The Ugly Princess

Once upon a time there was a princess who was very very pretty.  She had an easy laugh, and was known throughout the kingdom for her kindness. Men, women and children sought advice from the kind, wise, and pretty princess. She was honest and fair and helped those who asked.

One day, a handsome prince came from a land far away to see the princess who everyone spoke of so fondly.

He arrived, and the princess, dressed in a beautiful gown called him into her court. The suitor laughed uproariously the moment he laid eyes on her. “Why, you are kind of heart, your face is pretty, but you are far too plump to be my queen- to be truly beautiful.”

And with that, the prince rode away, his laughter heard long after he faded into the distance.

The princess, not used to such cruelty, wept, filling the pond that she sat beside with tears.  The princess cried and cried and as the leaves fell and the winter came, the tears froze. The villagers, missing their happy princess, took the frozen tears and used it as a looking glass.  Surely, the princess would see her beauty through her grief and return to her kind ways.

But as the villagers lifted the heavy oculus, a strong wind blew, the balance was jarred, and the mirror crashed breaking into millions of jagged pieces on the ground.

The princess looked down on the ruin from her balcony and saw only her warped reflection in the pieces on the grass.  Not even her face was beautiful.  The broken glass showed only her tear-stained face, puffy eyes and red nose.

Devastated by her atrocious appearance, the princess returned to her chambers, heartbroken, vowing to never leave.

After beginning this period of isolation, the castle’s fool would be sent every day to try and entertain her by telling her jokes and stories.  Each day, the princess would sigh heavily and wave him away, never leaving her bed, tears still occasionally spilling down her cheeks.

One day, the fool could no longer idly perform while the princess sat, sullen sad.

“Princess,” he asked, “why do you cry?”

“Because I am hideous. My kingdom deserves a beautiful ruler, not a fat, ugly, princess.”

“Princess, you are very beautiful.  You helped so many. Your heart is so good, your wit is unmatched, and your intelligence is far superior to any King in any of the kingdoms.  Your kindness has been sung about by bards traveling across the world.  You are beautiful in ways that shine through your eyes and make your face glow.  You are beautiful.” And the fool left.

The princess fell asleep but sent for the fool the next day.

“Fool, my suitor called me plump. How can I believe you when you say I’m beautiful?”

“Princess, you are soft and commanding and strong.  Where he saw “plump”, your kingdom sees lush and voluptuous; jovian and curvaceous. Your body is beautiful.”

With that, the fool left again.

The princess slept, more peacefully, and called for the fool again the next day.

“Fool, the looking glass showed me my hideous face. How can you say I’m beautiful?”

“Princess, the mirror was made of your own tears- how can one see through their own grief? Your skin is an unmarked buttermilk, creamy and warm, your eyes are the color of emeralds, but large and full of knowledge.  Your lips are like a scarlet bow, and your cheeks two apples.  You are beautiful.”

The fool turned to leave, but the princess called him back, rising from her bed.

“Fool…I’m scared to look in the mirror…what if I see what he saw?”

The fool walked up and stood boldly in front of her.

“My princess, let my eyes be your mirror. Do not worry about what he saw- he was a true fool. Use my eyes and see what I see.”

The princess took the fool’s face between her hands and tilted it down and looked into his deep grey eyes.  She saw her reflection and was overwhelmed- how stupid she had been.  For even though the fool’s eyes provided a clear mirror for her to see her appearance, she now saw that the fool was blind.  He knew she needed to hear kind words regarding her appearance, but what he truly thought was beautiful was her heart which you don’t need eyes to see.

The fool leaned down and kissed the princess on her scarlet lips. He tilted his mouth to her ear and whispered.

“My princess, you are the loveliest creature in this world.  You sparkle even in the cloudiest weather.  You lead by kindness and strength.  While beauty might be important to the foolish prince, it is not important to the people who trust you to rule them.  Your kingdom needs you, as do I.  It is sad without your light.  You bring us beauty, therefore you are beautiful.”

The fool did not leave, but gave his arm to the princess, and together they emerged onto the balcony where the people applauded the return of not her emerald eyes, scarlet lips, or mocha hair. They applauded her kind eyes, her wise mind, and her joyous laugh.

And the princess turned to her fool and kissed him again, this time crying tears of joy that pooled to create a small reflection in the stones.  She looked down, and filled with love, saw that she was truly beautiful.

Chicken 4 (somewhat of a side bar, honestly.)

When I was very young, I had this porcelain horse.  It was big and painted with cotton candy colors and it had a white body that was smooth from the glaze that was pleasant to my tiny fingers.  I know this because it broke when my tiny hands dropped it, several times.  I remember it breaking, just as much as I remember my mother using superglue to meticulously put it back together.  I remember it- the small fissures, darker than the white, grayish but not horribly damaging to the satisfying aesthetic.

But the horse didn’t break once. It broke over and over.  Eventually, the glue that dried three dimensionally mangled the body with mountains and valleys that shouldn’t have been there. It was no longer smooth.  The pieces broke smaller and smaller each time and became difficult to find and hard to manipulate in my mother’s hands.

One day, the horse was gone.  I didn’t even notice.  It wasn’t worth the upkeep, my mother grew tired of the constant meddling, so it was “lost”.

This metaphor works for a few things.

  1. I am the horse. The broken, weakened, porcelain horse whose mother has had to repeatedly glue her back together.  That morning after, when I woke up and saw the two people who had been so intentionally (seemingly) disrespectful, on MY couch, in MY house, passed out, limbs crisscrossed and alcohol still on their breath, I felt myself break. I shattered.I walked out of my house (without throwing water on them or keying Sara’s car which had been my roommate’s suggestion), and drove home.  My dad was awake at 6 AM when I pulled in and I told him the story and he, half laughing and bemused, asked “She did it again?” (I’ll explain the “again” later- back to the metaphor).
  1. The horse is also a metaphor for our friendship. I struggled to ignore that it was becoming a hassle to keep up with. I pretended to ignore the missing piece, the chipped glaze, the shitty repair job. I told myself, “It’s still beautiful. It’s still important. It still works.”  But this…this wasn’t a “dropped” horse situation.  This was a toddler raising a hammer, making eye contact, and bringing that motherfucker down…then saying she didn’t mean too.  I considered gluing it again.  I extended the opportunity to “talk it out”, to give our 10 year friendship the chance to endure again.  But when I came home later, after my mother hurled insults, my dad provided a stellar commentary…and even as the days waned on and my mother told me the overwhelming input from my former teachers (my mom works at my high school) was “again?”, even when my coworkers took up arms, when my roommate’s banned her from the house….even those were not the moments that I looked back and later thought “that’s when I decided not to fix it.”

No.

When I came home at 5:00 PM on one of the most emotionally draining days of my life, the lights were off, no one was home and the only evidence that the night prior had happened was the un-fucking-folded blankets strewn across the couch.

Those motherfucking pricks.

They hadn’t even folded the goddamn blankets.

And that when I took a deep breath. I folded the blanket, grabbed the broom, and swept up the dust that was left of the porcelain horse.