Dear Inquisitive Stranger,
Aaah, childhood. That innocent time of snot, sandpits and sans electricity bills. We were raised on porridge oats (non-organic if you pre-date the Millenials), a tot of brandy in our bedtime milk and fairy tales read to us by somebody who, if we got lucky, delivered the dialogue in amusing voices.
Like the stories we are so familiar with, the cast of these books need no introduction. They stand up as some of the best-loved characters in literature.
How so, my friend?
I put it to you, sir, that they are nothing more than a bunch of blackguards that impressionable children should not be setting their moral compass by. I slap your face with my glove.
Somewhere along the literature timeline, reprobates got dressed up in lace, sugar and grandma’s clothes. Since the advent of bedtime, we have all been merrily dancing around the fairy tale maypole of sinister values.
What do these fables really teach us?
Settle down with the creep that kissed you while you were sleeping?
Steal from people that look different from you? It’s OK if you are poor and made a reckless investment with the family cow.
Beware old ladies, especially if they invite you to clean their oven.
If you encounter a hungry ogre on a bridge, just promise your bigger, meatier brother, who is in the market for being gobbled up, will follow along shortly. You’ll be home free and giddy on family values.
These rouges are some of the ugliest characters in words. It’s enough to give you nightmares. No wonder I don’t play any wind instruments. I’d be chased out of town by an army of rats. Still don’t agree? Would you really want to be the customer behind Rumpelstiltskin at the Sainsbury’s check out?
Admittedly, some characters have worthy aspirations (we salute you, inner-beauty seeker Belle, even if it was a little bit Stockholm Syndrome when you fell for the Beast) but my struggle to identify others ends there. How distressing.
But fear not! Some fairy tales enlighten us with the positive message that the real world is littered with well-timed encounters. When forces beyond their control demolished their dwellings, it was quite convenient that 2 stupid pigs had an architect in the family. Let us not forget that frogs are just princes in disguise so delete Tinder and head down to the pond to pucker up. And if you do happen to be a princess without knowledge of your lineage, spend one night sleeping on a pea and your frightfully bruised ethereal skin will identify your blue-blood pedigree. The rest of you commoners, can go sleep in a pumpkin patch.
But let us not linger here in the world of shattered childhood dreams and look to alternative fictional beings from which to take our social cues.
Behold! The mighty Phoenix! The only creature that can be sustained on a few dew drops. Talk about cheap date. The magnificent, mythical phoenix is fictional proof that something beautiful can be created from ashes and dust. Nothing like an imaginary character to give us hope of personal redemption. But, let’s not be cynical. The phoenix stands as a marvellous reminder that out of our lowest, most loathsome moments, something dazzling can arise.
Just remember, Stranger darling, you are much more special than the sensational phoenix. His transformation can only occur after building a nest of aromatic boughs and spices to set himself on fire. You simply require the will to be glorious.
Phoenix’s avian associate also discovered that the ugliest times are fertiliser for a season of exquisite, profound and memorable moments. Bullied for his unconventional looks, the Ugly Duckling grew up to become an idol at the river bank. This is one fairy tale with a beautiful promise that we have the potential to blossom into fabulousness, no matter what age we make that change.
So my dear Stranger, don’t be ashamed of your ashes and cinder from challenging times since past. Handle their teachings with sincerity as they are the ingredients for something wonderful to be awakened. Like a conjurer, wave your wand for personal transformation to discover the most marvellous version of you.
I watch the magician. From the slip of paper in his palm bursts a posy of flowers. The metamorphosis takes place in ‘Ugly Society’, an intimate bar where Sunday evening is show time. Tonight, we are whisked on a magical journey of smoke and mirrors. After the final applause, the magician thanks his audience for their support. In a whispering voice, he asks that we do not feel deceived by the illusions, but blissful that magic can emerge where twinkling eyes seek it.
Well, my eyes seek magic and round two of ‘Jager French’, the chocolatey dream of a cocktail made by the beautiful souls, Johnnie and Sonia. Like Hansel and Gretel, their trail of breadcrumbs entice us willingly to ‘Ugly Society’ yet thanks to fairy tales, heaven knows if I can indulge in gingerbread again.
Peace and love and cha cha cha!
Ugly Society – for beautiful people, inside and out
1F, 225-164 Itaewon dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Noksapyeong station, line 6, exit 2
Monday – Sunday 13:00 – 02:00