way, we were on the ride in less than 15 minutes. 

Throughout the day, EJ led the way. She used SS as an excuse to play the Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom game, which is enjoyable, but it does require you to run around the land in which you're playing that particular event, going from portal to portal many times. EJ and SS ended up playing three of these events before my daughter pointed out that they had agreed to ride something else earlier. My daughter got hungry an hour before EJ decided that she was hungry. Thankfully, I had peanuts and water in my backpack so my daughter wouldn't collapse or lose her cool until we could finally stop for lunch, which was at the restaurant where EJ loved to eat, surprise, surprise. Oh, yeah, the girls wouldn't allow my daughter to buy them lunch. SS's mom paid for them instead (EJ's parents left after paying for her BBB session, but they left her with their credit card). That was when SS demanded that my daughter return the money she gave her (in friendship, I thought) because she didn't use it at BBB. I understand her point, but she also wouldn't listen to ours. It hurt my daughter a lot when SS made that demand. 

Because the two girls moved a lot faster than the rest of us, my daughter had to run to keep up with them. I gave up and continued to hobble along at the best pace I could keep without having an asthma attack (I have exercise-induced asthma, which kicks in if I go faster than my lungs can handle, or climb stairs). After 3 attractions picked by either EJ or SS's mom following lunch, I finally picked one for my daughter and I, and afterwards we said our good-byes. I had had enough of selfishness and the rain that dumped on us all day (which led the girls to hide their princess outfits and hair/makeup under ponchos all day) didn't help. 

The final straw, which prompted our leaving early, was when EJ took the phone of SS's mom and linked their 3 tickets together, getting them a FastPass for later that evening without either asking or consulting my daughter or I. That's downright rude. The whole day was the EJ show, though it was supposed to be a day for all the girls, but especially my daughter, to feel special. They merely used her as an excuse to dupe Disney into another session at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. They merely used her as an excuse to get their parents to buy them annual passes and spend the day at Magic Kingdom all dolled-up. They used her as an excuse to feel like they were having pity on a poor plus-sized girl, only to ditch and ignore her most of the day. It hurts, it stings, and it smacks too much of the treatment my daughter gets from a majority of people who ever met her, with the exception of a few handful of people (my family, her best friend she's known since infancy, maybe one or two others she's met along the way, people from church). I'm sick and tired of people using my daughter as an excuse to do something for themselves!

*****************End Rant, Begin Positivity**********************

 Here's the lemonade to our lemons. Whenever I see that my daughter is getting used like this by others, two things happen. 1) My momma bear mode kicks in and I finally stand up for something--my daughter--that I should have been pushy about the entire time. 2) I feel, not really the need, but more like a compulsion to make up for it through my own actions so that my daughter can see that not everyone on this earth is going to treat her so badly. Every time since the divorce that my daughter has spent with her father and his chosen family, I spend the following trip to one of the Disney parks doing what she wants to do and listening to her thoughts/feelings about the visit or anything else she wants to get off her chest.

In essence, my daughter and I are growing a stronger bond ever time someone abuses her like this. The truth is, I would bond with her even if everyone else treated her as the special human being that we all deserved to be treated as, but it seems even more potent when our time together follows these negative experiences. I'm hoping that my daughter will also see that yes, there are many selfish people in the world who only care about themselves, but there are also good people who treat everyone with the respect that we all deserve. I'm hoping that the negative experiences are not dwelt upon, but that they highlight the positive experiences more. I want my daughter to learn from the bad times, but remember the good times.