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How “The Princess Bride” kept me anchored to myself.

Let’s talk about The Princess Bride. Yes, it’s one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time and I know almost every word by hard. No, I do not care if they do a remake. I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen, but I wouldn’t care. I am not one of those people who hate remakes of things I love. Sometimes it’s good! Sometimes it’s better! Sometimes it’s terrible but it 100% never affects the original or my love for it so why should I care?

But that’s not actually why I want to talk about The Princess Bride.

All of this talk of it combined with my own children navigating their teen years and looking for their place in the world reminded me how important of a role that move placed in me discovering my place in the world.

First of all, my memories of how I first saw The Princess Bride are as dependable as anyone’s memories. I have learned in my old age that my childhood memories are often distorted over time, but in my head, the one woman my Dad dated (and it got quite serious) took me to see it. I liked her a lot because she seemed like a very cool adult which I did not realize existed until then. She was a professor/researcher at UT and the movie was showing in a small theater on campus…not like a movie theater, but like an auditorium? Anyway…they dated for a chunk of time between the years 1986 and 1989 so I’m not sure if we were seeing it during it’s theatrical release or maybe a while later in some college showing that they do sometimes once a movie is no longer “new”. Either way…no one knew about it and for years I felt like I was the only one who had ever seen it. BUT EVEN THEN I KNEW IT WAS AWESOME AND I TALKED ABOUT IT OFTEN.

Fast-forward to the years 1992 and beyond where I was finishing up high school and starting college and really trying to find my “place” in the world, but not in the way that you actually need to find your place. I was obsessed with A) making sure I stood out by dressing/styling atypical and B) making sure I hung out only with other people who stood outside the norm. The problem is, most of those groups grew/centered around specific music like club or punk or the Grateful Dead…or some specific alternative activity like or skateboarding or LSD camping trips. And here I was…just trying to be part of one/any of these “outside groups” without really have any connection to any of those unifying threads.

So I just faked it until I could make it. I made sure to wear the funky clothes and found some things I could get into enough to seem legit (Grateful Dead was the easiest because I actually like their music but HOLY SHIT there was so much of it, so it was still hard to fake being a Deadhead so I would just do the best I could) and I touched on the various alternative activities like hacky-sacking and periodic drug use. But really? I just separated myself as much as possible from the “norm” in terms of pop culture and pop music and trendy fashion. It was weird. I was obsessed with being seen as different and in the end, that’s all that mattered. I boycotted Top 40 radio (which I previously adored), shopping at the mall, and watching TV because in the mid 90s we all had “KILL YOUR TELEVISION” bumper stickers which was sad because I really loved television.

All of this is to say though that my love of The Princess Bride was the one interesting thing I had in my life that did not seem to fit in the norm (it didn’t become as popular as it is now until much further after it’s release) so I was able to openly love it and since it didn’t get a lot of massive publicity it didn’t seem like part of “popular culture.” I was able to introduce people to it CONSTANTLY and win them over to my side in a way that made me feel very cool but more importantly: sincere. I think I spent so much of those ’92-’98 years faking it because I wasn’t sure how to be real because I had such shitty self-esteem. So I held onto my obsession with Princess Bride and wore it like a badge of honor because it was the one thing I felt gave me an authentic pass into the “weirdos” group, the one thing I loved long before I started trying to be a non-conformist and the one thing I didn’t feel like I had to hide because it wasn’t quite “popular” yet.

Now, eventually I learned what we all learn at some point: 1) every teenager/young adult is faking something in their lives to seem cooler and 2) you really can’t build real friendships if over half of your persona is falsely contrived to fit into the group where you’re trying to make friends. I started realizing that I could love whatever I honestly loved and then my whole life was like loving The Princess Bride and everything became SO MUCH EASIER.

So I’m grateful for the movie that gave me a bit of “cool” cred being able to introduce it people I desperately wanted to impress. And simultaneously I’m grateful for it as something that anchored me to the Kim before she so desperately wanted to seem “alternative” or “non-conformist” because somehow that was…bad? I don’t know. It’s hard not to roll my eyes at the Kim of those years…but I try to remember that without those years of struggle of identity I wouldn’t comfortably sit here today – both still proudly loving top 40 radio while also covering myself in tattoos. It turns out we all contain multitudes…and movies like The Princess Bride can connect all of us together.

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