Sunday, November 29, 2015

Be Miss Piggy

I'm home for Thanksgiving, and this morning, as I dug through the mug cabinet in my childhood home, I ran across one I'd rather forget.

Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, my mother acquired a set of white and blue "French provincial" mugs illustrated with barnyard animals and their French names. There were four in the set, one for each of us- a dog, a rooster, a cat...and a pig. Dad snatched up the pig and told me, "This is obviously yours." Of course, I ran away, crying. I have never used it, even in a fit of sangfroid. The mugs have been used a great deal through the years by my folks, but I won't touch the damn thing. I still hate loading it in or out of the dishwasher.

A few weeks later, my mother came home from a trip to the Big City with two more mugs, one for my sister and one for me. These were Muppets mugs, one of Ralf the Dog for my sister and Miss Piggy for me. Believing at first that it was another cruel fat joke, I burst into tears, until Mom took me aside to explain. "You watch Miss Piggy on television every week. Does it bother her that she's a pig? No, it doesn't. Does it bother her that some people make fun of her weight? No, it doesn't, or at least she gets angry and won't take it. Miss Piggy may be a pig, but she isn't like other pigs. She's very smart and she doesn't put up with stupid people. Be like Miss Piggy."

That mug is still at Dad's, too, and equally unused, but for a different reason: it was one of my most prized childhood possessions.

It's sad to say, but there were not many women of size who could serve as role models for a fat child. Miss Piggy was a great one, though...she didn't apologize for who she was, she knew what she wanted and she pursued it. Her greatest obstacle in life wasn't her weight, or that she had to overcome stereotypes about pigs, it was her awful temper.

When it was announced a couple of months ago that Kermit and Miss Piggy had "decided to take a break", which turned out to be "Kermit is seeing a younger pig who resembles Miss Piggy", I was so violently disappointed. Miss Piggy, however, has kept her head high and moved forward in spite of Kermit's betrayal. As my sister pointed out while we discussed this ugly turn of events, "Jim Henson would never have allowed that to happen!"

I'm interested to see how Miss Piggy's life without Kermit develops. If the writers have any sense, they'll find her a dignified-looking, accomplished, secure older Muppet who loves her, to borrow from Bridget Jones, "just as she is". As much as everyone in my age group truly longs for the fairytale ending where Kermit and Miss Piggy get back together and live happily ever after, if we're realistic and art mirrors life, they won't.

And yes, I know that they're just puppets, but too often I've done exactly what Miss Piggy did by following Kermit around all those years and accepting whatever little shreds of affection or companionship he was willing to give. She cut little corners and blunted herself to be more of what she thought he wanted, and less of her true, stronger self. It was classic Fat Girl Thinking; when he saw something younger and more malleable, Kermit took off...and Miss Piggy had nothing left with which to bargain. Whoever writes for them now gave her just enough anger to go with her wounded dignity, as she took the Sandra Bullock tack and refused to discuss it.

Don't be the child who cried over the Le Cochon mug when life hands you disappointments; be Miss Piggy. Don't fall into Miss Piggy's trap and be less of yourself because you think others might find it more palatable or pleasing- be true to yourself so you won't have to scramble to keep your head up when you're let down- or if you can't, be like Miss Piggy and don't let it have time to gel, much less become permanent. Give yourself about five minutes to melt down, fix your face before anybody sees, and go on. She may have doubts, but she doesn't have fear. Be Miss Piggy.