Ask the Trope Fairy: The Path of Least Resistance Does Not Run Through Bustopolis
Ask the Trope Fairy is an advice column for characters navigating science fiction and fantasy realms. In this dimension, advice is published monthly.
Dear Trope Fairy,
It’s not fair!!!
Every day my brother’s build some huge contraption in the backyard: a monster truck arena, a roller coaster that reaches all the way to outer space, an entire beach – they created an extra ocean! Not that it always STAYS in the backyard, like when they built a skyscraper all the way to the moon, constructed a portal to Mars, or fought a cuteness war on behalf of space aliens.
And what do I do? The responsible thing. The mature thing. The in-charge thing! I tell my mother so she can put a stop to it. But she never believes me! Everyone in our city besides her know what the boys are up to every day, and yet, because she doesn’t believe me, she never comes fast enough to see before it vanishes into thin air. She thinks I’M the crazy one!
Now she comes slower because she never believes me! She didn’t even believe me when I said they were one hit wonder pop stars, and she was a one hit wonder pop star! What do I do to get her to trust me when I’m telling the truth?? I can’t just keep singing at her in the supermarket!
No Belief, No Bust!
First of all, thank you! So few of my letter writers think to express themselves in song form, but it always helps in every situation! Keep singing, Bust!
Now to your problem.
Whether they are doing it intentionally or not, your brothers are taking refuge in audacity – in the spectacular nature of their feats. Matilda Wormwood put it sagely (especially for a five-year-old), in describing the behavior of her former principal, “Your story would sound too ridiculous to be believed…Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it’s unbelievable. No parent is going to believe this pigtail story, not in a million years. Mine wouldn’t. They’d call me a liar." What your brothers are achieving on a daily basis is lightyears beyond throwing a girl over the fence by her pigtails. Even a fairy mother would be surprised to learn her children could summon and banish a new portal to the ocean within the space of a day! And they are achieving it simply through science and human ingenuity? I double checked your letter several times before I believed it came from a low-magic, science-based dimension!
But the last thing you need is someone else praising your brothers! What I have to say to you is not happy news, however.
It is a sad truth that adults forget how large the world is and how many outrageous things happen every day. And the fact that your mother was a young pop star may actually be working against you, in that particular case. For your mother, becoming Lindana was a long, difficult, and fraught journey as well as a wonderful experience. Your brothers did it in a day, for a lark, and, if she believed that, well, it would rather make a mockery of her own struggles.
Speaking of your mother’s struggles, adults (especially adults with kids) have so many tedious responsibilities in life that it can limit their views of the possible. Your mother may be working herself frantic just to get through the day between work and grocery lists and the mundane tasks of managing a family that take up all of her time. Not only does this make it harder for her to imagine what your brothers achieve so easily, but your brothers’ daily feats would be a Big Problem she would have to deal with. In contrast, your Busting seems a mere quirk that requires no additional burden on her busy adult day.
The path of least resistance is to not believe your claims, and, if you can summon understanding for your mother’s burdens, perhaps you can forgive her for taking that path of least resistance.
If you have your heart set on busting them, I suggest you scale down your claims. Try to find something just dangerous enough to make her want to come home. Instead of a cross town rollercoaster, try saying they cobbled together a bunch of equipment and are racing down it in a handmade cart -- and they aren’t wearing helmets or anything! Make the description sound as lame as you can without taking out the actual danger.
Or, and I realize you might not want to take that advice, consider just taking their coaster for a ride. That really is your own path of least resistance in this situation.
Transcribed and annotated by Katy Mulvaney with permission from the League of Fairy Surrogates and Interdimensional Meta—Fantasy Council. The Trope Fairy can be reached by dropping your letter in the bottom of an old well in the middle of the woods.
[Originally published 5/28/2021]