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I Was Poisoned by Arnold Lobel's Children's Fable, 'Frog and Toad'

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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014
by Leo Warner
Lobel could have done his little gay readers an immeasurable and un-parallelled service. Instead, he set us up for perpetual disappointment.
cover art

The Frog and Toad Collection

Arnold Lobel

(HarperCollins; US: May 2004)

Everyone applauds Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books for covertly introducing children to the idea of long-term gay love. (Well, almost everyone.) And yes, on one level, the bond between Frog and Toad is touching and inspiring.


These creatures cook for each other, make special gifts, tell each other stories, act as bedside nurses, write kind letters to each other, and do a million other small, nice, thoughtful things. Just like we’re taught to do. And then we grow up.
  
Have you ever wondered why so many gay men are perpetually single? Has it never occurred to anyone that the reason we’re romantically frustrated is because we’ve been poisoned by the unrealistic expectations we developed while reading Frog and Toad?


I’ve dated an array of guys, and not one has been half as selfless and gentle as Frog. And here I am hopping around, imagining that the love between Frog and Toad is some kind of norm between men, and that anything less perfect and harmonious would be just… sad.


And so: thanks, Lobel, for tainting my thoughts and setting me up for permanent failure. Thank you for ruining my shot at happiness.


I think even children should get a dose of reality in their fiction. Indeed, readers of Frog and Toad should all get to see some of the behind-the-scenes tension that surely animates the domestic life of these two seemingly cheery amphibians. Where’s the scene in which Frog tells Toad that he’d like to experiment with a “polyamorous” lifestyle and that he, Toad, ought simply to accept this sad news and keep the home fire burning?


Where’s the scene in which Toad tells Frog he hates Frog’s Old Navy khaki pants from Old Navy, even though the pants are perfectly fine, and anyway, these two hardly know each other….it’s only their second date…and what kind of creature says something so gratuitously nasty to another creature on a second date? What kind, indeed?


Where’s the scene in which Toad stumbles across nude selfies on Frog’s computer, and Frog lies and says he just wanted a few genital pics to use as autoerotic stimuli during his upcoming trip to Italy. Then later Frog admits that the photos are actually meant as a tool for initiating cybersex with strangers on the aforementioned trip to Italy.


And where’s the part where Frog comes out to Turtle, who is both his ex-girlfriend and his closest buddy, and Turtle scowls and says, “Gross. You’re really going to stick that thing up another dude’s butt?


And how about the scene in which Toad’s mentally unstable father goes mute for five years because he cannot (will not) accept Toad’s “choice of lifestyle”?


Where’s the back story, as when Frog and Toad haven’t met yet, they’re just e-mailing each other and though their level of acquaintance is so low that they have not even spoken on the phone or shared a quick coffee break, Frog still feels compelled to write, “I’m a bottom. We don’t have to fuck on the first date. We could go slow—like, making-out on Date Two and full-scale intercourse on Date Three. Does that work for you?”


If Lobel had dared to tell just a pinch of The Sordid Truth, he would have done his little gay readers an immeasurable and un-parallelled service. He would have helped them toughen up in preparation for real gay dating life.


Instead, he gave us a series of silly, slippery self-delusional little fairy tales.


Come to think of it, maybe Frog and Toad is rather like real life…


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