I always wanted to be an Emma. Something about the name sounded sophisticated to me. But then again I also wanted to be Alyssa Milano because she was the exact opposite of what I looked like and of course growing up a teenage girl in America, we’re taught early on that who you are isn’t good enough. You always should strive to look like something not you, something better.
In fact, from our earliest stories we are taught that unless you are the beautiful princess or damsel in distress, no one is coming for you. If you take the story of Snow White for example, she’s just a beautiful girl out in the woods minding her own business until a jealous rival descends. The only reason for this intrusion into Snow White’s life is because she’s prettier than her rival and well you know the rest of the story.
Cinderella was by all intents and purposes in an unfortunate situation with a step-mother who made her do chores and sister siblings who were not quite as pretty or as thin as she was, so they kept her hidden away in order to further their chances at locking down good old Prince Charming. Thankfully she was able to transform herself with the perfect dress and the perfect pair of shoes, add some killer dance moves and the Prince was hers.
If I wasn’t so cynical I would say that these stories were set in place by a genius marketing firm who knows that you’ve got to capture your clients young to keep them brand loyal for a lifetime. Just how many generations have grown up on those ideals? I mean come on, the perfect dress and the perfect shoes and you too could live a life of charm. Hell, I might open up my own marketing firm with that very slogan.
I had an obsession with Alyssa Milano because she was the emboldened daughter of Tony Danza on Who’s the Boss? The show ran from 1984 to 1992. I would have been eleven and that is right about the time my eating disorder starting to bloom. I was the epitome of awkward. I had sun bleached blonde hair and I could never settle on any real style for it, so it hung on my head in a mass of lazy, tangled strands. I was tan all the time, a product of living in sunny South Florida a stark contrast to Alyssa’s perfect porcelain skin. I was lean from years of dance classes and playing outside. In the eighties all you did was play outside.
Anyway I spent most of my time barefoot and dirty, which suited me fine until I saw Samantha Micelli, Milano’s character from the show. She dressed with style. She was sarcastic. She had brown hair and brown eyes and she was pretty, definitely prettier than me. She always had something to say and seemed to get away with murder. Essentially she was a good kid and her dad, well her dad was the dad I always dreamed of having. Attentive, funny, good looking and present. They even called her “Sam” for short which I thought was the coolest thing you could do. She had a boy’s name because she was tough and I wanted to be tough and pretty and have a boy’s name too.
It never occurred to me at eleven that there was any such thing as writers and stylists. In fact I never wondered how those people got on television. I always believed the characters were modeled after someone so it was fair to assume they existed like that, tough, pretty girls with boy’s names. That’s what I focused on. There were times when my mother would call me Chris for short.
“Chris can you bring the trash cans up?” “Chris go clean your room”
So obviously I was a pretty, tough girl too, maybe even tougher than Sam. Sam’s life was also the complete opposite of mine. Actually compared to my life, Sam’s life was the fairytale.
I suppose we all want to be a little different. People with straight hair always want curly hair. If you’re tall you want to be short if you’re short you want to be tall, you get the idea. We’re never satisfied with what we have, we’re not taught to be. It is ingrained in us from that first fairy tale that we should be better than who we are, even if it means pretending to be something we’re not until we’re rescued. No one ever reads the fairy tale where we rescue ourselves by being exactly who we are, because that is enough, because we are enough. Life is no fairy tale. I don’t have to tell you that. If you’re reading this you’ve already figured that out for yourself. The only person coming for us is us. We are the cavalry so we better get prepared to be our best selves.
You might be wondering how you do that. How do you become your best self? How do you show up for battle for yourself?
We have to start by giving ourselves the greatest weapon, forgiveness. And you might be wondering how do we get this weapon for ourselves? The answer is in my book A Practical Guide to Forgiveness from an Impractical Survivor. Forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give and is the best weapon against societal influence , but in order to forgive others we must forgive self. Rest assured this book is no fairy tale but it will transform you. Like I said, marketing genius.