I know most people don’t talk about memes very much. Most people consider them trivial, barely worthy of fleeting attention. But I personally enjoy and share them a lot and have found some memes to offer unexpectedly deep looks into subjects, mirrors that reflect what we share in common with others, or don’t. While most memes are pretty silly, I’ve definitely found others to be pretty meaningful. And I saw a meme the other day that stopped me dead in my tracks.
It was on Popcorn Logic, a Facebook page that posts images with cool TV and movie facts. This particular post was about My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (which is apparently a newer version of the show I watched as a kid), and it read: “Princess Celestia was originally a queen but was changed because Hasbro executives thought Disney had too closely associated Queens as villains.”
Wow. That really tells you something, doesn’t it?
What kind of message does it send to little girls that we live in a world where princesses are good but queens are evil?
“Do you know what my deepest fear is?” she said.
I thought for a moment. But nothing was coming to mind as a possibility. Because she’d always seemed rather fearless to me. Older somehow, more mature. Than everyone else. And especially me. Even though I was actually a year older than her. Because she was cultured, cosmopolitan.
Her parents came from the city and had brought a lot of it back with them when they’d come to the country to give her “a good upbringing,” thinking Maine would be a great place to raise their kids.
My own roots were way more countrified and humble. I was the grandchild of immigrants from rural Quebec. My father was a construction worker who’d grown up in Maine. Her father was an art director from New York. I was doing my best to learn about other places, to find ways to connect with what I idolized but always seemed just out of reach. I was reading Kerouac at the time, but her dad had actually met some of the characters in the book.
She knew a ton about art. High literature. Fashion. In the summer, she went to an expensive prep school out of state where she acted in plays and wrote fiction in workshops that were even more sophisticated than the ones I would attend in college (as I later would go on to attend all public universities because it was all I could afford and even that wasn’t easy).
She’s afraid of something? What could she possibly be afraid of? I wondered to myself.
Aloud I said, “No, what?”
“Getting old,” she said.
I laughed involuntarily.
“Page,” she said, “It’s not funny.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “But you’re in high school.” And the most gorgeous person I believe I’ve ever met, I added in my head. But we weren’t quite there yet, the point where I could say stuff like that. I wasn’t sure if she’d welcome such attention. Or if she’d yell at me, call me a dyke, and stop inviting me over.
Queer crushes can be like that, laced with uncertainty and danger. They were especially like that back in the mid 90s. The whole bar bi explosion hadn’t yet happened, when it came into vogue for straight girls to make out with one another in public for sexy points. Back then you had to be serious about another woman to kiss her, and you risked a lot by being the first one to make a move or even bring it up as a joke.
I’d felt chemistry with her, a connection. But the way I felt about her was so strong that I wasn’t entirely sure if it were in my own head. If it were wishful thinking. I’d been dreaming about her for weeks, after she’d dressed me up in her clothes for a school event, giving her awkward friend (me) a makeover. Her very own Pygmalion. I couldn’t get over the feel of her hands on my body as she helped me get dressed. The way she had looked at me when I stood before her, transformed. When I was stylishly femme like her, if only for a single evening.
“Well I’m in high school now,” she said. “I just can’t bear the thought of getting old.” She talked for a while about it, and as she spoke, I heard other anxieties cropping up, themes to her despair: Age to her signaled irrelevance, and she couldn’t bear it. She wanted to be noticed, cherished. She also seemed to feel like most of what she had to offer the world was her appearance, which simply wasn’t true.
It would become quite clear to me over the time we spent together that she didn’t have any clue how the world actually saw her. She was physically beautiful, yes, but it was really the least important thing about her. She was even more intelligent than she was beautiful. Witty. And incredibly freaking funny.
And I could only see her becoming even better of a person as she aged. Not worse. More attractive. More talented. She was on the road to some form of greatness, even if no one knew exactly where it led yet.
But to her, her surface beauty was something that was set to expire any day now. And the only thing people showed up for.
We talked for several hours, watching Monty Python movies on her couch.
“The hell with it,” she said suddenly, “Let’s make some brownies!”
“Yeah!” I said, even though I didn’t really even like chocolate. There was something about the way she said it though that made me enthusiastic. It wouldn’t have mattered what she suggested. I was on board.
So we baked brownies from scratch, consulting the giant cookbook that lived in her kitchen. And after we’d popped them in the oven, we attacked the bowl with spoons to get at the batter. Well, she did anyway. She grabbed me a spoon, but I just held it in my hand. I wasn’t too wild about chocolate, so I hung back and let her have at it.
“Aren’t you gonna have some?” she asked.
“No, it’s okay, I’m fine.”
“C’mon,” she said. She set her own spoon down on the counter and used her finger to scoop up a little batter. “C’mon,” she said again. I hesitated for a second. Did she want me to… eat the batter off her finger? No… Really? But I only hesitated for a second, and before I knew it, her finger was in my mouth, and seconds later we were kissing.
I Wonder If She’s Conquered That Fear
We were together for about a year before things came apart. Sleeping in the same bed, reading poetry to one another in graveyards, wearing each other’s clothes (well, mostly me wearing hers, she had way better fashion sense than I did, taught me a lot). A year wasn’t too bad for high school actually, a time when we were both changing so quickly and often in different directions.
The short version of what happened is that it’s my fault we broke up. I didn’t deserve her; I couldn’t be brave when she needed me to be, and so I (rightfully) lost her.
Impressively, we managed to remain friends for quite some time, until we got into a fight about something stupid. She and another one of my friends (who I’d also been romantically involved with at one time) were fighting over a boy, and they asked me to take sides. They were both wrong, but she was more wrong than my other friend. And I told her that. That they were both out of line, but that she was so far out of line that she might as well be playing on another field.
I probably should have kept my mouth shut. I normally would have, had it been someone I didn’t care about. It’s easier to not get involved. Say, “I’m not taking sides. I’m Switzerland.” But I figured after everything we’d been through together that I owed her the truth, what I actually thought. Not some edited self-protective cop-out. At the time I didn’t know she’d take it so hard.
But she did. She really did. She lost it. And she never forgave me. Never spoke to me again.
When all my friends from high school started sending one another friend invites on Facebook about a decade ago, she ignored mine. I sent one three times, because I thought I must have messed up and not sent it right. Aaaaaand nothing. Totally her right to refuse, but I was pretty surprised. Because everyone else linked up together, no matter what bad blood had transpired. And she even accepted a Facebook request from the friend whose side I took. The one she was actually fighting with over the boy in the first place.
Anyway, it’s been 20 years since we’ve dated. And while she’s pointedly shunned any direct connection with me, I’ll see her occasionally in virtual spaces interacting with our mutual friends.
And look, there’s no other way to say this: She’s stunning.
She’s happily married to a rich guy. Has a beautiful baby.
Is this what you were worried about? I always ask myself anytime I see her profile picture. Are you still afraid?
I kind of don’t want an answer to that question. I like to pretend that she’s worked past all of that. That she’s conquered her fear. That she’s finally come to understand her value.
But part of me doubts it.
It’s Not the Aging Process But Bitterness That Turns You Evil
It’s not just Disney. The whole world likes to tell us that princesses are good, but queens are evil. That there’s no path to promotion for a woman. Instead, it’s a path to decline. They like to imply in a million different ways that you peak as a child. That the time that you’re the most beautiful is incidentally also the same time you have the least autonomy. And that it’s all downhill from there.
But that’s not how I see it at all. While I know plenty of people of all ages who chase younger partners, these days I rarely ever date people under 30. And not just because I’m growing older myself (ah, the majesty of one’s “dirty thirties”). It’s more that I’ve always been attracted to older people, whether biologically older or attitude-wise, as in old souls. I prefer partners who are emotionally mature. People who have seen and done things. Who know things. People with stories and scars. Who’ve made the breathless discovery that life functions differently than any single work of tragedy. That you can go through things and not be forever crushed by them but somehow survive and start a completely different story once you’re ready to.
Those kind of people are magic. Truly. But it’s also worth noting that while magic is powerful, it isn’t inherently good or evil. It all depends on what kind: Is it white magic, black magic, red, blue?
It really depends on the person, how the years treat them. The real danger isn’t that the aging process in and of itself somehow takes us past our prime, our sell-by date. True, there are plenty of ageists out there, but I personally find I don’t have a lot in common with them anyway (our values systems tend to diverge wildly in a global sense). The real danger with aging is that the years can get to you. The world can harden you and make you jaded. Give you reasons to give up hope, become selfish, and seek revenge.
The world is really good at that, at making you bitter.
So many people worry about how aging will affect their physical appearance. As a woman, this fear is marketed to me constantly, to get me to buy expensive masks that I wear all the time: A full face of makeup, beauty treatments that I firmly adhere to, pricey diet and exercise regimes, designer clothes, etc.
But I think the real danger isn’t external ugliness. I think the real danger is how the years can affect your emotional health. Turn a good witch into a bad witch.
It’s tough to go through life without becoming bitter about something. And so years and years of societal conditioning basically turn us into evil queens.
Well, I say work it, honey. Maybe you’re no longer a princess, but that life was never as charmed as they made it out to be anyway.
Be the fiercest queen that you can. That’s my plan anyway. I suppose we’ll see how it goes.
Books by Page Turner: