Illustration by Jose Santana Firpo

Long Story Short: Escape Artist

A 100-pound, 12-foot python escaped from her enclosure and slithered through the Mall of Louisiana undetected—right around the same time that the world was finding out that a 100-pound, Louisiana-native mega-star—who rocks python pants—has been controlled for years by handlers who manage her money and determine her life plans. Coincidence? I think not.

Cara, a Burmese python, escaped from the Blue Zoo at the mall in the middle of the night on a Monday and led investigators on a three-day hunt which included following scale trails and searching in air ducts. This story got national attention and demanded the answer to myriad questions including, “Was she poisonous?”, “How could she get out of her cage?”, and “Wait, we have a mall?”

Meanwhile, just a week earlier, Britney Spears called 911 to report herself as a victim of conservatorship abuse. This was on the eve of a hearing to discuss the terms of her arrangement which include her conservators controlling her spending, communications and personal decisions. This story got national attention and demanded the answer to myriad questions including, “What is a conservatorship?”, “Should a 39-year-old be able to make decisions about her own life?”, and “Wait, where is Britney Spears?”

Now, I’m not here to weigh in on the allegations or on the #freebritney movement which has millions of followers advocating that the pop star should be freed of her overbearing father who, through the conservatorship, keeps her from getting married and having more children, among other things. I’m just saying, no one likes to be kept in a box. It’s confining. It’s limiting. And you start to smell your own stink.

As a young child, I was given a Shetland pony by my grandfather, without the consent of my parents, who ultimately had to build a corral in our backyard to house the wayward animal. Penny the pony did not want to be confined, and she certainly didn’t want to be ridden. She bucked me off numerous times, she ran my sister into a tree and ripped up her face, and she bit the stomach of my best friend. Penny looked docile at first glance, but she was a snake with a mean streak. Penny didn’t want to be put in a box.

Penny was ultimately given away to someone with more land and fewer kids trying to ride her. She broke free of her conservatorship. She kicked up her heels in glee.

But breaking free means biting, and kicking and running. It doesn’t always look pretty, when you’ve been confined. Sometimes—most times—it looks really ugly. People getting out of abusive relationships, abusers getting free of the drugs that keep them down, women ripping their bra off when they get home. Not pretty scenes. But necessary.

Everyone just wants to breathe.

Which brings us to the current state at hand. The world is going to hell in a handbasket. Snakes are not only housed in local malls, they are escaping. Britney Spears is not only a current-day mega-million-dollar performer, she’s being controlled by handlers. High-waisted bathing suits are not only on trend, they look like granny panties. We’ve lost all hope.

But maybe, just maybe, Britney had a vision of the future 20 years ago when she draped a snake across her shoulders during the 2001 VMA performance for her song “I’m a Slave 4 U.” She saw it coming.

The snake. The song. The implications.

There is no quick fix to this situation. Cara is back in her cage, a long line fanning out through the mall to control the newfound popularity of the wayward snake. And Britney, although getting a litany of press, is still struggling with the legal world surrounding her conservatorship. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if we don’t all have something we are ready to break free from. A situation we want to break out of. A bra we need to take off.

Now is a good time to reassess the boxes surrounding us to see the situation as it really is. Confining, limited, a bit stinky? We have the ability to ask the questions, to test the limits, to choose authenticity over appearance. To choose to hide out in an air duct above Aeropostale for a while. Nowadays, Cara the snake is finding newfound fame through social media, and The New York Times has produced a documentary called Framing Britney Spears, which has been nominated for an Emmy. Coincidence? I think not.