Thursday, August 23, 2012

Princess Pea

Do you remember the fairy-tale of The Princess and The Pea by Hans Christian Anderson? About the prince who wanted a princess to marry, but couldn't find the real deal? In the story, one night during a terrible storm, a wet and bedraggled princess sought refuge at the prince's castle. She said that she was a real princess, and the Queen devised a plan to see if this was true. The Queen went to the guest chambers and stripped the bed of all its trimmings. She then placed a single pea on the bed base, and then piled twenty mattresses and twenty feather coverlets on top of the pea. The princess was then allowed to enter the room and sleep for the night, as seen in Edmund Dulac's beautiful illustration below from 1911 (one of my absolute favourites).

The next morning, the Queen met the princess as she awoke...

If possible, she looked worse than when she had arrived! They asked how she had slept. "Oh, terribly bad!" exclaimed the princess. "I scarcely closed my eyes all night. Heaven knows what was in that bed. It seemed as if I were lying upon some hard pebble; my whole body is black and blue this morning. It is truly terrible!" And the princess started crying.
The Old Queen saw at once that she must be a real princess. Only a real princess could have felt the pea through twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds.
The Princess and The Pea, text and illustration found here

The Real Princess by Edmund Dulac (1911) 

So what is the point of this post, I hear you ask? Am I going to be doing some pea illustrations? Did I stumble upon an old book of tales? Am I having trouble finding good, cheap linen in Amsterdam (yes, but that's a story for another time...)?

The point is that I composed this post at 3am this morning; a princess unable to sleep in her incredibly comfortable bed. More often lately I have been feeling the skin super-sensitivity that many people with fibromyalgia feel. The tags on my clothes tear at my neck and the elastic in my socks strangle my ankles. Worst, though, is lying in bed trying to sleep whilst lying on what feels to be a blunt knife but reveals itself to be an incredibly innocent crease in the sheet. A simple wrinkle in the sheet! While this is upsetting and frustrating for me, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for my partner, who has, on more than one occasion, gotten up in the middle of the night to stretch out the sheets for me (or remake the bed when the pilling on the fabric of a fitted sheet felt like sandpaper...). 

All of this reminded me of The Princess and The Pea, and after I recounted the story to my Dutchman he smiled and said that of course I was a princess! Clearly, that was the problem, not my fibromyalgia! And so, with his grace and love, he's turned a horrible experience around. 

The fairytale has also given us some handy shorthand to communicate what is going on. Now, instead of having to say that I'm in pain, or hurting, or something else negative such as that (which is a real drain and strain for both of us), I say that I am having "a Princess Pea moment", and he understands. It's a much nicer way to look at it all. 

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