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How 'Cinderella' Gave Me the Tools to Survive as a Black, Chronically Lonely Girl

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I’ve always been chronically lonely. Being currently stuck somewhere I don’t want to be due to COVID-19, indoors with powers greater than me in control of what I’m able to do, is not a new concept.

This is how I grew up.

When I was small, I didn’t have close friends. They rotated, but due to having divorced parents, I could never go to birthday parties or functions because they always fell on my dad’s weekend. Eventually they stopped inviting me unless they were made to, and then I sat there at the party being nothing short of a social outcast who was ignored unless an adult intervened. Even then sometimes that didn’t help as implicit bias impacts young Black girls at a young age. Adults were more strict with me and I didn’t play by the same rules, not that I knew. As a little girl, the only things I had were a room of “friends” (stuffed animals) and a story about another lonely girl in her own little corner.

This girl was so beautiful and she felt the way I felt — disregarded and neglected. It’s as if no one understood her but her own self. I watched this girl dare to dream of impossible things being able to come true, and even fall in love with someone who finally made her feel seen, heard and understood. 

Before this story became my saving grace, it became my cornerstone of faith.

Rodger and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” (1997) is currently streaming on Disney+, something I didn’t think would ever happen. I’ve collected DVDs and VHS tapes over the years so I could never lose the first entity that saved me before I even knew I needed saving. There’s something so explicitly radical about seeing a Black woman in microbraids have a similar experience to you find happiness and joy all due to being in the right place at the right time. All she had to do was survive and keep pushing up until that point. 

So that’s what I did.

Cinderella’s imagination is ultimately what saved her before a fairy godmother or prince could even step into the picture. She was able to find refuge in her mind through creating stories and worlds where she dreamed anything was possible for her and she wasn’t bound to a life of emotional, verbal and mental abuse from family that was supposed to love and protect her.

Without even knowing, I adopted that tendency. 

I’d sit on a couch or watch TV, lost in my own mind humming songs and music to myself, visiting worlds where I felt wanted and needed. That way, I had a reason to stick around. While I wouldn’t struggle with suicidal ideation or depression for years, it instilled habits and traits in me that I would utilize in the depths of those periods and others — like living by yourself in the middle of a pandemic, not able to see a single soul for over two months straight.

Not only dreaming, but having faith in said dreams became my super power. It’s because of Cinderella dreaming of a life better than the one she lived, I was able to actively fight for one as I grew older. 

I’d find myself alone, craving companionship in places I didn’t want to be throughout my life. Every time, I was able to revert back into my mind — into my own little corner. I played with imaginary what if’s in daring ways. What if I was a 10 foot monster who had to protect a city from something 10 times bigger than me? What if I was a secret spy who had to infiltrate a neighboring government for top secret information? What if I were a superhero or a mermaid? 

What if I could be someone greater than I am? What if I had friends who really loved me? What if I could change lives? What if I could start a business or a non-profit for female empowerment? What if I could be a personal stylist? What if I could write stories about queer dark Black girls so they never feel as alone as I did? What if I can heal past my sexual trauma? What if I found someone who could love me the way that the prince loves Cinderella, and they stayed.

Can I be loved like that? Consistently, passionately and healthily?

When impossible things are happening every day, who’s to say what you can’t do? Who’s to say you can’t be a photographer, author and perform for some of the biggest entertainment giants in the world? Who’s to say you won’t go to France completely financed by friends and strangers who simply want to support your joy? Who’s to say you won’t find friends who stand by your side in the darkest time period of your life with unwavering support as you battle demons such as grief, depression and C-PTSD. Whose sensible rules dictate that you wouldn’t be able to recover from an eating disorder and heal from some of your deepest childhood wounds in the midst of a global pandemic. Who’s to say that life still can’t be magical and that you still can’t get your happily ever after regardless of how you started? 

All of those impossible things have happened for me and I know more is coming that I don’t even know about. As a Black queer woman, I’m used to narratives where life doesn’t work out for me. I’m used to stories about pain and suffering before I am deserving of love or something adjacent to a happy ending. This movie defied and counteracted that narrative before I even knew of its existence.

Black girls aren’t given the same chance to dream of beautiful and magical futures as our non-Black counterparts. Dark Black girls even less, but this movie showed a dark Black girl doing just that and it’s because of that I still have faith in my present and future. This movie was considered groundbreaking for many reasons, and I agree. One can’t ignore how it was a history defining moment, but that’s not all it is to me.

This movie and story is a reason to keep pushing, dreaming and daring to believe that beautiful and impossible things aren’t just happening every day, but they’re happening for me.

Lead image via Facebook/Rodgers & Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA

Originally published: February 13, 2021
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