Love and companionship, companionship and love. One would think that the two concepts would forever go hand-in-hand, but due to the different types of love out there, this is not always the case. In Evil Thing, Cruella De Vil was a lonely child, desperate to live up to her mother’s expectations in hopes of gaining the cold woman’s heart. But there was no warmth to their relationship, no love. Only three people who Cruella ever truly loved, loved her back. Her father, who died too soon. Her governess, whom she ultimately mistreated. And finally, Anita, the sweetest person she had ever known, and the only companion she ever wanted.
By all accounts, Cruella loved Anita profoundly. She stood up for her, even against her own beloved mother, and peers. She made sure that Anita had access to the best of everything, and even made plans for them to travel the world together. Anita was truly the love of Cruella’s life. But with so many different types of love, what does Anita being the love of Cruella’s life actually mean? Let’s take a dive into Cruella herself to find the answer.
In Evil Thing, we learn that even from a young age, Cruella never had any interest in getting married. I don’t believe that it was due to not being attracted to men because she does state that she’d be agreeable to marrying one, should he have the same kind and permissible nature of her father. Although the list of woman that she actively admired was short to say the least, Cruella never at any point spoke of them alluringly. Anytime a compliment was given, it was backhanded in nature. She calls her governess pretty, but is quick to bring up that she was a woman without means. Of a girl named Arabella, Cruella states that she is of high standing, but childish and petty of disposition. There are only two women that Cruella speaks of with complete and utter adoration. The mother who neglected her, and the best friend who would never leave her side.
Cruella never ascribes any romantic feelings towards Anita, but often implies that something stronger than friendship had grown in her heart. At one point, she says that they are more than friends and share a bond deeper than sisters. She sees Anita as the one thing that she has ever needed in her life, a constant companion. Whenever the topic of marriage would come up, Cruella would mention in someway that she was not interested because she’d found everything she’d ever want or need, in Anita. And what attributes does she bring up when she describes her best friend to the reader? The color of the other woman’s hair? The curve of her lips, or the form of her body? No.
Throughout the book, the one constant in Cruella’s description of Anita was her sweet nature and kind disposition. Her love wasn’t based on any of the features attributed exclusively to women, but instead, on things that were exclusive to Anita alone. Cruella’s propensity for affection was genderless and directed solely at her best friend. Although not obsessed, she was completely enamored with the girl and as they grew, Cruella sadly entered the place pensively known as the Dreaded Gray. What is the Gray you may ask, and why is it so dreaded? Let me explain.
In the life of an Aesexual, love is perhaps one of the first of many confusing external concepts encountered. We understand love as it means to us, but that definition doesn’t always translate well to other… more sexually inclined beings. Once we are aware of the presence of coupling going on around us, we begin an acclamation process, wether we are aware of it or not. Often, we seek out same sex friendships, because in theory, they’re safer. A same sex friend is less likely to allow romantic feelings for you to grow, so there is no risk in spending long hours and days in their presence. There’s also very little chance that there will be any sexual awakenings on their part when something as simple as a hug occurs. Physical contact is necessary for most sentient creatures, and with same sex friendships, we reason that touching, kept completely innocent in nature, can be done without fear of the other party requiring something more intimate.
In the end, we gravitate towards someone who makes us feel whole and wanted. We take them as deeply into our hearts as humanly possible, and without any concern for sex or sexuality, we fall in love. Or at least, love as we describe it. Devoid of even a thought of sexual coupling, we can completely imagine a life where this person is forever with us. Platonic as it may be, the feelings felt are just as complicated and complex as those felt by someone in a romantic relationship. This, dear reader, is the Dreaded Gray. The place where we love deeply, and yet not deeply enough. The place where we stand alone while those around us couple up and hold hands. The place where we ourselves hold on as tightly as we can, only to watch those who we love slip away. I can without a doubt say that the Dreaded Gray is the saddest, loneliest place to be.
Cruella’s full on descent into madness came when she finally arrived at the Dreaded Gray. She stood up against her mother, defying the one woman that she’d always wished to emulate. She engaged in battles of will with peers and adults alike in the name of shielding Anita from their classist wrath. She even went as far as to plan out an entire future based on having the other woman in her company forever. And to what avail? Anita, chose her own path, one that didn’t rely on Cruella’s chivalry for survival. Then, she later met Rodger and married him, shutting down whatever dreams Cruella could’ve had of full reconciliation. Anita made her own life, and although Cruella was still dear to her, the De Vil heir was not the center of her world. Make no mistake, Anita had every right to choose going to typing school so that she could have a career of her own, instead of traveling the world with Cruella. She also had every right to fall in love with Roger and marry him. Cruella had no control over the other woman’s autonomy and although she behaved cruelly to get back at her, she never tried to steal away Anita’s right to choose. Why? Because despite feeling betrayed by Her most cherished and trusted friend, she still loved her.