“Why am I never the first choice?” Tears start to swell her eyes.
“Well,” He starts. “I think you’re the type of girl that boys just don’t notice often.”
“Wow thanks, that sure helps.” She laughs in disbelief.
“No, it’s for the best. You’re toxic.” He starts to whisper, “Once somebody notices you, they can’t stop. All of your little bracelets and rings and Little Mermaid sweaters go from strange to somehow enticing. The fact that you carry three books in your bag goes from being nerdy to being one of your cutest quirks.”
“It sucks when a guy notices you, because then there is no one else they notice and you never leave their mind.” He trails off.
HOW I WAITED 26 YEARS TO MESS UP GOING TO DISNEYLAND
- or, the Tale of Tina the Kind-Hearted Park Employee
By Hayley Heartbreak
There were not a lot of people to relate to as heroes as a ginger kid in the eighties. Don’t even get me started on Annie and her syrupy orphan Shirley Temple schtick. So, in 1989, when The Little Mermaid finally hit New Zealand cinemas (we used to get things much later than everyone else) that was it for me. I still remember being absolutely fucking mesmerised and above all, THRILLED. Because Ariel was a redhead. And she was ballsy and she had a cave full of treasures which reaaaaaaaally appealed to my budding hoarder side.
Now bearing in mind again that this is NZ in the late eighties heading into early 90’s - it was not like it is now, where if your kid is fixated with Disney or any sort of cartoon character there is a whole plethora of shops and products - nay, a gaping maw of industry - ready to part you from your cash so your starry eyed kiddos can be covered head to toe in sparkles and snow just like Elsa. There was no Amazon where you could order the DVD as soon as it came out. Nah bro this was Noo Zillund. I don’t think we even got the movie on VHS for like 2 years after seeing the movie in cinemas. I was a very lucky kid though - I had canny parents. Dad travelled a lot and would bring things home if he found them; a plastic Ariel face digital watch that opened to tell time (highly treasured), Mum found a Little Mermaid sweater (hugely loved, despite the fact some nasty piece of work would bully me for wearing it at primary school). Mum would make endlessly creative birthday cakes, and even painted a mural on my bedroom wall of Ariel and Flounder having a chill out.
Man, I loved that wall.
Even when my 21st rolled around Mum couldn’t find Ariel themed serviettes etc so she had to make some decorations herself.
So what I guess I am trying to impress upon you is while there wasn’t anywhere near the Disney Princess Juggernaut there is today, I had quite the collection to cherish thanks to my clever, loving parents and one day, I knew, I was going to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Yep, I was going to Disneyland.
We almost went once, as a kid - to the original Florida park. But then some loon apparently starting shooting tourists or something so that didn’t pan out.
Time went by - I got older. But rides got cooler. And the whole Disney Princess Cult thing emerged. So that meant a new focus on Ariel. Which could only be a good thing right? Despite morphing into the almost 32 year old goth illustrator/designer typing this on a crummy iPhone on her way to Vegas (oh god) I still had that dream. And the attractions now, dear lord, the attractions. Undersea Grotto’s and all sorts. Every new development made the six year old heart in my chest beat faster under the grime of cynicism and adulthood.
So this year when Jesse (my best friend/fiancé) and I decided to make a trip to California as a sort of pre-wedding honeymoon, it was decided: after twenty six years I would make my mer-religious pilgrimage to Disneyland. Jesse would also get to indulge in Star Wars so win win.
It had been an awesome trip thus far - HEAPS of excitement and fun, sadly also heaps of sickness because I picked up bronchitis, and a couple of things that had been disappointing for varying reasons but the day was here. We mustn’t dwell. Not today! Not on Little Mermaid day.
I took that way too seriously because I was so focused on getting packed up and getting both of us to Anaheim and optimal park times I just went quiet and sick with stress. And then when we finally got to the park and the first person I saw was Ariel in an aqua princess dress I was actually trembling.
You have to understand I’m not (just) completely cuckoo - this was twenty six years of buildup beginning to culminate. Poor Jesse had to corral me into the line with five year olds - bearing in mind I was dressed all in black, including black lipstick, and I’m 5'10" in heeled shoes) so I looked a little…. Out of place? But full credit to Ariel, she listened to me gibbering about my mermaid tattoos and pretended she wasn’t dealing with a teary, breathless nutcase, and took a photo with me.
BOY OH BOY. What a start to the day! Even though that was overwhelming for the six year old I had clearly regressed into, we were eager to hit the park. We had a very small window of time in which to do this and there could be no take backs as we were leaving to Vegas early the next day.
So hit it we did. Haunted Mansion, Toon Town….. All of these things were fun and hilarious and I got to eat a macaroni and cheese hot dog (NZ we need to step up our hotdog game). But we couldn’t see any more “toons” (people in costume) once we got inside the park. Jess wanted to meet Gaston and I wanted to hit the Ariel rides….. So we figured we would just work our way around. After a while the sunlight was slipping away and after a few hours, I still hadn’t found Ariel’s Undersea Adventure or the Grotto or The Cove bar or any of the other things Jesse had been showing me on YouTube to get me hyped prior to flying out here.
So just before the fireworks we decided to ask a staff member.
Me: “Sorry sir, but could you please tell me where the Ariel parts of the park are please?”
He looked a bit perplexed. I thought maybe it was my accent. So I repeated it again slower and he said “That is all in the other park, ma'am. If you want to see all that you will have to go tomorrow.”
Me: “…….excus….Wh….. Other park???”
He handed me a brochure that had Anna & Elsa from Frozen on it. CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE it said. My stomach dropped about ten floors as I walked away numbly looking at this “adventure land” brochure while Jesse thanked the now thoroughly confused staff member.
….and suuuuure enough, there it all was. All the things I had been looking for all day, as well as Jesse’s Star Wars things. In a whole other park. That wasn’t even CALLED Disneyland. I had had no idea there was more than one Disney park - we knew about Knotts, Universal Studios etc but never that there was an entirely separate Disney related park. It was all just “Disneyland” as far as I knew. That I would now not be going to, after making myself practically sick with excitement and also actually being sick from bronchitis. This was the golden ticket for me and it got snatched out of my hand and then some bastard stole my cabbage soup (why am I using Dahl metaphors in a Disney story? I don’t know).
So as I sat in the gutter of Main Street, tired, overwhelmed, unsure if I was in my thirties or if I was six, with a sore chest and throat and surrounded by swarms of people, I did what any completely tired, disappointed and emotional person would do:
I sobbed and sobbed and wept my eyes out, clutching the pamphlet of betrayal because otherwise this would feel like a practical joke. I just didn’t know what else to do. I remember Jesse looking alarmed and heartbroken for me. It’s been a bit of an up and down year - great highs, fiendish lows. My god I had needed this. The ability to throw off the shackles of adulthood and realise a childhood dream. Which I managed to fuck up because neither of us even knew there were TWO PARKS. And one was not even called Disneyland.
So while I was sitting down crying and clutching Jesse’s Slayer shirt (quite the Disney pair wouldn’t you say?) a young woman came over. She worked at the park and her name was Tina. She wore her hair in braids and she wanted to know what was wrong. After telling her the gist of everything I have just written (but nowhere near as concisely), she was just excellent. She felt terrible for me that this had happened and that I was unable to come back to the park the next day after waiting for so long to visit. She gave me a fast pass for a ride and said she would go and see what she could do.
Cue more sobbing because I was well gone by this point and really overwhelmed with a complete stranger being kind to me.
When Tina came back, she said there was not much she could do as the fireworks were about to start and she had to corral park visitors to vantage points but she had managed to get me this.
“This” was a voucher that entitled me to an Ariel Animators Doll from the gift shop, to take home with me. She said she was sorry I wouldn’t be able to see the other park like I had wanted but she hoped that I would like the doll, and that they were very beautiful and that way I wouldn’t be leaving completely empty-handed when it came to Ariel.
You know what happened then right? Yep. More crying. Hugging/clutching this poor woman and thanking her so much for her kindness. Finally letting her go so she could do her job.
So upon exhaustedly taking the voucher to the shop you can imagine the shock and awe on both our faces when I got this beautiful thing handed over to me. Jesus H Christ! It’s even more special because it’s an Animators collection, and I’m an illustrator. GEDDIT. Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!
This is way longer than I anticipated but I got to kill some time on a bus to a desert gambling town (I kind of feel like I’m heading to a real life Fallout) and I have another, cherished and loved part to add to my ageing but still fiercely loved Ariel collection.
I guess for me it just reaffirmed my faith in humanity or the kindness of strangers because I’d been starting to lose it a little on this trip. I’d love to figure out something to do to say thank you to Tina (her last name was Oriado or something similar) so maybe I can figure that out back home because she deserves it. Tina, if you ever read this - THANK YOU. You are a scholar and a gentlewoman and If there is anything I can do for you please let me know.
In closing, check out that attractive photo of your local goth mer-child-adult, yours truly.
In the words of Jesse: “It was both the happiest, and the saddest thing I had ever seen.”
it would be most appreciated if you decided to roll out a couple more of those disney sweaters; namely, the aladdin and little mermaid ones, if it’s not too much trouble.
i can’t find either anywhere, and honestly, you’d make bank off of them, because i know so many other people who would love some of the other ones from that line (lion king, anyone? beauty and the beast?)
they’d get snapped right up, and i’m almost certain i’m not the only one who thinks so.
someone who really still thinks she’s going to find that little mermaid sweater around here somewhere someday