Part 1: The Lion (drag)King
I’m sure people are going to wonder what exactly it means to be a disappointing lesbian at some point, so I’ve decided to devote a series of posts to explaining the evolution of my uncanny ability to fall defiantly short of the expectations of others. Rather than a singular, underwhelming event, my existence has been a somewhat continual succession of disappointments.
I must have come into this world with an extreme sense of this purpose, because I got started early. In fact, I was supposed to be a boy, and I’m not sure exactly what was going on in those nineties ultrasounds, or what happened between the second and third trimesters, but I popped out with twice the expected X chromosomes and it all just kind of snowballed from there.
The next disappointment that I can remember (although I’m sure there are many more to speak of), and the first I had any direct control over, came when I was six and I first saw The Lion King. Now, I’m aware that most progeny of the nineties saw and were at least moderately obsessed with this movie.
However, the thing that makes my experience with this particular Disney franchise so uniquely, abysmally disappointing was that I decided to become a lion. No, not just to pretend that I was a lion during finite periods of play. I jumped in headfirst and wholeheartedly embraced the lion lifestyle.
First, I attached a tail to my leotard from ballet (I was also a very disappointing ballerina, but all six-year-olds technically suck at ballet, so the true test of disappointment came later). Then, I used that magic blend of precociousness and the ability to shamelessly throw a tantrum in Walmart so indicative of six-year-olds to weasel my way into a cat-ear headband. At first, the adults in my family thought this was just cute, harmless childhood role playing. Haha, grownups. Haha.
I refused to wear anything else. After all, due to my overzealous imagination, taking off that leotard was akin to ripping off my flesh. It simply could not be done. I slept in those ears. I bathed in those ears. I even went to the store in those ears.
Now, if we had lived in LA, where I’m pretty sure it’s in vogue to get actual cat ears stapled to your forehead, depending on the season, that would have been one thing. Small-town Illinoisans tend to be a little less tolerant of deviation from the norm. Sure, you can walk to the beat of your own drummer. As long as your drummer is Phil Collins.
Next, I decided to eat exclusively out of a bowl on the floor. Spoons? Forks? Lions don’t need forks, dammit. Lions eat with their faces, like the true kings of the jungle they are. What’s that? You want me to drink out of a cup, grandma? Okay, I’ll do that as soon as I FULFILL THE CIRCLE OF LIFE AND ROLL OVER IN MY FELINE GRAVE. My grandmother was wisely and immediately concerned. My mother took longer to see the burgeoning problem.
In fact, it wasn’t until I started competing with our calico for the affections of the tomcat next door that she realized it was time for an intervention. Every evening like clockwork he’d show up at the door, yowling for Princess. Now, I’d hate to lose my gold star in lesbianism, but I must confess, Jack the Cat is the only man I’ve ever loved.
I’m not sure if it was the stench of Friskies or the way his orange tabby fur vaguely resembled that of a lion’s, but I was all about him being the Mufasa to my Sarabi. Mystifyingly, Jack didn’t find my mating screeches appealing and Princess lost her suitor.
Not one to be disillusioned, I decided that just because I couldn’t make lion babies of my own didn’t mean I couldn’t be a surrogate. I began grooming Princess to be a proper lion cub. Literally. Three hairballs later, Princess became understandably irritated with my lackluster mothering efforts and tried to squirm away. When I wouldn’t let go, she scratched.
As a lion mom of course I couldn’t let such behavior slide without proper discipline. What kind of queen would she become? The only logical thing to do seemed to be a gentle nip to the ear. I’d seen that somewhere on Animal Planet, probably, so it had to be fool proof.
Now, I’m not sure if anyone else out there has ever tasted cat blood, but it’s basically a mixture of sticky metallic liquid and pure shame. Mom decided that the guilt and horror was enough punishment, but I did lose my cat holding privileges for the week, and my leotard was kept in a clandestine location and only taken out before dance class. It was also decided that I needed more human interaction. Immediately.
Three park trips later, I had a new friend and a scheduled play date with “Emily.” The prospect of a brand new, shiny friend was enough to keep me away from the cat, but unfortunately, my hidden motivation was not to reintegrate into the human world, but rather to convert her into my pride.
Emily had never seen The Lion King, and whether out of genuine interest or simply good-natured pandering, she humored me by listening to my endless barrage of Lion Facts. Mom was thrilled as Emily happened to be my first human friend with a non-imaginary presence in the physical world. The problem came when Emily’s mom invited us over to their house for the next play date.
Five minutes before we were ready to leave, I crawled into the living room in all fours in full lioness regalia. Now, I can’t remember exactly how I found that costume. My best guess is that it was some sort of preternatural lion sense leading me to my true form. But we were already running late, and mom was panicked. I do remember this excerpt from the conversation that followed:
Now, as a mother, I’m really not sure how you’re supposed to respond to that. Mine responded with pleading and bribery. Did I want candy? No. How about a new toy? No. What did I want?
Needless to say, we didn’t go to Emily’s house, and from that day on, any Disney movies I was allowed to watch were first screened for obsession-potential. Unfortunately, obsession is like an antibiotic resistant virus. It may seem to have disappeared and lay dormant for a time, but it’s learning. It will change and resurface in the most disappointing way eventually. Stay tuned for the next case study in a lifetime of disappointment: Cat Married.