My wife and I are in are in bed.
Dispel immediately any thoughts you may have about this being a romantically promising situation: we have been together for nearly ten years, and further have two children under four. As a result, 'being in bed' for us is currently not a scenario that calls for a mirrored ceiling and Marvin Gayes smoochsome classic 'Let's Get It On' being softly piped through speakers in the headboard. Instead, think of it more like a relatively quiet corridor in a military field hospital, where the shellshocked and wounded can huddle together and compare the grievous injuries they have sustained during their day at the frontline. Typically, 'pillow talk' for us consists of a discussion of Neves eczema, or what we can do to stop Amelie from picking her nose. Tonight, however, the topic is romance...
"I'm a bit worried that all this Disney Princess stuff is giving Amelie the wrong idea" says Nini.
"Why's that?" I ask
"Did you hear her the other day? When she was playing with her dolls? It was all 'Handsome Prince' this, and 'one true love' that..."
"It's just not that realistic, is it? About love."
"What do you mean? They're Disney stories. Of course they're not realistic. Most of the animals can talk..."
"No, its not the film stories that I mind. It's the stuff that happens afterwards."
I raise myself up on one elbow and stare at her quizzically. "What do you mean, 'afterwards'? There's no 'afterwards'. The film ends. Credits. Happy ever after. Done."
"Wrong. Have you actually read 'Disney Princess' magazine lately?
I have to confess I have not been keeping up with that particular periodical. She is happy to bring me up to speed:
"It's all stories that are set after the film. About what they did next. About the 'happy ever after'.
"OK. So what's wrong with them?"
"Let me give you an example. In the last one I read, it was Snow Whites' first wedding anniversary. The Prince gave her a gold locket, but then said he had to go away for the day."
"He didn't say."
"Ah. Business trip, I expect. Client meeting. Got to see a man about a dragon."
"Just listen, will you? Anyway, instead of going berserk, do you know what Snow White does? She says to herself that it must be important, or he wouldn't be going away and leaving her."
"Does that strike you as realistic?"
"Um, no. Not from my experience. Snow White seems a little less...feisty than you are when it comes to business trips clashing with anniversaries..."
"Anyway, off he goes. So Snow White decides to talk to her woodland friends instead. And just then she hears some birds singing her favourite song, the one that reminds her of the Prince. So she follows the sound of singing birds into the wood, and it suddenly starts raining blossom petals as she walks..."
"What? This is a setup, isn't it?"
"Just let me tell you..."
"He's clearly in the wood. Waiting. It's actually a bit sinister..."
"And as she walks, the singing gets louder, and she can see a glade up ahead that's been lit with candles..."
"See, it is a setup! He's tricked her into 'Doggers Wood', and the seven dwarfs are hiding in the bushes, and when she gets there..."
"Shut up. Don't even think it. Ugh, your mind is a sewer. Anyway, she gets there, and there is a big feast, and a cake, and the Prince is there..."
"This seems a bit like overkill, he already gave her a gold locket. How's he going to top all this next year? He's made a rod for his own back there..."
... WILL YOU LISTEN? I said the Prince is there, and she asks why he hasn't gone away, like he said, and he laughs and asks what could ever be more important than her on a special day like their anniversary?"
"Right" I say, and pause for thought. "And your problem with all this is...?"
"It will give our daughter too high an expectation. Love's just not like that; all blossom and lockets. At some point you have to get realistic about it. You have to lower your standards."
There is a long unpleasant silence, in which I give her ample time to realise the implications of what she has said with respect to our own marriage and perhaps correct herself, and during which she studiously gazes at the ceiling and deliberately fails to take the opportunity to rectify any possible misunderstanding...
I break the deadlock first.
"What do you mean, 'lower your standards'? Are you saying you had to lower your standards? I think you have very high standards! I'm a bit of a catch, I'll have you know..."
"You are not romantic in any way, shape or form."
"I treat you", I hiss, "like the Queen of Sheba..."
"Ha! I assume you mean the catfood..."
We turn away from each other and face the walls.
"Walt bloody Disney..." I say.
There is another extended, sullen pause. It goes on so long that Nini is just on the brink of falling asleep when I decide I will not rest that night unless I get one vital question answered:
"How did he train the birds to sing her special song?"
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
My wife and I are in are in bed.