According to literally everybody on planet Earth, it’s apparently impossible for two people to make it to 24 years of age without ever having been to the most magical place on Earth.
In fact, whenever you tell a person you’ve never been to Disneyland, they go through at least seven different stages of stunning disbelief before telling you that you have to — no, listen: YOU. HAVE. TO. — get in a car and drive to Disneyland immediately, because every second you waste not being at Disneyland is apparently crushing your soul into tiny bits of magic-less oblivion. And then their eyes glaze over and their body begins to shake in the throes of a nostalgic fit and you have no choice but to appease them by saying that fine, yes, all right, you’ll GO, just calm down for the love of god.
Mere hours later, you find yourself in a car bound for the magical land of Disney, and there’s no going back. You’re going to Disneyland for the first time, as a grown-ass adult, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
And this is what you learn:
1. Disneyland is a cult and you are their newest recruit.
There’s a certain narcotic effect that Disneyland has upon humans under the age of 18 that leaves the lasting impression that everything that happened there was somehow “fun” and “magical” and “not at all terrifying or awful.” Whenever you so much as mention the name of Disney around someone who belongs to this cult — that is, someone who went there as a kid — they will inevitably respond with any variation of one, and only one, sentence, every single time: “OH MY GOD, I FUCKING LOVE DISNEYLAND.”
We get it, OK?! YOU LOVE DISNEYLAND AND YOU WANT US TO JOIN YOUR CRAZY DISNEY TRIBE. WELL, WE’RE HERE NOW, OK?! ARE YOU HAPPY?!
2. They give you a “first-timer” badge to officially mark you as a lesser human.
If you’re a child at Disneyland with a “first-timer” button, it’s fine, because you’re a kid and everybody expects you to be wearing one. If you’re a child at Disneyland without a “first-timer” button, good for you, you should feel great and successful, because you’re probably here for, like, the thousandth time. But if you’re an ADULT wearing a “first-timer” button, you are officially designated as “less accomplished than almost every other child around you.” Actual children look DOWN on you as you walk past them, and the worst part is… they enjoy it. They enjoy looking down on you and your shitty adultness. They are superior and they know it.
3. Everything is made for pre-pubescent humans.
Here’s the thing: Disneyland is NOT made for adults. It’s constructed to trick children into thinking everything is giant, when really, everything is made for humans that weigh less than 50 pounds. The castle in this picture? That castle is only 10 feet tall. You only think it’s taller because it seemed that way when you were a kid, and the cult is keeping you IGNORANT.
4. The entire park is a blistering labyrinth.
Disneyland likes to give you a map so you can convince yourself that you’re in control of your magical Disney experience. BUT THE REALITY IS: You have no idea what’s going on. Ever. There is absolutely zero logic to the way the streets are designed, so you spend literally 90% of your day staring at your map, wondering when you’ll come across the next bench, just so you can sit down and rest your brain while you attempt to find your next destination. It’s designed to drive you mad.
5. You can’t tell the difference between actual humans and Disney robots.
If you look closely, the woman pictured above is actually NOT a woman at all, but a well-crafted — “Imagineered” — Disney animatronic. She’s engineered to say fun phrases like “This is not a cult” and “The castle is not 10 feet tall” and “The park is not designed to empower your shitty children into a false sense of superiority.” She’s also engineered to smell like candy in order to gain your trust. In fact, all Disney workers are just like her. There’s not a single real-life human who works at Disneyland.
6. Mickey Mouse doesn’t care about you.
Sure, you go to Disneyland expecting to wait in a line or two. But what they don’t tell you is that there is literally a line just to stand near Mickey Mouse. You actually have to wait, in an orderly line behind herds of hungry, festering children, just to stand next to a giant mouse and take your picture with him. Mickey won’t come near you. You have to WAIT. FOR. HIM. When you’re a kid, you like to think Mickey Mouse is your best friend. But adults know better. Mickey Mouse sees thousands of children every day and all he wants to do is go home at night, crack open a six pack, and watch Cinemax.
7. If you’re not IN a stroller or pushing one, you question your entire existence.
If you’re in a stroller, congratulations, your day is perfect — you don’t have to walk and everything is beautiful. If you’re pushing a stroller, congratulations, you managed to find another human to mate with, and you’re probably at least spending this awful day with them. BUT If you’re not in a stroller or pushing one, GOOD LUCK. You have to carry your own body, on your own two feet, for what feels like 3,000 miles, just to wait in one goddamned line after another, behind shitty kid after shitty kid in their stupid little strollers.
8. Your fat face doesn’t fit in anything.
Do you see this? This is a grown adult man, forced to experience Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride ALONE, because no two adult humans could possibly fit their fat asses together in this freakishly tiny car, because Mr. Disney decided that everything should be miserable for people with CURVES. Well, guess what? IT’S NOT FUN, DISNEY. IT’S NOT FUN TO EXPERIENCE MR. TOAD’S WILD RIDE ALONE.
9. For a brief, beautiful moment, you will let the cult of Disney suck you in.
OK, sure, Disneyland is fun for a little bit. It’s California. There are blue skies and flowers and if you actually wait in line, Mickey Mouse smells like warm cheese, which is pleasurable if you’re into that kind of thing. It’s fun feeling like a kid again, like you can punch an adult in the penis and get away with it. It’s beautiful and empowering.
10. “It’s a Small World” is a psychological hellscape.
Just as you start enjoying yourself — just as you start believing in the wonderful magic of Disney — you climb into a little boat, start floating along a festering green river, and enter the most beastly psychotic dream that humans have ever created in real life. The music. The tiny animatronic children screaming at you with desperate pleas of rescue. This is a nightmare. This is what actual nightmares are made of. A team of humans somewhere in the world at one point decided this would be fun — to put people through this misery.
AND THE WORST PART: There’s always at least one real human child who decides that your face is more entertaining than the actual ride, so your nightmare is made worse by the fact that a shitty kid is STARING AT YOU IN THE FACE THE WHOLE TIME.
11. Mickey Mouse is everywhere. Mickey Mouse is inside of you.
When you’re a kid, eating Mickey Mouse’s face is whimsical and salty and fun and you don’t even think about it because nothing matters. When you’re an adult, there’s something oddly unsettling about walking around a park that’s full of Mickey’s round face and ears and then literally putting him in your mouth and swallowing. (For what it’s worth, he is delicious and fluffy and perfectly salty. But also, he’s inside of you.)
12. “Splash Mountain” is a sick experiment in human anxiety.
LOOK. SPLASH MOUNTAIN IS FUCKED UP. OK?! YOU SEE THAT FACE. THAT IS GENUINE TERROR. THAT IS REAL. THIS ENTIRE RIDE IS BUILT AROUND CLIMBING UP A WATERFALL WHILE A BUNCH OF PREGNANT RODENTS SING ABOUT DEATH. THAT IS LITERALLY WHAT THEY ARE SINGING ABOUT. THEY ARE PREGNANT WOODLAND RODENTS SINGING ABOUT HOW WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE. AND YOU’RE JUST SUPPOSED TO SIT THERE WHILE YOU CLIMB TO THE END OF YOUR OWN EXISTENCE. THIS SHIT IS SO FUCKED.
13. Every kid who enjoys the rides more than you makes you feel like less of an adult.
Maybe it’s because they don’t fear death yet, but most children at Disneyland still shit their own pants and yet, they’re totally fine climbing into a metal box that whips the human body at an entirely unpleasant speed, while they scream for joy, and you scream for anybody who will listen to your desperate pleas for help. You don’t leave the rides feeling exhilarated. You leave them feeling humiliated, ashamed, and alone.
14. Every ride is basically just a terrible social experiment.
Apparently whoever created Disneyland thought it would be fun to just replicate the worst human experiences as rides and then see if children would enjoy them. This ride? This ride is just Los Angeles traffic. That’s the entire ride. A bunch of children wait in line to get into a tiny car that barely even moves around a controlled track. THAT IS LITERALLY LOS ANGELES TRAFFIC. WHY WOULD I GO TO DISNEYLAND FOR THIS?
15. The live performances are super weird and oddly hot.
When you’re a kid, you don’t really ask how everything works, you just experience the magic. But adults like to ask questions. Like how does Mickey Mouse’s face move like that? How do they fit a whole human into that monkey costume? How does one become a human whose job is to climb inside of a Sebastian the crab costume every single day? And most importantly, why am I so sexually attracted to this dancer who’s penetrating a giant blue bubble?
16. Everything is actually a cruel reminder that you’re an adult and closer to death than every child there.
First of all, this isn’t even a ride. This is just a hole in a wall that children are supposed to climb through for fun. Second of all, there is NO WAY that a grown adult could fit through that. And it’s only because Disney wants to remind you that you’re an adult and not a kid anymore and everything is terrible.
17. Mickey Mouse is actually terrifying.
In addition to not caring about you, Mickey Mouse is also pretty fucked up. I mean. You KNOW there’s a human in there. There’s another grown adult who’s inside there with grown adult body parts. But also. His face moves. And he can SMILE at you. And his eyes sort of half-blink. There’s nothing about Mickey Mouse that is friendly at all.
18. Everything is kinda fucked up, if you really pay attention.
When you’re a kid, you don’t ask questions about all the racist stuff. You just assume that when you’re riding on the Disney safari and the ride operator says the African natives sound like they’re singing “a bunch of Hokey Pokey,” that’s normal. But like. It’s not normal.
19. By the end of the day, you will be so delirious with Disney that everything will start to seem fun.
Children have no concept of time, which is why, outside of Disneyland, they are inferior to adults. But inside of Disneyland, the absence of time makes children stronger, while adults fall victim to Disneyland’s mind tricks. By the time the sun starts to set, you’ve been at Disneyland for approximately 17 full days, and your weary adult body has no choice but to just give in. It starts being fun. You want to stay in this wonderland forever.
20. You will have fun for approximately 30 minutes.
Maybe it’ll be on Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Maybe it’ll be on the carousel or the bobsleds or somewhere in Tomorrowland, but there WILL be a brief 30-minute window where you experience pure Disney euphoria — where your body will rise outside of itself and you feel an almost unpleasant amount of joy. Sure, it’s mostly because you’re dehydrated to the point where your body just assumes you’re blackout drunk. You’ve also had nothing to eat. And you’ve been standing for more consecutive hours than you’ve ever stood your entire life. But for those 30 minutes? Heaven.
21. The fireworks show will give you hope again.
When your 30 minutes of euphoria have expired, when your crumpled, aged body has taken all it can take, when you’ve waited for what feels like years for the sun to set and the castle to glow, the fireworks begin and you’ll feel the magic. Even after your long, terrible day, there’s a genuine joy you’ll get — not induced by delirium, but REAL, genuine joy — from seeing sparkly lights explode behind a purple castle while a fairy dances in the sky. It’s gay and beautiful and even your terrible, cynical adult self has to admit it’s pretty great.
22. Then there are people everywhere. And life is terrible.
When you’re a kid, it’s easy to stay hypnotized by the world of Disney — the fireworks. But it only takes one grown man to yell “GO FUCK YOURSELF” because you accidentally knocked into his churro to bring an adult right out of the magic of Disneyland and back into cold hard reality. And then you realize you’re not surrounded by magic. You’re surrounded by a bunch of other hungry, sweaty humans who have also been locked in this Disney hell for 14 hours.
23. You start to wonder if you will ever escape. If there was ever life before this.
There WILL be a moment, at the end of your 14-hour day at Disneyland, where you’re standing in the midst of the disgusting Disney crowd, and you realize your legs literally no longer work. Your body is shutting down. You don’t remember where the fuck your car is. You don’t remember if you were wearing pants at the beginning of the day. You don’t know if you’re supposed to buy something for your mom because she’ll probably get angry that you went to Disneyland and didn’t get her anything. You forget what life was like before Disneyland. Time is a blur. Life is meaningless. Death is inevitable.
24. Getting to the parking lot at the end of the day is the most accomplished thing you will do with your entire life.
You’ve made it. Your decrepit old body has survived its first day at Disneyland. It feels better than graduating college. It feels better than anything you’ve ever accomplished in your entire life. It feels like you’re free. Disneyland has been won.