It was like a dream; after all those years of pleading, I was finally able to go to Disney World. Finally, I was able to wander the streets of the Disney-MGM Studios, finally I was able to get pictures of me with Roger Rabbit, my favorite Disney character. Finally, I was able to live the dream that I’d had since I was four years old. It was perfect, every single little thing was perfect.
At least, I thought it was perfect… It was, wasn’t ? It was everything I had wanted and more.
Samantha Field has a great post up; go and give it a read if you get a chance. Titled “Abusers and the Good Times”, it deals with exactly that: that the “kindness” an abuser extends to the victim isn’t truly kindness. I’ve been meaning to post about it, but life has made an effort to get in my way. You know how that is, I would hope. So I’m doing it now.
In my case, the “good time” that I had was a surprise trip to Orlando and a week’s stay at Walt Disney World when I was a teen. My family, my then best friend and I stayed at a Days Inn in the Kissimmee/St. Cloud area. We got food from a local Publix, where I have the memory of seeing a Transformers comic book on the newsstand near the front of the store, we got up early in order to hit the parks before it got too crowded and we limited ourselves to one meal while there. Mostly, we ate when we got back to the hotel.
As for souvenirs, I managed to grab a pair of Roger Rabbit sweatshirts. I still have them, somewhere. But they, like the trip itself, were absolutely and completely perfect.
What I didn’t know, or rather, couldn’t comprehend at the time was that I was a victim of this faux kindness. It all had to do with a trip that I had wanted to take but couldn’t. This perfect vacation came at the cost of something else.
The Perfect Vacation
When I was younger, I wanted to go to Disney World. Just like every little kid out there, I wanted to rub elbows with Mickey Mouse and say hello to Donald Duck. When I was thirteen, my desire to to take that dream trip came to a head; Who Framed Roger Rabbit? had been released. It captivated me in a way I can’t even describe. I wanted to go to Disney World and see Roger. That was the dream now. It wasn’t just seeing the park and rubbing elbows with the other Disney characters. No, I wanted to see Roger Rabbit. I wanted to go to the Disney-MGM studios and buy Roger Rabbit tee shirts.
When I was fourteen, I broke down and bought a pair of Disney vacation books. One was an official guide and featured Disney characters on the pages while the other was unofficial. I treasured both of these books as I paged through them while I stretched on the couch in the living room. For all the usage they got, the books remained in good shape; I didn’t take them out of the house and I made sure my hands were clean while I read them. They barely got any wear on their covers, much less their pages. I took care of them, as I hoped to use them for planning my eventual trip.
I didn’t know that this trip would happen about a year later.
When it did, it was amazing. But it wasn’t entirely an act of kindness.
The Hidden String
Three decades later, when the vacation became just a few fading memories in my mind, Prime and I were watching Good Luck, Charlie, It’s Christmas! on the Disney Channel. I was only half paying attention, until Teddy was told the reason why her mother didn’t want her to go to Florida alone. It was because her mother would have been admitting that Teddy was old enough and responsible enough to be on her own and she wasn’t ready to do that.
For a moment, I felt as though I had been kicked in the chest. Suddenly, that perfect trip to Disney World when I was in high school made sense.
In my freshman year, I had told my mother of a special trip that my drama class would take over Christmas vacation. It would cost around $275, it was chaperoned and you had to have a buddy no matter where you went. The group would go to Broadway shows and take in things such as A Chorus Line and the like. There would also be trips to Rockefeller Center and other points of interest. I wanted to go and badly. So I went to my parents and told them about it, in an excited voice. I told them both that I wouldn’t be alone, that there would be adults with us at all times, that we wouldn’t be allowed to leave our hotel rooms unattended. When I was finished, I asked expectantly, “Is it okay? Can I go?”
My mother listened calmly then looked me full in the face and said, “You’re not going.”
There was no anger, no emotion in her voice. She spoke evenly, making her declaration crystal clear. No amount of bargaining would change her mind. This decision was final.
I was crushed. I can remember laying on my bed and crying about it. I remember feeling cheated. I remember that I felt jealous of my other classmates, who were able to go. I felt as though I was missing out on something special. When would I have the chance to go to New York? When would I get the chance to see anything on Broadway? When would I get the chance to take pictures of Rockefeller Center during the holidays? I was crushed.
Fast forward to a year later. That was when my mother said we were taking the one trip that had been my dream: a trip to Disney World. I was over the moon. Life couldn’t get any better!
It took me twenty years to make the connection.
The Invisible Filament
That Disney trip? It wasn’t a kindness. At least, it wasn’t a kindness in the traditional sense. It was a way for my mother to exert control over me. If my mother had relented, had let me go to New York on a class trip without her, it would be admitting the one truth that she couldn’t handle: that one day I would leave, whether she liked it or not. Due to her victimization she couldn’t accept this.
My mother wanted to keep me close, too close when you get right down to it. To her, this was probably the best way to give me what I wanted while she could get exactly what she wanted as well. She could keep a watch over me, never once letting me out of her sight, while I had the time of my life and no one was the wiser.
In other words, it was the perfect win/win situation and I didn’t know it. A perfect way to placate me and a perfect way for her to keep me under her thumb. Hidden In plain sight.
In 2010, before the Great Reveal, Prime and I went back to Disney World. We went there because of BotCon. This time, I have few memories of the park, even fewer of the characters and the attractions. Prime and I, along with a pair of our friends, hit up the Boardwalk area and got some food. Most of our time was spent in the convention center/hotel areas. But those memories are clearer in my mind and closer to my heart. It isn’t simply because the journey was far more recent but it was because this one was one of my own desire. I wanted to go. This was entirely my decision. No one could gainsay me or tell me no. I was an adult, out on my own and I could do as I damn well pleased, which was the polar opposite of life in North Carolina. This was a different experience than the one I had while I was a teen because this one was strictly mine.
Although things took a sharp downturn later in that year, my time spent at Disney World in 2010 is something I can always treasure. Because it had no strings attached. Because I was the one who could freely choose what I wanted. There’s no better feeling than that, the feeling of freedom.
I had strings
But now I’m free
There are no strings on me.