It’s become intrinsically clear to me that fairy tales are real.
In addition to the theme of the underdog, there is a running motif called “the unpromising hero.” The hero/heroine in most fairy tales and folklore is lacking in a social way, whether they are a little dumb, poor, underestimated, or neglected. They always begin as inferior and over the course of the story, if it is a happy tale, end in a superior role. The town’s people who ridiculed the hero are either punished or apologize for their misgivings.
Growing up, I always considered myself to be the underdog. The unpromising hero. I have always been smart, an embarrassed nerd ashamed of my untapped potentials. For every one teacher and adult who praised my brain and lifted me up, there were three kids who brought me back down to earth through mental and physical bullying.
My junior year, I spent a week getting spit on by a couple kids because I wouldn’t let them copy my homework during study hall. I thought I was doing something noble by saying no. Thought that sticking up for myself and my own hard work made it worth something, but it didn’t.
I didn’t gain confidence in who I was until college. I was surrounded by like-minded nerds, and although we were competitive, we understood each other. I learned to talk to girls and became comfortable with my intelligence. Being smart isn’t something to be ashamed of and I learned to be proud. I even learned that alcohol is something that can be enjoyed, and is not only for angry rubes and obnoxious jocks.
Recently, I went out to a bar with my friend Harish to celebrate our finishing of grad school and acceptance into our prospective doctorate programs. We had a few drinks and were feeling loose and happy. At one point, Harish went to the bar to get the next round and left me sitting alone at our table. After a minute or two, a beautiful girl came over and asked if she could sit down. She introduced herself, Nicole, and we began talking. She was super friendly and I could feel myself trying not to freak out from getting such attention. Harish came back and gave me a wide-eye, “whoa” look. The three of us talked for a few more minutes and she asked us a million questions about us and we told her everything and she was so impressed and interested. It felt amazing.
And then her boyfriend showed up. Connor was equally as gorgeous as Nicole and they looked like an annoying, all-American couple that I just wanted to punch. He was super friendly too and listened just as closely as Nicole did as she filled him in on all the information he missed. I was so annoyed at him and his presence at the table. He usurped her attention and her turquoise eyes.
I want to blame the alcohol. As the four of us continued talking and drinking, I began to adopt an air of snobbery. My intelligence was clearly higher than Connor’s and my vocabulary exceeded his feeble attempts at keeping up. Subconsciously, I believe I was trying to get a rise out of him and discover his true self lurking underneath his skin. I wanted him to make a scene and show Nicole a side she found unattractive. Through that process, she would inevitably, at a biological level, find me to be the more attractive and suitable mate and proceed accordingly.
Connor did not react. He brushed it off him like he was used to it. He had a metaphorical path to his life and I was not encroaching on it at all. Nicole reacted to some of my comments, and Harish leaned into me and asked if something was wrong.
We learned Connor and Nicole’s story. It wasn’t a classic rags to riches, because they had not entered the “riches” point of their lives. They were still very much in their “rags,” but were making the best of it and living their lives the way they hoped would make their future selves proud. Separately and together, both experienced many hardships in their lives. These stories were not told in search of pity. They were explanations.
Connor and Nicole were a team, a unit, and together, were conquering any difficulty coming their way. Nicole is a generally curious and friendly girl, and her approaching my table was because she thought I was sitting alone and was going to keep me company. She said that, “no one should drink at a bar alone.” She smiled when she said it, but I heard truth behind her words. A knowledge that crept between the lines and gave away so much of her personality. Or so I thought.
Connor put his hand on her back a lot as she talked. This wasn’t done possessively, but rather endearingly. I imagined that he could feel the vibrations of her vocal chords and lungs as his hand gently rested on her. It was in this moment that I realized that if any of us at the table were in a fairy tale, it was them. They were the unpromised heroes. I was the villager who didn’t believe in them, who looked down on them and spit on them.
I need to look again at my journey and evaluate the path. I don’t wear villainy well...I don’t want to wear it at all.
I have to believe in a world where they continue on their journey toward triumph. We all do.