First, I meant to write, I did. But we were on Spring Break and everything just went too fast and one minute I was sitting on the beach, and the next minute I was lying by the pool, and the next minute I was cruising the San Diego Zoo, and then I was eating a burger and drinking a beer, and I can’t really explain it, but time just got away from me.
It was a good vacation. It was wholesome and all-American and except for the whole being married with kids part, it was pretty relaxing.
Or, it got relaxing. It started out kind of pinch-lipped and uptight. The problem was that we (I) decided to stop on our way down to San Diego and go to Disneyland with my bestie and her family.
What you should know is that the Mister is the anti-Disneyland Dark Lord. If Disneyland is America, The Mister is Kim Jong Un. He is, in short, completely immune to whatever charms Disneyland holds. To him, Disneyland is nothing more than a corporate trap bent on turning little girls into plastic-y princesses and separating grown men from their money. And the roller coasters aren’t even that big.
So, yeah. Disneyland was basically an exercise in me wishing the Mister would drink a little of the Kool-Aid and play along, and him wishing I would just leave him the fuck alone because he was having a good time and why did he have to smile and dance and hug Minnie to prove it?
Oh, and we waited in line. A lot.
All in all, we spent 12 hours at The Happiest Place on Earth. And I spent maybe 20% of those 12 hours contemplating divorce*. I wondered if I should lawyer up before I broke the news to the Mister or after. I decided where I would live once I could no longer afford to live in San Francisco, being a single mother and all. I imagined my new boyfriend (he was sort of unsatisfactory if you must know), and how much weight I would have to lose to even snag him in the first place. I contemplated our custody schedule and estimated how much writing I could get done while the kids were with their dad. I made peace with the fact that I would never be able to travel again. In other words. I was not in a happy place.
All that fake cheer was making my life look bad. Every “cast member” who waved at us with one of those puffy white Mickey hands just made my husband look like a grouch. Every time we weren’t walking on tippy toes singing It’s a Small World, I felt less than. The kids were giddy and prancing, but us? We were realistic and adult and above it all. And it was depressing.
Normally, I like my life. I like The Mister. I practice gratitude and feel lucky and have my priorities straight. But Disneyland was in my fucking head, man. Mickey was working his evil voodoo magic to make me believe that we should be a different kind of couple than we are. We should be more American and more conventional and more into buying stuff for our kids. We should smile when expected and talk to strangers in line and never, ever, make snarky comments about Disneyland. We should be Happy. Capital H.
Let me tell you a little secret: Disneyland is just a theme park. It is not the happiest place on earth. It’s sort of cute if your kids are young and they really believe in it all, but otherwise, every ride is just an opportunity to sell you stuff. It’s a lot of waiting in line. It’s hot. It’s crowded. The food is bad and expensive. There are a lot of little girls wearing makeup and princess outfits. There are a lot of fat people in electric carts. It costs about $500 for one day. If you look closely, there is garbage floating in the lakes and It’s A Small World is really just plywood and glitter.
And yet, I sort of like it anyway. Despite everything that is false and phony and overpriced. Despite the fact that the whole thing sometimes feels like it only exists to sell you cheap, made-in-China crap. There’s a little bit of it that gets under my skin. I kind of love Minnie. I get properly nostalgic when I see Peter Pan.
Which is why it almost caused my divorce*. Because it did not get under the Mister’s skin. No matter how much I cajoled and harped, he did not love it. He put up with it for me and the kids. He was game and he was spending a shit load of money, but he did not buy it. He was not starry eyed. He waited in line and rode the rides, but he did not hug Minnie. And he did not buy a t-shirt. And for some reason that made me feel like there was something wrong with us.
But then I got away from all the branded joy and paid-for pleasantness and we went to San Diego and it was sunny and we went to the beach and took hikes and read books and waited in no lines (well, except traffic) and we felt like an ok family again. We could like what we liked (sunshine, the donut shop, the seals and tide pools, our lap pool) and dislike what we disliked (the sterile McMansion neighborhood we were staying in, the traffic, the odd smell of the house) and it was fine. We were just a normal family, possibly slightly snobbish and urban, but basically not bad. And no one was expecting us to be smiling all the goddamn time.
*Don’t worry, I wasn’t really contemplating divorce. I’m just prone to melodrama and big gestures.