When I was about ten years old, my parents offered to take me and my little brother (then four) to Disneyland. I remember it clearly; I was unloading the dishwasher, which I detested doing, while my dad tried to convince me that, despite my fears, Mickey Mouse was not going to attack me—in fact, we might not even see him… or any other costumed characters at that. At the time I suffered from a completely irrational fear of people in costume—a fear that left me stranded in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese’s and cowering in the corner when McGruff the Crime Dog visited my school. On top of that, I had seen a commercial on the Disney channel in which Beetlejuice ran around the park, jumping out at innocent people and being an all around trouble maker. I wanted no part of his game. After a few minutes of heated debate, during which I flat out refused to visit the happiest place on earth and most likely threw a tantrum, my dad eventually dropped the subject (probably in relief) and the idea of going to Disneyland was lost forever.
That revelation might come as a bit of a shock—I would venture to say that I have something bordering on “obsession” when it comes to Disney princesses, and it’s definitely not a new trend in my life—but my ten-year-old self was so concerned with scary costumes and scary rides that she missed out on an essential childhood experience.
Fifteen years later, I am offered, for the second time, to visit Disneyland. This time as a 25-year-old who has somewhat grown out of her irrational childhood fears and thinks she can handle meeting Mickey Mouse (especially considering she is probably significantly taller than him). This time, I accept.
What’s it like to visit Disneyland for the first time as an adult? In a word, magical. In fact, I would venture to guess that it was even more magical at 25 than it ever would have been at ten. As an adult, I was able to make my own decisions—decisions like “eating vast amounts of junk food,” and “subsisting entirely on Mickey Mouse shaped waffles and Dole whip.” I was able to pick and choose the rides I wanted to go on, and the shows I wanted to see. I was able to wander off on my own and experience Disney the way I wanted to experience it. And if those experiences happened to co-exist with those of a three-year-old, which most of them did, so be it.
I entered Disneyland with an open mind. I was the only single person in a big group of families and I knew I would have to make some sacrifices. That being said, I had one goal, and one goal only; meet Cinderella. I was a little wary. A friend of mine had visited Disneyland only weeks earlier and claimed that the princesses were far and few between—her one and only Cinderella sighting was that of a private party… and from a distance. I walked through the gates for the first time expecting the worst. However, not ten feet into the park, we encountered our first character. Cinderella, in the flesh. I stopped. I stared. And then I panicked. We didn’t have time for a photo op, but what if we never saw her again!? I awkwardly sidled towards her while my friend haphazardly snapped a picture. I essentially photobombed a Disney princess. And not just any Disney princess, THE Disney princess, but I didn’t care. I had only been in Disneyland for 30 seconds and I had already accomplished my goal.
As it turns out, I needn’t have worried. I would meet Cinderella no less than five times over the next three days. Our last meeting was more “You again.” and less “I can’t believe it’s you!” Not that our first meeting was anything like that… I discovered one thing as I stood in line to meet the princesses; I am still the cripplingly shy ten-year-old that I was the first time my parents offered to take me.
“Hello!” the princess would say.
“Herkjldsf.” I would reply, as I attempted to contort my face into a princess worthy smile.
“You’re her favorite princess!” my friend would interject, causing me to turn beet red as I turned to face the camera, hoping my arms didn’t look as awkward as they felt (they definitely did).
By the third day I had somewhat regained my composure, enough to tell Snow White that I had been waiting all weekend to meet her before discussing the importance of wearing a big red bow in one’s hair. I lost it again, temporarily, when we entered Asgard and I was suddenly faced with the god of thunder (who, thankfully, was several inches taller than me). But the most disconcerting meeting of all was one I was looking forward to the most. Let’s just say it didn’t exactly go as planned…
Anyone who knows me knows that the movie Tangled can usually be found pre-loaded in my blu ray player. Anyone who knows me really well knows that I have a very real crush on a very fictional character, and that character is Flynn Rider. But I wasn’t the only one looking forward to meeting the handsome thief, my best friend and her three-year-old daughter were eager to get their hands on him as well (let’s just say that the three-year-old has a naked Flynn doll hanging out in her bathtub,
and her mom isn’t complaining). We were standing on the bridge to the left of the castle, contemplating our next move, when I (very literally) bumped into the man of the hour himself. Before I knew what was happening, he had complimented my shirt, twisted out of my way, and brushed right on by. I turned in shock to see my friend fumbling for her camera while Flynn greeted her daughter in the stroller. Not ten seconds later, he was gone. The three of us gazed at each other wide-eyed for several seconds before the three-year-old belted out “Flynn Rider touched my shirt!” A fact we won’t soon let her forget.
In reality, our entire weekend was filled with chance encounters like that. Mary Poppins and Bert strolled by while we ate our breakfast at the Jolly Holiday. Peter Pan and Captain Hook ran past while we waited in line at Pixie Hollow. And even Cruella de Vil crossed our path (arm in arm with a fireman, of course) as we made our way down Main Street. It was nonstop magic from the moment we exited the vehicle in the parking lot on the very first day when the parking attendant complimented our “royal carriage” and directed us towards the shuttle that would drop us off at the front gates to the magic kingdom.
After three days of blistering heat, standing in lines, and loving every second of it, I spent the 14-hour car ride home very seriously considering quitting my life and moving to Disneyland to work as a janitor (because, let’s face it, I’m about six inches too tall to be a Disney princess). In the end, I decided that “gum duty” probably wouldn’t be a very fulfilling career… but it’s always nice to have a backup plan.