Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ariel Syndrome

Last night David and I went to see "The Little Mermaid" on Broadway. It was a fun show with great costumes and sets, and it was fascinating to see how they pulled off the whole underwater thing, "swimming" with the help of roller shoes and some cleverly done harness work.

But it brought to mind one of my pet peeves, which I will call "Ariel Syndrome" (not to be confused with, but closely related to, Tyrannical Wife Syndrome). Ariel Syndrome is the inability to see our current blessings because we are too busy telling ourselves we will only be happy "if". Ariel will only be happy if she's a human, you see. Never mind the fact that she has a wonderful life as the spoiled daughter of a King and the whole ocean as her playground. She wants something more. And she just can't be happy until she gets it.

So she goes about pursuing her goal the wrong way. She racks up a whole bunch of reasons for her father not to trust her, acting like an irresponsible, immature ditz, and then when he won't stand for her obsession with all things human, she seeks the help of the Sea Witch, Ursula.

Of course, this is a bad, bad idea. And Ariel seems to know it, but her longing for "happiness" silences any warning bells, and she signs a contract, turning her voice over to the Sea Witch in exchange for legs and three days to kiss the prince and live happily ever after.

For a time she seems to be doing well, nearing her goal with great haste and aplomb. Enter evil Ursula to make sure Ariel's lips never get anywhere near her royal dreamboat.

So Ariel loses her soul, her ridiculous father condemns his whole kingdom to slavery and misery to save his daughter (Kingly Points: 0), and all looks to be lost. In the movie, Prince Eric appears to save the day. In the stage musical, it is Ariel who does the job, quickly and tidily, and all is well.

In the end, King Triton sees that the human world is the best place for his daughter and performs the magic to allow her to marry the prince and live happily ever after. The interesting thing about this is that Triton had the power to give his daughter legs all along, but instead of listening to her father, abiding by his counsel, and proving herself and her maturity to be worthy of that gift, she goes about seeking it on her own terms and on her own timeline, putting herself and her father's entire kingdom in danger. Smooth, Ariel.

She thinks the only place she will be happy is on land. It doesn't matter what blessings she has in her current situation. The grass is greener, and she is determined to walk on it with her own two legs, no matter the cost.

I'm sure we all know someone with Ariel Syndrome. These are people who simply cannot be happy in their current town/job/marital status/parental status because it is not their idealized dream of how life should be. So they miss the wonderful opportunities and advantages that may be part of their current situation because they have convinced themselves that there is only one possible path to happiness, and that the map can't be found in a city, or at their current job, or without a husband, or without kids...

I personally know of more than one woman who refuses to be happy more than thirty feet away from her mother's apron strings, and has dragged her husband away from a good job where he can easily provide for the family to one that is less-fulfilling, pays less, and is not what he wants, all so she can run over and bake cupcakes with her mother whenever the urge strikes. And I've seen how these woman gripe, complain, and work themselves into a depression if they don't get their way.

The blessings these women miss out on are too numerous to list. And who knows but that they might have been happier if they had been willing to give their current situation a chance, plaster a smile on their face, and most of all, listen to something besides the frantic patter of their own selfish hearts?

After all, who is to say that Ariel would not have had everything she wanted - and more - if she had obeyed her father and appreciated all her blessings in the first place?

It's a tragedy when we give up all the blessings we have because we are convinced they are not the blessings we want. When we become too focused on that green grass, it's easy to miss the rainbow overhead.

5 comments:

jenny said...

Wow Bonnie, you have such a different pair of glasses on and see things so differently. Thank you for posting this. I think lately I've been guilty of this feeling. Chicago isn't an ideal place for me to live, but I need to not have "Ariel Syndrome" about it either. I hope you enjoy New York. I would love to come visit sometime. David and I had planned on going when we lived in Herndon, but never made it up there.

Evil HR Lady said...

As always, I agree with you.

mean aunt said...

Of course in the original story she loses the prince and turns into sea foam. And finds out that walking on legs is like walking on knives.

It was originally a tale told to prevent Ariel syndrome.

Ironic, eh?

Bonnie said...

I totally did not even think of that! Even better!

foculbrown said...

I agree with your analysis. I know I've been guilty of looking to the future and not appreciating the present.

The original "Little Mermaid" had a completely different middle and ending. (Story or Wiki version.) Disney can really mess up a good story to make it sell better. (Don't get me started on how radically they changed "Hercules".)