Cinderella’s wisdom

One of my favorite television specials growing up was the musical “Cinderella.” The version I remember fondly was first broadcast in 1965 starring Stuart Damon as Prince Charming and Leslie Ann Warren as Cinderella. It did so well in the ratings that it was re-aired eight additional times through 1974.

Given all the bizarre headlines concerning people who just make things up as they go along, including what they claim is their very identity, one song from the Cinderella musical seems to be on continuous loop in my head. It’s a lovely number entitled “In My Own Little Corner” and is sung before Cinderella first encounters her prince. She breaks away from her nasty stepmother and high maintenance stepsisters and sneaks into her small, simple room. There she finds some peace and quiet, and tries to imagine a much better life for herself. She tells herself over and over again, “I can be whatever I want to be”:

“In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be.

“On the wings of my fancy, I can fly anywhere, and the world will open its arms to me.”

Cinderella pretends to be a Norwegian princess, an heiress and a mermaid.

In today’s upside-down world, she really could be whatever she wanted to be — just by saying so. After all, if someone says they are this, that or the other thing, they live and act as if they actually are. And have you noticed that none of the people we hear about stay in their own little corner? Earlier this summer, there was the story of Rachel Dolezal in Washington state: a former president of an NAACP chapter who passed herself off as African-American for years. When an interview with her biological parents (who are both white) revealed that yes, Rachel is a white woman of European not African descent, Dolezal insisted her real ethnic heritage didn’t matter because she “identified as black.” Dolezal did get some pushback at first, but not as much as you would think. Eventually, some civil rights leaders merely shrugged their shoulders and moved on.

Of course, this is also the case with the attempts to redefine marriage. About half the country, according to recent surveys, supports marriage being anything they want it to be. There go those lyrics again. They have no problem with the Supreme Court ruling. Instead of looking at the reality of marriage between a man and a woman being the bedrock of society for millennia, they accept a false version. And we’re supposed to step through the looking glass with a big thumb’s up, ignoring the frightening reality and the attack on the family that is unfolding right before our eyes.

It seems Cinderella has more common sense than a lot of folks these days. At least she realizes that one has to get back to reality, in her case the unpleasant reality of a servant girl.

We know the rest of the story. Her situation does change for the better, but not because she dreamed it into existence. The morals of the fairy tale include good working through evil, determination and not giving up in spite of tough circumstances. However, thanks to Hollywood, social media and an anything-goes culture, the rest of us are supposed to buy into the make-believe-as-reality scenario.

Well, I’m going to do my part “to be whatever I want to be.” I’ve always dreamed of being a Rockette. But I’m puzzled by the fact that there are no fancy tap shoes or dance costumes in my closet, and, despite my new Rockette status, I’m still stuck in suburban Detroit with no promise of being front and center at Radio City Music Hall any time soon. Where’s a good fairy godmother when you need one?

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.