"Cinderella remembered me and was happy to see me," Queen Teen said after Cinderella stopped by our table in Ariel's Grotto. The Princess helped Queen Teen stand, hugged her tightly, and then chatted for a moment. She signed Queen Teen's autograph book then moved on to the next table where more starry eyed little girls waited for her.
Cinderella is Queen Teen's favorite. From the moment she first saw the movie when she was 4, Cinderella has been her bestest imaginary friend and personal hero. And when she actually met Cinderella at Disneyland three years ago, Queen Teen acted as if she'd had lunch with Miley Cyrus. Cinderella is real and lives in Disneyland with the other Disney Princesses, Tinker Bell and Mickey Mouse!
When do kids stop believing that Princess Jasmine and Arielle are real?
At age fifteen I suppose she should be past that stage, but she isn't. In fact, since her hearing disappeared she seems stuck at an in-between stage: too old to be a little girl, but unable to take that leap into being a teenager. She doesn't know who Justin Beiber is and couldn't care less.
When she was 3, she had an imaginary best friend named Bobby who went everywhere with her. He stayed by her side until she was in the 2nd grade, which is when she made real friends. Some girls in her class began sitting with her at lunch, playing with her at recess, and one invited Queen Teen to her birthday party. All through elementary school, she had a large group of girl friends, all of who vanished when she entered Middle School. They moved on to cell phones, spent their time chasing boys, and one began teasing Queen Teen, distancing herself from the "retarded kid." This is the same time Queen Teen's hearing declined, until by the 9th grade Queen Teen was profoundly deaf.
Her imaginary friend has returned, this time by the name of Sara. Queen Teen spends her days at home talking to Sara and Cinderella, laughing at their jokes, arguing over something Queen Teen may have done, debating the merits of good manners, and giving advice. Even at school, I've seen her turn her head and say out loud, "What did you say Sara? Oh yeah... you can say that again."
It makes a lot of sense that she'd talk to people in her head more than the people around her. It's difficult having a conversation with people in the real world. Imaginary people speak a language she can understand, and they always understand her. Cinderella is one of her best-friends. We visit her every year at her home, Disneyland, and every year Cinderella stops at our table and gives Queen Teen a hug.
This year, Queen Teen finally met her second most favorite Disneyland person, Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins and Bert spent a long time with her, chatting and smiling. They took their time and gave Queen Teen a chance to talk, too, something most people don't have the time to do in the so-called real world.
That's the best part of our trips to Disneyland; every cast-member takes their time with her, even when they're pressed for time by the hundreds of other children waiting their turn to visit. Whoever trains them has done a fantastic job. I wish they could train us how to do it.
How does Queen Teen define reality? It seems that the world she's created inside her own head is more real than the world we all live in out here, with our hectic schedules and demands, our complicated language increasingly difficult to understand, and our too fast pace. If Justin Bieber is the real world, Queen Teen doesn't want anything to do with it.