Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Sexy Beast

So we've been traveling in July, and you know what that means: sleeping in a different place every night, including a top bunk belonging to an 8-year-old little girl who was away for the weekend. It raised a lot of issues.

First, there was the issue that I hadn't slept in a top bunk in about 15 years. I'm laying there thinking, "I better not fall off this damn thing. I'll kill myself." I fell off a top bunk once in college, and I woke up on the way to the ground. Believe me, of all the horrible ways to wake up, waking up in midair a split second before you land on a hard tile floor has got to rank somewhere near the top. I barely had time to squawk.

After the fear subsided, I started to worry what this poor little girl would think if she knew that some giant, gross dad had slept in her bed. I just imagined her squealing and running away from sheets that were totally infected with some cootie-type parasite. But, I figured, her mom was the one who put me here, so maybe the cootie problem was well in hand.

Third came my wife, who was sleeping on the bottom bunk and who didn't really appreciate my thrashing around awkwardly on the top bunk. Apparently, I was shaking the whole set-up. So I tried to stop moving.

After I settled in, I started to pay attention and found myself smack in the childhood of an interesting little girl. It's funny what you can tell about people, even kids, from their spaces. Of course, Hannah Montana was looking down at me, microphone in hand, hip-cocked and smiling. Hi, Hannah, wait till you see what happens after you become Miley.

The bed's owner had also taped a piece of notebook paper on the wall where she could see it. On it, she had carefully written a long title and drawn two columns. The title was "The DIFFERENCE between insects and bugs." In the bugs column, she had written, "They have a triangle on their back." In the insects column, she had written, "All insects are bugs, but not all bugs are insects."

In a weird sort of way, I think I understood exactly what she meant.

And then I got sucked into the Strawberry Shortcake poster, and that was where I got seriously unhinged. I remembered Strawberry Shortcake as a cute little thing with freckles and pigtails. But, my oh my, Strawberry has certainly changed since I was a kid. Now she's a full-on Japanimation wonder, with huge blue eyes, a tiny nose and rosebud mouth, and lustrous hair. In the poster, Strawberry was braiding her pony's hair, and no little girl could ask for more than this pony. It pranced on three hooves, with its head cocked coquettishly, its back delightfully rounded. The pony's mane had been transformed into a cascade of golden locks and its giant, melting eyes were half-closed, its tiny pink mouth half open.

The pony was pitched perfectly at eye level, so you could lay in the top bunk and stare and stare, imagining your fingers intertwined in the pony's luxuriant hair, caring for and pampering the sexy little beast.

I had one of those moments. I could actually feel the longing of a little girl studying her poster, wishing for all the chocolate kisses in the world that she could just crawl into that land where houses are made from cupcakes and love that little pony with all of my heart. Later, I'm sure Strawberry Shortcake will come down and Justin Bieber (or whoever will play his part in the future) will go up, but the effect will be exactly the same: it will be one of those empty canvases upon which little girls draw imaginary sketches of love, of barely understood lust and longing, and a future where they aren't little girls anymore but lovers and brides and wives and mothers.

After I got through thinking all this (and by now was truly getting tired), I wondered if, later on, there would still be room in her life for worrying about the difference between bugs and insects. I hoped so.


Mark Terry said...

Might I recommend Tylenol PM.

Jon VanZile said...

Or scotch.

Natasha Fondren said...

I did that! In college, too. I always go into that mode during car accidents and the like, where time slows down and I sit and reason and make decisions for awhile, even though it's a split second. So on the way down, my mind was like, "So. My head is headed straight for the linoleum. That's probably not good. I'd crack my head open. I'd better try to do a somersault. But look, I'll hit my legs against my roommate's bed, so I should execute a quarter twist while I'm at it, and make sure my legs go thataway." (I was on the diving team in high school, which served me well, evidently.)

My roommate was awake to watch the whole thing. We laughed so hard we cried.

I hope you're having fun!

E. Flanigan said...

Geez, Jon .... is it possible you projected some things onto the poster???

I looked at the same Strawberry Shortcake poster with the same pony and mostly saw THE HAIR. Hair for braiding, hair for brushing. Girls do tend to be into hair. As girls AND as grown women.

In fact, my mom and I were just bemoaning how much she pays for her highlights, how much my guy charges, etc. They charge that much because they know we will pay it. Because most of us care about hair at least a little, even if we claim not to.

In the middle of my most existential teenage crises, perhaps BECAUSE of them, I was also concerned with whether to triple pierce my left ear. Whether to shave part of my head. (I ended up doing both.) Our physical selves reflect lots of other stuff.

Even the girls who don't like princesses tend to have their girlish delights. Like ponies. With flouncy hair.

Jon VanZile said...


Fortunately, my roommates were asleep through the whole thing. But that whole slow-motion thing sounds like it could come in handy.

Jon VanZile said...

See, it's possible you only saw THE HAIR because you too were beguiled by that damn pony. I wasn't, so I saw The Matrix and understood what they were really trying to do: oppress little girls with ponyish delights.

Flouncy hair indeed.

Melanie Avila said...

Will we be getting a story told from the POV of a little girl soon? Seems you've done the research...

Jude Hardin said...

Spiders are bugs, but they're not insects (sticks tongue out).