Read Cindy's bio and previous columns
February 25, 2008
Percival Finds Plain Happiness
My son’s favorite book
this week is “Percival the Plain Little Caterpillar”. Percival is upset.
He’s brown and boring, while the other animals are ladybug red, froggie
green or bumblebee yellow. Of course, in the end, Percival outshines
them all when he becomes a butterfly, full of flight and color.
Percival is not the
only famous storybook caterpillar, and there are a few things about all
caterpillar-to-butterfly children’s stories that bug me (pun intended).
First, is it really a
good idea to tell our children that if you hole yourself up alone in a
cocoon and go to sleep for awhile, all of your problems will be solved?
I tried that once at
work. We were launching a new line of healthy snacks and beverages for
children. I had a sinking feeling this launch would fail. But I was
brand new at the company, so I put the little curtain up that covers my
open cubicle, signaling (although never successfully) “Do not disturb,”
and just filtered through the work. Writing the web page. Writing the
ads. Minding my bright yellow beeswax.
When I emerged, I
didn’t have new wings to help me soar to the heights of assistant
department director. In fact, I felt a little more like a fly on the
Thankfully, what didn’t
kill me made me stronger. I learned a lot about our target audience, and
guess what? They’re not all people who are obsessed with nutrition
labels, and who believe peanut butter (with all that sugar!?) to be the
mortal enemy in raising a healthy kid. In fact, they even allow Cheetos
in the house!
In other words, they’re
just like me. At least, a lot more like me than our marketers said they
Percival’s jealousy of
the other animals is also a bit troubling. On nearly every page, he’s
sad because he’s not pink, purple or blue. Believe me, I understand
that. I’m short. No woman ever wished for shorter legs. Victoria’s
Secret has yet to tell its modeling agencies, “Sorry, we can’t hire this
one. Those legs are just way too long!” I also have gray eyes. Which my
ophthalmologist tells me isn’t exactly the most popular color requested
for tinted contact lenses.
Rather than lament what
I don’t have, my parents taught me to be thankful for what I do have. So
Percival isn’t colorful? Surely, that means he can better hide in the
dirt from those mean, bug-eating predators? Score one for boring.
Being a little on the
less glamorous side helps in the dating department, too. You can avoid
shallow people, and who has time for them? If Percival had known this,
he may have joined a book club or the debate team, or helped start the
underground society for the banishment of garden gnomes – in yards and
in advertising campaigns. What could be more fulfilling than that?
Finally, these books
never remind us that flying can be overrated.
I once soared to the
level of vice president at a public relations firm. I became close
friends with the other vice president and the CEO. Today, all three of
us are off happily doing other things. Things that don’t involve
business suits. Or being on call 24-7. Or missing putting our kids to
bed at night.
I guess I need to write
my own children’s book. Rather than glamorizing the life of a butterfly,
maybe it will be about Amy the Ant. Amy works all day, but enjoys
staying close to the ground while she’s there. That way, she can retain
mental stability, have more fun and get home in time to make a
casserole. Amy’s hubby ant is happy, too. Having little career stress
means they still get to make love rather than read about it or watch it
Their kids are happy,
too. They get to eat peanut butter and Cheetos. They’ve learned not to
be jealous of the neighbor’s bigger cocoon with a Wii. And best of all,
no one in their family feels the need to fly far, far away.
© 2008 North Star Writers
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This is Column # CD084.
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