Trapped in a Perfect World
“Inside the snow globe on my father’s desk, there was a penguin wearing a red-and-white-striped scarf. When I was little my father would pull me into his lap and reach for the snow globe. He would turn it over, letting all the snow collect on the top, then quickly invert it. The two of us watched the snow fall gently around the penguin. The penguin was alone in there, I thought, and I worried for him. When I told my father this, he said, “Don’t worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He’s trapped in a perfect world.” ― Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
When I was a child I was trapped in a perfect world.
From the outside the life I was born into had all the appearances which the eyes of others would see with a touch of envy.
It was designed to look that way because those who created it equated envy with admiration, and admiration was the sort of attention which they desired because it nourished their need to be viewed as being better than.
From the outside people thought I was lucky.
I have had strangers walk up to me and talk to me about how blessed I was compared to them. They spoke to me about my life, who I was, all the things which I had been given and had, and how I should appreciate the abundance.
If I did not look sufficiently appreciative in their eyes, they would then lecture me about the world according to them, one in which others suffered (but not me), did not have as I had, and where other people (usually meaning themselves) had to struggle hard to get even a morsel of the cornucopia which had been handed to me on a silver platter without my truly being deserving of it.
From the outside people thought I was a spoiled brat.
They tell children to never talk to strangers, but no one tells strangers not to talk to children. So I had to stand there being talked to (or at but never with) without the ability to talk back. I had to listen politely.
From the outside I had the coolest parents a child could have.
My friends and schoolmates saw the toys, the things, which I had. Heard about the places I’d been, places parents usually did not take their children. And they were treated to an experience of parents, of adults, which they’d never had before when they met my parents.
How fortunate I was to have parents who behaved towards children as though they were equals, who were fun and played games as children played games.
From the outside my parents were adults.
They were older than the parents of most of my friends, but they behaved as though they were forever young, younger than the parents of my friends, younger than my friends, younger than me, but so much cooler. And unlike us, they’d never grow up or grow old.
From the outside I lived in a perfectly free world.
I had all the advantages, the scales were unbalanced in my favour. I could do as I pleased. Choose whichever path appealed to me the most (on a whim if whim did take me) or choose none at all. It didn’t matter.
I could go to school or not go to school. I could do my homework or not do my homework. I could stay up all night. Eat whatever I wanted. Drink wine. Watch X-rated films. Read Playboy. Swear like a crusty old sailor. Dress up or dress down or wear nothing at all.
Of course some of these things could only be done when no one was watching, but they still heard about it because creating an appearance isn’t all about the eyes. If you want others to look at you with the admiration of envy, then you have to tap into all of their senses, including nonsense. People especially love and love to hate what they can’t fathom.
From the outside I lived in the land of fame, fortune and fabulous things.
Welcome to the double life with double standards.
From the outside the inside is imagined. Imagined and judged by what is perceived of the outside. And the outside is a reflection of projection. Which is so much more interesting, enticing, and believable than what is actually real. What is on the inside is irrelevant. The truth inside can’t compete with the semblance of truth on the outside.
From the inside, I was trapped in a perfect world.
From the inside I looked outside.
I saw other lives. Ones I admired and envied. I saw luck where I was told luck did not exist. I saw blessings in what were called curses. I saw freedom in struggles. I saw ease in hardship. I saw opportunity in suffering. I saw plenty in emptiness.
I wanted the parents which other children rejected.
I wanted to earn and deserve what I earned.
I wanted to know what the other side of the scales was like.
I wanted the advantages which others called disadvantages.
My perfect world looked imperfect to me, and the imperfect world of others appeared perfect.
“These things, she felt, were not to be passed around like disingenuous party favors. She kept an honor code with her journals and her poems. ‘Inside, inside,’ she would whisper quietly to herself when she felt the urge to tell…” ― Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones