There was a danger that leaked through those pages, a draw to ways of thinking that my parents deemed unsuitable for a good little girl to be exposed to; magic and spells, mystical creatures and witches, violence and blood. I was relegated to the watered-down Disney versions which modeled the type of young woman my parents wanted me to be:
Subdued. Subservient. Dependent.
My first, unadulterated access to the original version of a fairy tale was Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. As a teenager more focused on getting my driver’s license and graduating high school as early as I could, I was beyond the age of superficial enchantment and delight at the array of fanciful characters and silly riddles. I was instead struck by one of Alice’s seemingly nonsensical questions:
“But if I’m not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I?”
I was already a couple of years deep into trying to answer this question. I had, like Alice, seen something in my world that didn’t make sense and I chased that anomaly down its own rabbit-hole. She and I had both been drinking out of bottles that made parts of ourselves smaller and larger. She changed physically but I drank because I didn’t understand myself. It helped me keep these new burgeoning parts of myself contained so I could fit through that small door into the garden of self-medicated bliss.
“ – at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
At home I was still expected to be the obedient daughter, to not ask questions, to do what was expected of me. Under my parents’ watchful eyes I was a model of perfection. Then I would sneak away, and the control I had to maintain over my behavior would evaporate.
“Oh you can’t help that,” said the cat: “We’re all mad here.”
I would drink until I blacked out. I seduced older men so they would sneak me into bars. I started smoking cigarettes. I raced cars. I got into physical fights. Every moment I had spent suppressed at home manifested in a stunning display of self-destruction. I was the Mad Hatter let loose on the world and its reaction only fueled my insanity. I was the gardeners painting the white roses red in an attempt to deceive those who held power over them. I was the Queen of Hearts yelling “Off with their heads!” whenever I would sober up enough to notice that no matter the color I splashed on everything it was a hollow action that brought about no change.
But mostly, I was Alice.
“But it’s no use now,” thought poor Alice, “to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!”
I was Alice, curious about what she was experiencing but not happy. I was lost between lands, not sure of my destination but aware that I could not live long in this limbo.
“She generally gave herself good advice (though she very seldom followed it).”
I was Alice. We were both naïve young girls who survived long falls and traversed paths fraught with unknowns. Now when I look back at my adventures, they too seem something like a fantastical dream, but unlike Alice I did not simply wake up. I had to stop heeding the labels that said “Drink Me” and let myself grow steadily until I realized that my Wonderland was a restraint, not a fantasy. I climbed back out of the rabbit-hole and emerged a stronger and surer version of myself.
“For you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”
This editor’s note was written by Tiny Donkey editorial assistant Cat Solewin.