Every now and again it happens, you realize that the person you married is not the person you had hoped you’d marry. In my case, I knew exactly who and what my husband was when we got married. We had lived together for months so there weren’t really any surprises. After 10 years, there shouldn’t be any surprises. I’m not talking about him surprising me with flowers or a treat, no I mean those moments when I just can’t believe he didn’t throw the towel in the dirty laundry even though he knows it was laundry day or that the day I really need him to do something that’s the day he gets an allergy attack and spends half the day in bed. Those are the days I sigh, exasperated because this is not what I wanted or expected in my marriage.
Well, it was one of those days when I realized that the problem is not with my husband (even though blaming him is a lot of fun), the problem is with fairy tales. You may be going – what? at this moment but it’s true. The problem with women today is fairy tales. I’m not making this up, there are actual studies and whole books about the subject.
I wouldn’t have thought about this had I not recently read an article about social stigma in film. I’m going to come back to this because it’s important but lets look at the fairy tales first. What do they tell us? Now most of us didn’t grow up with the original stories meant to teach us not to stray off the path – no we all grew up with the Disney version. What is the story they tell us – that no matter how bad our life is, a man will come along and rescue us. We can be poor, disfigured, abused but in the end, true love will give us the perfect life. There’s a reason why the story ends with the wedding because they’d be forced to tell us the truth. Life is ugly, people are disappointing.
On the other hand, the same stories tell us that to be saved we must be beautiful and virtuous. Even Beauty and the Beast tell this story. While Beauty falls in love with the Beast, their love turn him into a handsome prince (who just happens to live in a mansion and have a ton of money). That’s the ugliest of the stories. Disney even changed the ending of the Little Mermaid – the original story she dies and the dark hair girl (who’s really nice) gets the prince. Not in the Disney version – the Little Mermaid succeeds with getting her prince. Because that’s the real goal for women – to get a prince who will take care of us.
So we grow up, and the stories change, right? Not really. Just stop and think about the stories we read and see now. I’ll wait for you.
See – all those romance novels that are a dime a dozen are filled with stories about women rescued from life. I admit, I read them and I love them. They are an escape because our lives didn’t become those fairy tales. I love the idea of perfect romance, even difficult romance. It seems to me that they never have to worry about dirty floors or the never ending pile of laundry. No story is complete without love.
Okay, you say, I see your point but I don’t read romance. I prefer horror or action, none of that mushy stuff for me. This brings me back to that article I mentioned. According to it (and I didn’t see any way to refute it), when it comes to horror movies – only a beautiful virtuous woman can survive. Try to argue it. I couldn’t. I couldn’t come up with any horror movie where that wasn’t true and I watch a lot of horror movies. The sad thing is there are plenty of beautiful women that die in horror and action movies – that’s true but the reason is they weren’t beautiful enough or virtuous enough (remember it’s not an either or, it’s an and). The example they used was Michelle Rodriguez. We’ve often commented how she rarely survives a movie and even she knows it’s because she doesn’t have the right look. So now what? What happens if you aren’t pretty enough or “good” enough?
Well that’s the problem. We spend our energy trying to fit into this stupid mold that we’ve been told we have to be in. We perpetuate the belief. We root for the pretty girl and shun the not so pretty. We spend far too much time tearing each other down (and ourselves) instead of just trying to find peace with life. I think that’s why societies who don’t have much media are happier. There was a time when stories didn’t come with pictures so you were given an opportunity to define what you thought was beautiful.
I don’t have a solution but I do believe that knowing is half the battle and realizing that this is really happening helps me start refocusing. My husband will never be prince charming which is okay. When I don’t think about that he’s a pretty great guy. Our life is good. It’s not a fairy tale but it’s better because it’s real.