The New York Times has a brilliant essay in their magazine this weekend, taking an honest look at a family visit to Disney.
This isn’t your standard glossy mag travel writing fare. He answers real tough questions, like where an inveterate stoner can get high at Disney World, and how to build a tent out of one of their ubiquitous ponchos.
I doubt I’ll ever set foot in Disney World with my kids. My sense of self-preservation is a little too strong for that. Both my parents have threatened to take the girls to Disneyland, and as far as I am concerned they are welcome to do so. Without me.
But I loved this essay because it gave me a sense of what I’d be in for if I ever did assay the Magic Kingdom with my family.
I wouldn’t be fiendishly searching out disused maintenance paths to toke up in. That’s not my speed. But I’m sure I’d be looking for escape routes just like this guy was. He writes:
Unless you are very, very strong, the time will come when you Disney, and our time had come, unrolling like a glaring scroll in the form of I-95. It was a Saturday. The next day would be Father’s Day. This whole voyage, it turned out, was billed as a Father’s Day gift to me and Trevor, which in my case was like having been shot with a heavy barbiturate dart and bundled off to your own birthday party.
There are few things I can imagine enjoying less than being at an amusement park with my children. Amusement parks were bad enough when I was a child. Now, as the adult responsible for two fairly sensitive and high-need little girls, I’d like to spare us all the dramatic meltdowns sure to follow whatever fun Disney World has to offer. Not to mention that my idea of fun does not include being accosted by giant talking mice, or having to pose for photos with princesses.
It’s not even clear that Disney is that much fun for the kids. It’s an icon of fun, the picturesque fantasy of the perfect family vacation. But what is it like in real life? Again, as John Sullivan tells it:
There is deep yearning at Disney. What you feel when you’re in the state we were in and all of your emotional pores are wide open is yearning. There is something at stake here, for the families, in terms of that knife edge between joy and disappointment. So when you see people whose kids are definitely not having fun, but are standing in place and screaming, having to be dragged along by their leash-harnesses, there’s a throb of empathetic sadness. They are not having a good Disney.
I looked at Mimi. Was she having fun? I thought so — she was smiling. But I knew there were times in my own childhood when I must have seemed to my parents like I was having a blast, while being inwardly tormented by some irrational worry. Ah, youth!
This essay was a great vicarious ride through Disney from the point of view of a family like mine: people who like books more than roller coasters, yet somehow wound up in the theme park to end all theme parks. I enjoyed the read, but I think I’ll keep my distance from the actual park.
Now seriously, if you’re at all curious about what it’s like to be at Disney World, or want to know more about the weird history of the park, go read Sullivan’s essay.