Fabled enchantment

Dinnertime conversations can be funny creatures, filled with hidden snares, taboos and emotional hot spots. Especially family dinnertime conversations. When the family is yours, you know the terrain – verbal quicksand, camouflaged bear trap, punji stick-studded pit – how to sidestep it or, if the mood strikes, dive in. Not so as a family guest. 

I’d met and enjoyed part of the boyfriend’s family once before. And, of course, I was on my best behavior, even though his mother had read me in the newspaper and knew that my opinionated streak is as wide as it is long.  

“I feel like I already know you,” she said, grinning. Ditto with her, since I’d heard so many makes-me-smile stories about her professionally, artistically and humanly.  

But last night it was Thanksgiving in August, complete with turkey, stuffing and all the fixins. It was celebration time, a reunion. One of the family’s sons, a physician, was home for a visit after working for a few years in Central America. He had pictures to show and stories to recount.  

The conversation coasted like the tide, flowing over kelp beds, filling pools and gently lifting ideas like tussled bits of driftwood on a sandy beach.  

Then I had to be a jellyfish.

The conversation’s current bobbed with a fairy tale reference. The boyfriend mentioned “Enchanted,” a recent Disney flick about a fairy tale princess who lands in New York. 

Here’s where I have to admit that I’ve not seen the movie – and I have no intention of changing that. Any once-upon-a-time fairy tale princess story makes me groan and I’m none too shy in saying so. And I did. 

“Why?” the boyfriend asked innocently, unawares of the punji sticks below. 

My condensed explanation (a bit expanded here): Fairy tales, once upon a time, were great. Until the legends were co-opted by the likes of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen (think sea witch to little mermaid)  morphed from folk tales, which included powerful crones, mothers and maidens, to one-dimensional and patriarchal versions of girl-women – and man as her rescuer. Any woman who wasn’t young, fertile and available for plundering was suddenly without value, a bumbling sketch or, worse, the face of evil. And those tales, of course, color a young girl’s view of not only herself, but her world and her place in it. 

Silence at the table. A grin warmed the brother’s face. 

“You’re a feminist!” he said, tone lifting with a sprig of aha delight.   

“Oh, yeah,” the boyfriend chimed in after him.

And, at that moment, I felt enchantment.



One Response

  1. […] in, again, via the boyfriend. His mom wanted to see El Camion Vacilador. She laughed aloud the Fabled Enchantment entry and then, on then fairy tale topic, mentioned […]

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