On a recent Saturday morning, I found myself inside the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Exposition Park, sitting 13 feet away from a girl wearing ice skates and a mermaid tail. I was choking back the tears and biting my lower lip to keep it from quivering, the same way that one might close his eyes to stop the day from dawning, but it was no use. Walt Disney, with the gentle touch of a rodent's three-fingered hand, had me by the throat and, much to my surprise, I loved it.
Twenty minutes earlier, Tinkerbell had hit the ice with the grace of a goalie having just thrown off the gloves. Her torso was as thick as a stack of tires, her swinging fists the size of pot roasts. Her appearance baffled my 4-year-old twin daughters, whose concept of the famous Disney fairy had been that of a spirited pixie as lilting and dexterous as a 9-ounce, 100-watt asterisk. But here, now, was a being that looked like Bill Shatner in a wig and green-sequined minidress.
Immediately, I worried that the fairy-tale magic that my wife and I had promised to our children might not come to pass. This pissed me off. After all, the title of the program was "Disney on Ice Presents Princess Wishes," and unless all the princesses were due to suddenly appear linking hands and closing their eyes and wishing aloud for a normal-sized pituitary gland to replace the knuckle-dragging basketball nestled at the base of Tinkerbell's Neanderthal brain, I was ready to ask for my money back — or, more precisely, my wife's money back. I had to admit that I, myself, would never have wasted my money on anything as sexist and redundant and maniacally optimistic as a Disney production called "Princess Wishes.""Howard Zinn on Ice," yes. "Karen Finley and the Baloney Zamboni," definitely. But "Princess Wishes"? All I can say is that the tickets were a surprise present that my daughters and I found in our stockings on Christmas morning. It was the kind of gift that had me hating the baby Jesus all over again and looking forward to Easter when He would get what was coming to Him.
"That's a big Tinkerbell." I whispered to the twin on my left.
"Yeah," she said, her brow furrowed like she was trying to decipher Sanskrit, her eyes focused on the behemoth pumping those gargantuan thighs around the rink. I then started to wonder if this wasn't one of those rare teachable moments that a parent was obligated to recognize. After all, wasn't a remarkably telling reality trumping a rather abusive fantasy on the rink right in front of me? Wasn't this Tinkerbell, by being the stark opposite of the megapetite, superunrealistic body type that defined the animated version, someone to be revered and not criticized? I thought of the agony that many parents are made to suffer as helpless bystanders forced to watch their daughters develop eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, in an attempt to approximate a Barbie-doll thinness that the mere existence of bulky internal organs makes impossible. Of course, to come anywhere close to approximating the body type of the slugger galloping around on the ice before us, my daughters would have to learn how to unhinge their jawbones and to grow a second stomach capable of digesting hoof, bone and fur.
But before I had a chance to whisper about the brutal commodification and starvation of girls everywhere, I was interrupted by an explosion of applause celebrating the disappearance of Tinkerbell and the appearance of Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. Both were practically nude by Disney standards, meaning that I could see their navels, their armpits, the dimpled smalls of their soon-to-be-glistening backs, as well as Aladdin's nipples and Jasmine's shoulder blades. Plus they were in baggy pajamas; pajamas that, when blown against their bodies, became megaphones for the shape and contour of their crotches and ass cracks. Immediately preoccupied with the details of a completely invented backstory involving these two, I forgot about correcting my daughters' assumed misinterpretation of what was going on and concentrated on my own lurid misreading of the situation.
First, I imagined that Aladdin and Jasmine were really in love with each other, passionately, and not merely actors hired to feign affection. I had them groping each other after every performance, his little red fez being pushed off by her knees, her head thrown back in ecstasy as her baby blue brassiere, festooned with plastic gems and gold lame trim, is rolled up roughly into a twisted annoyance below her chin.
"Popcorn?" said the sweet buttercup of a voice next to me.
"Hang on a second," I said, ignoring the tugging on my forearm. "Daddy's trying to listen to the words."
Ironically, with the appearance of each Disney princess into the spotlight, each a virgin yearning for true love and getting it right between the eyes by a square-jawed Disney prince — a prince, that is, who in reality appeared more interested in gaining access to his conquest's pedicurist and bikini waxer than her thumper, grouchy or Sebastian— the debauchery that I was imagining slowly gave way to an attention to the song lyrics they were lip-synching while flamboyantly overacting.
In no time, I was sniffling and wiping my nose with my palm, wanting more than anything else in the world for Ariel to get the human legs she so coveted and to walk with Prince Eric into the soapy Christian goodness of the rest of their lives, scentless and as gleeful as freshly minted coins, her spanking new feet as ostentatious as Scorah Pattullo pumps. This, I figured, is what I got for having no church to go to or any belief in even a smidgen of the optimistic balderdash of any political person, party or platform. I was like a gynecologist who suddenly had his speculum and flashlight confiscated and replaced with a lava lamp and a Serge Gainsbourg 8-track, my analytical understanding of what was unfolding directly in front of me as impossible to conjure as the words water, mucin, lipids, lysozyme, lactoferrin, lipocalin, lacritin, immunoglobulins, glucose, urea, sodium and potassium to describe the substance dribbling from my tear ducts.