My parents, like many others, used to read me bedtime stories in an attempt to get me to fall asleep. This almost never worked, but they couldn’t think of anything else and they weren’t allowed to dose me with whiskey, so they kept doing it. What I didn’t realize until much later is that those stories my loving parents told me night after night were filled to the brim with lies. By this, I don’t mean the talking animals or the magic beans—nothing so easily identified. Here are some of my bedtime stories and the lying lies they told me:
Cinderella, if you truly need a recap, is the story of a beautiful girl whose evil stepmother forces her into a life of drudgery, making her work all the time and never letting her have friends or go to parties (she may have just been a tiger mom, I’m not sure). Fortunately, on the night of the prince’s grand Let’s-Find-Me-A-Wife ball, Cinderella’s fairy godmother magics her raggedy clothes into a party dress and turns a pumpkin into a carriage so Cin can go get her freak on, with the warning that the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight and it’s a long walk home in glass slippers.
The lie this story told me was that you’re going to know exactly when the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin and you can totally plan around it. The truth is, it can happen at any time. You could be just walking in the door in your perfect magic ballgown, with everyone looking at you and the prince asking his courtiers, “Who’s the hottie,” when suddenly everything goes poof and you’re back in your raggedy dress, the prince is chatting up your stepsisters, and someone just made your carriage into a pie.
When things are about to turn to crap, you don’t have until the stroke of midnight and you don’t get a warning. It just happens, fairy godmother or no fairy godmother, and the lesson you should really take from all this is to learn how to drive a pumpkin.
The Ugly Duckling
This is the story of a bird hatched out of a mother duck’s egg that everyone assumes, reasonably enough, is a duck. The presumed duckling is so much uglier than the other ducklings that all the animals bully it and tease it until it runs away, lives in wretched isolation for a while, and finally decides to kill itself. Fortunately, before it does so, it gets a glimpse of its reflection in the water and realizes that it has grown into a beautiful swan, and it flies happily away along with all the other swans.
One of the lessons this story taught me was that, no matter how miserable you are as a child, as long as you grow up to be gorgeous, people will respect and admire you. In addition to being disturbing and unhealthy, this is also untrue. You may or may not grow up to be gorgeous, but even if you do, everyone back home is still going to think of you as the ugly duckling. You could go to your high school reunion a week after appearing on the cover of Vogue and the first thing you’ll hear will be, “Look, everyone, it’s Ugly Duck! Hey, Ugly Duck, remember how ugly you were? Man, I’ve never seen a duck look that ugly!” You can swan around all you want. To them, you’ll always be that freak who tried to pass herself off as a duck back in the day. On the upside, you’ll be able to beat them to death with your wings, so it’s not all bad.
Another lesson this story taught me was, maybe don’t be so mean to others that you make them want to die. I think that lesson was pretty solid, though, so I’m leaving it off the list of lies.
The Little Red Hen
This is the story about the mother hen who found a grain of wheat and asked the other farmyard animals to help her plant it. They all touched their snouts and beaks and said “Noes goes,” and the hen had to plant it herself. The same thing happened when she had to harvest and thresh the wheat, mill it into flour, and bake it into bread. Once the bread was ready to eat, the other animals were down to help, no problem, but the hen snapped her beak and said “Nyah, nyah,” and she and her chicks ate all the bread.
The lesson I learned from this story is that I’m the only one who has the right to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I then discovered that this was a vicious, heartless lie when I got my first paycheck. You see, no one had explained to me about tax withholdings. It came as a nasty surprise when the government, noticeably absent from the planting, harvesting, threshing, milling, and baking portions of the proceedings, got very interested in my bread once all the work was done. They got so interested, they snatched it right out of my hands.
Before I got even a crumb, the government had taken nearly half my bread and given it to all the barnyard animals who’d called nose dibs when it was time to do the work, because it didn’t want the poor things to starve. I didn’t exactly want them to starve, but that was my bread! I made it myself! I should decide who gets it. I’m still bitter about this, in case you can’t tell. Stupid lying hen. I hope she got ergot poisoning.
By the way, did you see what I did with the “bread” reference? ‘Cause bread is slang for money? Okay, I’ll stop.
Honorable Mentions: Sleeping Beauty and Snow White
In both of these stories, it’s viewed as totally cool that the guys mack on the girls while the girls are unconscious. It’s really not. Like, at all.
These are just some of the lies my bedtime stories told me. Parents, I’m not saying you’d be better off dosing your kids with whiskey to get them to go to sleep (that’s probably also a bad lesson to teach your kids). Just, maybe stick with Good Night, Moon, or better yet, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” That one’s nothing but truth.
[all images are in the public domain via pixabay.com]