What happened when I recreated THE Princess Diaries “Balloon Dart” scene

Two things shaped me into the woman I am today: overdosing on my mom’s hydroxycut pills when I was 14 years old and The Princess Diaries. If I could give a modest guess, I would say that I’ve seen The Princess Diaries 30 times since it premiered 18 years ago. Everything about this once in a lifetime Anne Hathaway x Julie Andrews collab has influenced my life in one way or another… for good and for bad. 

For instance, Paolo’s Princess Mia makeover led me to believe that curly hair is for nerds who are friends with shitty cable news hosts, and for that reason it took me until I was 23 years old to stop flat ironing my hair five days a week. At the ripe age of 10, I forced my mother, bless her soul, to search Santee Alley high and low for the $15 knock off of Mia’s leather backpack— you know, the one Mia’s BFF Lilly shames her for in the back seat of the Genovian royal limousine.

Yes, Lilly, Princess Mia has this bag and now, thanks to the blood sweat and haggling skills of my mother, I have one too. When I was 21 years old I got a drink with Jeremiah at a bar in Chicago. He didn’t have red hair and he uninvited me to his apartment when he realized he was 10 years my senior. But still, it happened. I almost went home with Jeremiah! See, this movie is my personality! 

When I quit my job and my days freed up entirely, I knew what lie ahead. After 18 years, it was time to recreate THE balloon dart scene. If you’re not familiar, first of all, shame on you. The balloon dart scene™ was birthed when Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi and her mother, Helen, thumb tacked paint filled water balloons to a canvas and threw darts at them while laughing about being royalty. Haha! 

Pulling this off would take hard work and perseverance, but I hadn’t done either in months so I figured I could muster the emotional fortitude.

Above all, it was going to be messy. Artistic. A reason to wear overalls. Monday morning I woke my roommate up on her sacred day off and we strolled into Blick Art Supplies right as it opened, ready to spend money for the sake of my brand.

I very quickly realized that the reservations I had around recreating this scene were completely valid—this was about to be expensive and time consuming. In a perfect world (one where I’m still unemployed but somehow also rich) I could have purchased a 72×72 canvas to mimic the one in the film, but that sat at a steep $120 which doesn’t necessarily fall under the “necessities” category in my unemployment “budget.” I settled for a 30×40. Fine. I bought neon paint because it was on sale and also because everything I do has to be obnoxious.  

It took four hours hours of driving around the city of Los Angeles to hunt and gather the remaining supplies. I wish I was kidding. It’s important that you understand, and I can’t stress this enough, I am unemployed. Target on La Cienega. Big 5. The 99 Cent Store. Target on La Brea. The CVS across the street from my house where I once found a (possibly) dead guy. 

2 pm rolled around, the water balloons had been filled with yellow, blue, green, and pink, and we were finally ready to create a masterpiece. As we threw darts, jumping for joy every time we’d pop a balloon and see our canvas grow more neon, I was overcome with simplest euphoria. Not just because of the satisfaction that comes with watching hot pink acrylic paint explode all over a canvas I bought from my “emergency medical fund,” but because everything I’d done to get me to this moment had been enjoyable. Sitting in a traffic jam to park in the Big 5 parking lot off Wilshire didn’t send me into a spiral of road rage— instead, it afforded me 2 extra minutes to finish my Travis Scott SICKO MODE solo. And when we prevailed through the traffic jam with smiles on our faces, only to find out Big 5 was a fruitless visit, we paraded around the store trying on fly fishing hats and perusing the Jansport selection. There wasn’t any rush to get back home to start hurling our darts, and in turn there wasn’t a false sense of urgency behind any decision we made that day—we were simply enjoying the (bumper to bumper) ride. For a brief 45 minutes we continued shouting, and jumping, and exploding our hours of effort over stretched canvas until our $5.99 darts detonated every single balloon. 

When I was young enough to be blessed with summer breaks, I would dedicate entire mornings to the buildup of an adventure: creating obstacle courses, planning scavenger hunts, filling up water balloons one by one by one until I lost feeling in my thumbs. But somewhere along the way, as I’ve grown wrinkled and jaded I presume, I stopped letting myself believe that it’s okay to spend too much time doing things for no reason other than to have fun. And it doesn’t matter how depleted you are, that’s a wildly bogus way to go about life.

So, yes, $100 and an entire 8 hour work day dedicated to painting may have started as a divine devotion to early 2000s Anne Hathaway, but it ended up being a vivid neon reminder that it’s okay to do a lot of something for nothing. *cue a melodic Hans Zimmer score* Maybe it won’t always be a painting in my front yard, and it will likely never be another neighborhood scavenger hunt because homeowners have guns now, but I’m learning that not everything I spend time doing has to have a defined purpose or outcome.

In other news, if anyone has been looking to invest in some art….. remember what I said about not having any money?

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