Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lessons From the Little Mermaid

My sister has poor night vision. She wanted to take some girls to see The Little Mermaid performed live. So, I agreed to be the designated driver for the evening. It was another dateless Saturday night for me, so why not?

It was cold and rainy Saturday, but that didn’t stop people from coming out. The parking lot was full. Families dodged raindrops as they ran for cover in the theater to see the tale Ariel, the mermaid who falls in love with a human. According to folklore, a mermaid is part human, part fish. Mermaids are known for their beautiful, alluring voices, and also for shaking things up in the form of tornadoes, and floods and such.

We settle into our seats, and a group of men came and sat in the row in front of us. One of the men was dressed like Ariel complete with flowers in his flowing red hair, an aqua necklace and a bra in the shape of a two sea-shells covering the chest. He/She had on a long, floral skirt. I guess he/she is a big fan of Ariel. And true to the mermaid’s legend, he/she was definitely shaking things up!

On the way home, the girls were happily chattering in the back about the show, when the subject of the man/woman or woman/man—I can’t remember exactly what they said. There was a past-the due-date pregnant pause in the car. Neither my sister nor I said anything. Transgendered people don’t bother me. I’ve been to quite a few shows with female impersonators, and I had a great time. So, it would be hypocritical of me to act as though the mermaid’s presence offended me; it didn’t.

My sister and I listened as the girls talked. These were children unrelated to us. Two of the girls were the grandchildren of my sister’s friend, and the other girl is my niece’s stepdaughter. Knowing how strongly people feel about where transgendered people pee, it was not a conversation, I wanted to have. My opinion is one thing, but I have to respect how people choose to raise their children. The girls made some comments about the mermaid’s attire, and then they went on to debate which of Ariel’s sister was their favorite and if the boy who played Flounder was cute. 

The girls’ conversation made me think of how much we project our thoughts and feelings onto children. Growing up, one of my friends had a flamboyantly gay uncle. His “gayness” was never an issue because as children we never talked about it. He was—as they used to say back then—a sissy, but I don’t remember it being said in a judgmental way. It wasn’t until I got older that I begin to understand how people who we see as “different” from us are treated. 

The girls knew the mermaid was a man/woman, but it didn’t matter. She was not the focal point of their conversation. They enjoyed the play and that’s all that mattered. There are lessons we can learn from children about how to get along in the world.

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