One of Xena’s first fans reflects on the unwanted lesson she received about the benefits and perils of hero worship during the episode A DAY IN THE LIFE.
I never worried before about being perfect. You don’t have to be in Laurel. Pffft. Not much here to pick from besides your relatives. Even so, I’m sturdy, strong, smart. I can read, which is a lot more than most women – or men – can say. Got a good complexion, thick head of hair, healthy bit of meat on my bones. Teeth may be kinda big, but at least I got somethin’ to show when I smile, which I do a lot with my good disposition. All in all, not a bad catch by any measuring stick. Humph. Till she came along.
She wasn’t perfect either, though you couldn’t tell it from looking at her. I didn’t really notice that at first – her looks, I mean. Sure, she’s what they call "striking." Tall and bronzed, powerfully built but lean. Blue eyes that jumped out at you under that shiny dark mane of hers. I didn’t really care about all that. It was the way she filled and made space move just by standing there. I knew right away she wasn’t just any female warrior with pleasant features. The Palomino and little blonde with her sealed it. She had to be none other than the one and only Warrior Princess!
I probably stumbled all over myself, stammering like a lovesick boy, when I first laid eyes on her. Hah, I’d dreamed about her long enough. A giant of a woman breathing fire, throwing daggers from her eyes, flying across the land like Hades in his chariot. The elders used her to scare us, saying she’d burn us up if we didn’t behave. I was in my teens, but real shy. Afraid to stand up for myself. I made a doll like her and pretended it was me, taking vengeance on whoever got on my bad side that day.
Then, a couple winters ago, we started hearing how she’d turned from warlording, that she helped people now. Some who’d witnessed her deeds started calling her a hero. That made me shiver even more. I’d imagine her in my mirror, if I scrunched my face in a ferocious scowl, made myself stand just as proud and mighty as her. I’d pull that picture out sometimes when merchants tried to cheat me, or the judges said my apple pie came in last when I know it should’ve won. And it worked! They couldn’t believe sweet pushover Minya had such spine. "Um, so sorry. Seems we made a mistake. Here, take what you’re due."
It was nice being thanked for the favors I did because that’s just how I am. Getting credit sometimes for what I’m good at. I started feeling like it was more than an act, like I could be Xena anytime I wanted, in my way. If I remember correctly, I was giving that fool goat of mine the what’s what the day she and I met. I’d had to run him down and was struggling to hold on to him when I turned around and there she was. I couldn’t believe it! The warrior in my mind, standing there in the flesh!
She was as incredible as I’d imagined. Brave enough to take on a mean giant headed our way. She treated me like a real sidekick, let me in on helping her with whatever plan she came up with for a defense. She wasn’t sure what she’d do at first, which kind of surprised me. I guess I figured she’d be perfect in that way – maybe have a bunch of sophisticated strategies she’d pull out of her head that worked for any situation. Ha! She didn’t have a clue! Know what she needed to help her think? A bath! Yep, I fixed up the hot tub for her and her friend Gabrielle. From the splashing and squeals I heard, they must’ve been preparing her for battle with water fights. Some strategizing.
Gabrielle wanted her to use mirrors to blind the giant, since something like that worked before. But no, Xena liked being "flexible," "creative." Plus, she foresaw storm clouds that might make the mirrors useless. So what does she come up with instead? A "flying parchment" she fashioned, with a long piece of twine and a metal belt buckle attached – "to bring Zeus’ thunderbolts to earth" and somehow zap the giant. Bwahahahaha! You should’ve seen her throwing the thing up in the sky. And trying to get it to stay there!
A part of me admired her – that she didn’t care about acting perfect. How she admitted she didn’t have all the answers, just kept plugging away no matter how many times she failed or how silly she looked doing it. Under other circumstances I would’ve thought her clever, probably cheered her on, like Gabrielle and … Howar. Howar. By then I knew she’d come between him and me. Made me less the catch than he’d seen me before. So I made fun of her trials with the parchment. Seized it as a chance to show Howar his precious Xena had a screw loose.
I know, it wasn’t like me to be catty. I didn’t even know what "catty" really meant until my own claws came out. Must be instinctive. I’m still not sure what happened. One moment I’m happy as a clam, setting up a mirror like Xena wanted. I see Howar in it, returning from some favor he’d done for her. I’m all excited at telling him Xena’s here, as I know he looks up to her too. She comes out from her bath while I’m going on about her awesome qualities, when it hits me that all I’m hearing from Howar is, "So beautiful!"
I can tell the reflection in his eyes isn’t me. It’s not even the warrior I saw in her. No, it’s a glistening Siren gracefully gliding in stardust, sultrily flinging water from her hair. He looked up to her all right, like a worshipper on his knees praying to some goddess 10 feet high. Next thing I know, my fur is standing up, my fangs’re coming out, and my Xena’s turned into a rat. She’d been my idol long before either Howar or I had seen the real deal. I guess she still was, `cause if snatching other people’s cheese was what she was good at, then it would be good enough for me too.
Gabrielle told me I was wrong, that Xena would never steal someone’s man. In my heart, I think I believed that. I really wanted to. But what was I supposed to feel? Grateful Howar was drooling over a woman who didn’t want him? Relieved it was useless to fight a battle I couldn’t win? Satisfied I could keep my hero if I stopped being jealous over my boyfriend? My childhood insecurities crept back into my mind every time Howar breezed past me like I wasn’t even there.
Funny, that’s when her flaws really started popping out at me. Kind of a know-it-all, if you ask me. Stubborn as a mule. Got real snippy when she found out I’d bartered for her whip. Probably didn’t know what to do with that frying pan I gave Gabrielle in exchange. Of the two of `em, Gabrielle could see what was what, but the Big Bad Fighting Machine acted like she was the ultimate authority on human nature. Yeah, well, her way of turning Howar off seemed more to turn him on. All her glaring didn’t work on me either. Once I saw those clay feet, I knew she wasn’t any better than me. I didn’t think twice about standing up to her the way I did. Bet she wasn’t expecting that.
Thing is, her whip, snickering at her, bad-mouthing her to Gabrielle – none of that got me anywhere with Howar. Trying to be her – my Xena or "rat" Xena – didn’t help. Being myself wasn’t much of an option either. It didn’t matter that she’d be leaving after she got rid of the giant. Howar’s nose was so open for her, he was worse than my goat. Even if he didn’t follow her, I couldn’t have stood him mooning over a fantasy, pining away with what he needed right in front of him.
I guess she finally realized she wasn’t so smart after all – not about Howar anyway. I could tell she felt sorry for me. It’s not like I was any smarter, so I let her give me what advice she could on handling men. "It’s the leather," she told me. "They seem to like forceful women." She said being myself was fine, just more than what I’d shown. I was skeptical. I mean, that’s like claiming her eyes, the buff body, those pearly whites and all the rest of that Warrior Princess package didn’t count. But what else did I have to lose? Howar was already gone head over heels for her.
I fixed myself up like she said. A scrungy warlord showed up, yelling and threatening Xena because her plan caused the giant to stomp this guy’s army. Before Xena even knew what was happening, I pranced out in my leather and new attitude and decked the guy with one punch. You should’ve seen Howar’s face! His eyes popped open and mouth dropped like a wagon gate. "Minya!" The dreamy way he breathed my name, I could tell the goddess he saw this time was me. I gave him my toughest "come hither" look. He followed me into my hut faster than a ram at mating time. His nose has been mine ever since.
I’m a little more worldly now, not quite the innocent I was before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a nice person, just more careful about being taken for granted. That mirror I was moving for Xena? It didn’t go to waste when she used the flying parchment instead. Carrying it back to my place, I saw the reflection of a strong, dark-haired woman – proud, confident. A warrior, like when I used to pretend I was Xena. I’m happy to say she’s back to being the "real deal" to me, imperfections and all. Makes me feel better about my own. When I look in the mirror, I still see the hero I always imagined, except now she looks more like me. Not bad, eh, for a big ol’ country girl who smiles a lot and didn’t know she could be so good in leather. THE END
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