Do you ever wonder how Betty Boop would have aged? What would she have been like in her forties?
In the cartoons, we see her when she’s young and very aware of her nubile sexuality, but that’s a short stage in life–a very short one. After that realization that your feminine wiles have power, comes the realization that your feminine wiles also draw some very unwelcome attention, too. And after that, you learn that you have to fight back (sometimes) and that you have to be cautious.
In her forties, I imagine her very differently. She’s still beautiful, she’s still sexy, but she now has a law degree and hefty bank account. No one dares to whistle at her now, and the man to slap her heinie will find himself slapped with a lawsuit. She might even offer to represent his wife in the divorce. She strikes me as the type to get even.
She’s married, I think. For the second time–because the first one was probably a dud. She learned hard lessons from that marriage, but she chose better the second time. He’s smart, and he’s wildly attracted to both her body and her mind. She’s got daughters, and she sits them down and tells them the honest truth about the dangers out there, and about what they bring to the table.
“Don’t waste it,” she says. “You’re so much smarter than you think.”
“And if those boys try anything, I’ll deal with them,” her husband says. He’s very protective of his daughters.
“Don’t be silly, that’s assault,” she said with a her trademark wink. “You let me take care of it.”
What about Sleeping Beauty? She was so willing to please, so eager to be loved, so trusting. Youth is like that, but what would she have been like twenty-five years after that fateful kiss?
I think she would still have been kind, but that kindness would have sunk deeper. She’d have a better understanding of men now, a better understanding of evil, too. That would have turned her into a compassionate woman, but also a demanding one. She knows that magic is real, and that it has a dark side she’d rather not tangle with again. She hates apples now–won’t even touch them. I imagine her with sons, and the advice she gives them is different: “Find the right woman, but get to know her. Your dad was bloody lucky I wasn’t a witch, myself.”
She doesn’t become queen and not grow into her power, as well. Her prince, now a king, will love her not for her beauty and innocence any longer, but for her mind and insight. And her beauty, too, of course. But he’ll have grown into a deep respect for her, too. He can’t imagine ruling without her.
I turned 41 this week, and I was wondering what I would write about. I like this decade–it’s a satisfying one so far. All too often, our books and movies revolve around the young. Of course, it doesn’t feel all that long ago that I was 21, pretty and still rather naive about the world around me, but twenty years fly by.
I’m different than I was in my youth. I’m stronger, I’m wiser, I love more deeply now than I was ever capable of before. I’m more flexible. I married the right guy, and we’re growing together. We bring out the best in each other–compassion, thoughtfulness, more patience than I come by naturally. And we have a son who forces us to grow in whole new ways together as a family. Kids do that.
There is so much to enjoy on this side of 40, and I’m settling in nicely. Youth is wonderful, memorable, magical… but I think I prefer experience.