“Where are you off to this summer?” they ask, and I can feel the red start to creep into my cheeks. “Guess?!” I say, as my passive aggressive way of shouting “DISNEYLAND, alright?! DISNEYLAND, every year it’s Disneyland and I know you know that and I know you think it’s weird but I DON’T CARE AND I NEED YOU TO STOP ASKING.”
Yes, I am 25 years old and I am a very emotional Disneyland Paris addict.
I’m not sure how it started. My early Disney memories are hazy. I know that my parents took me to Disneyland Paris when I was young, probably about five or six years old, and I remember crying as we walked through the gates because I couldn’t see any rides yet and it wasn’t what I expected. My mum took my hand, squeezed it really tight and said “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet,” which I remember thinking was odd because it sounded like something that someone in a movie would say, plus my mum had never said “ain’t” before, and certainly hasn’t since that day. BUT SHE WAS RIGHT. God bless you Julie. You created a Mickey-loving monster.
I can only remember snippets of that week – a Donald Duck plush here and a yellow poncho there – but I must have loved it, because we went back again when I was 11 and I COULDN’T WAIT. I came back singing Dancin’ a Catchy Rhythm to anyone who’d listen and was livid when my mum made me go on the ‘educational’ Year 7 trip instead of allowing me to visit Disneyland Paris with the cool kids whose parents didn’t care about Normandy and museums.
At 16, I told my parents (bratty baby that I was) that the only way I would possibly go on holiday with them would be if they went to Disneyland Paris. We settled for a compromise – four days in Disney and three days in central Paris. I became addicted to the chicken burgers at Toad Hall, flew on Aladdin’s magic carpet with my mum and cried when we had to leave.
Since then my parents have hung up their ears – they decided they’d ‘done’ Disneyland (and they also got divorced, which created inevitable holiday complications) but I’ve been back six times since then and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the very best part of my year. If I have a bad day, all I have to do is think of Disneyland and it keeps me going. If I smell a certain smell, all of a sudden I’m back there. Hearing the first few notes of one of the Main Street loop songs can reduce me to tears in a matter of seconds.
Why do people like me love Disney parks so much? I can’t speak for us all (and there are a lot of us, which the wonders of the internet has allowed me to discover) but I think it’s the break from real life that becomes addictive. I don’t really drink, and I am always looked at oddly when I compare social drinking with Disneyland, but I think that the two are more closely linked than you’d think.
The way I see it, everyone needs an escape. For a lot of people, I think what keeps them going is the thought that at 5pm on a Friday, they can drive home, get ready to go out and spend the rest of the night drunk – newly and happily anxiety-free. That’s their Disneyland. I guess for other people, their version of Disneyland might be to ride a motorbike really fast or eat a lot more than they would normally. I don’t know.
Don’t you feel that, though? Don’t you have those days where everything piles up and up and you feel a little afraid to leave the house? Or days where everything feels kind of overwhelmingly boring and you start to slowly fall into a deep snowdrift of numbness? Or days where you wish you could switch your brain off? I think that’s where Disneyland comes in for me. If I’m afraid, Disneyland is there. If the real world feels like too much, Disneyland is there. If I need adventure, Disneyland is there. When I’m in those parks, I forget what the ‘outside world’ is. I don’t even use my phone or the internet.
I think it’s insane that there’s a place in this world where you can be a pirate and a space ranger and a cowboy and a princess all in one day. There’s a land where you can forget sadness and become five years old again. Any adult who says they don’t sometimes wish for that is lying.