Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Revenge fantasy

We have roughly a bazillion children's books in our house, give or take three. And still, my four-year-old gets bored with his choices and demands a trip to the library so I can read to him for half an hour or so. The routine: I sit in the least uncomfortable chair I can find and wait for him to bring the books to me. (And don't worry, I return them all to their proper places.)

Yesterday, he chose a book about a caterpillar and a tadpole that fall in love, promising to each other they will never change. Ever ever.

But, of course, the tadpole does change. He grows legs, and the caterpillar, his "rainbow," feels betrayed. He promises to never change again and she forgives him. Then he grows arms. "No! You changed." But she forgives him again when he promises to never change again. Then he loses his tail, and that's the last straw. The tadpole broke his promise three times, and she couldn't forgive him anymore.

So the tadpole mopes around missing the caterpillar, but as the season changes, the caterpillar realizes she misses him, too, and that she shouldn't have been so unforgiving. She, now a butterfly, heads off to find him but instead finds a frog.

I was, at this point, expecting a happily-ever-after ending. They both changed. Change is part of life and love. Kiss and make up. Ta-dah!

But apparently the author had a revenge fantasy he or she was playing out through this children's book. The butterfly starts to ask the frog if he knows the tadpole, and the frog sticks out his tongue, swallows the butterfly whole, and then thinks of his caterpillar every time he sees a rainbow. The end.

Ivan thought the ending was funny. I was disturbed. And then amused.

I think we're all, to a degree, trying to live out those fantasies, aren't we? Proving to the bullies that we could succeed? Making that ex regret the way he treated you? Wearing the killer outfit to the reunion so the popular girl can see you aged better than she did? We might not cram it all into a children's book, but, come on, the way we close up those wounds can be a little childish. I'll be the first to admit it.

The thing is, the frog was doing just fine when the butterfly showed up. He was going about his business underwater; he wasn't mooning about on the surface looking for his rainbow. And, heck, he still had enough of an appetite to *eat* a butterfly, so how love sick could he have been? I've been dumped before. I wasn't craving butterflies or pizza or even chocolate for some time. Even now, when I look back on the two times I was dumped, I kinda get a little sick to my stomach--not because I feel that hurt again but because I feel the shame that goes along with how I handled myself at the time. (stupid girl. stupid. stupid. stupid.)

But the frog wasn't looking for revenge. He was just looking for a meal. So perhaps that's what true revenge is: getting on with your life.

And now I'm feeling a little snackish. No butterflies around, but I think there are some dark-chocolate-covered raisins in hiding. They'll do just fine.

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