A story about beauty behind barbs.
I think we underestimate the dangerous spell of “safe.” “Safe” is why centuries of humans have relished the tale of Rapunzel, a perfect princess locked in a stone tower with only her golden braid dangling tantalizingly from the window. “Safe” is why we’re enchanted by Ariel and her eagerness to escape her watery dungeon; “safe” is the thing she forgoes when she breaks the ocean surface that her companions have always treated as a sturdy ceiling despite its fluidity. “Safe” is why the Beast’s dying rose stands perched in a sparkling bell jar, as if that layer of glass might prevent its inevitable wilting. “Safe” is alluring. “Safe” is gorgeousness in view but out of touch, sheltered in a thin glaze of immaculate protection. “Safe” is why I stopped to admire these tiny fenced-in flowers on an arbitrary Brooklyn street. I was charmed by the bittersweet beauty of the bright red blooms behind barbs, where no one but their owner could smell their sweetness or feel their velveteen petals or see their shimmering freckles of pollen. I can’t stop thinking about the barbed wires and glass covers and stone walls that we build up around ourselves and the things we love. … When you pursue your dream, you destroy it. Whether or not you get what you want, you ruin the illusion you’ve held tight in your head like a prized vase in a museum case. Out in the open, the dream gets tainted, stained, scraped up, and passed between a million other people’s dirty hands. Its illusory perfection disintegrates. It dies a little bit as it comes to life. There are all sorts of bell jars we drop delicately over our fantasies, protecting them under unyielding bubbles. We admire potential soulmates from a distance, assuring ourselves that it’s not worth risking the embarrassment of unreciprocated emotional investment. We cite practicality or monetary restrictions when we stay in soul-sucking jobs, instead of chasing ideal careers we’ve dismissed as foolish fancy. We create our own ceilings like Ariel’s ocean, pretending that the sparkling sheen implies unbreakability. We avoid acting on our dearest aspirations because we want to keep them precious. We want to continue admiring them where they’re secure and sheltered from potential harm. And so we guard them and we stay guarded, wearing thick skins with certitude that steadfast insensitivity will protect our hearts from unhappiness or, worse, failure. … I’ve been…
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