I recently had a chance to spend some time with two little girls, ages 3 and 5. This occasion provided me with an eye-opening lens into what is going on in the world of little tender hearts growing up in the millennial generation. According to them, it seems that Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are still the heroines of choice. Being a "little girl" once myself, I remember the stories well. I really truly believed that there would be a "happily ever after," as I had been promised in my own favorite fairy tale, Cinderella -- with one important caveat. Prince Charming would have to come in and save the day. He, and only he, would be the answer. Otherwise, I may, like Cinderella, quite possibly be doomed to a life of cinder sweeping for some heartless, cruel people that I had to be nice to -- or starve.
Now, don't get me wrong; I am all for romance, fairy tales and fantasy, but why not mingle in a little reality and responsibility for the heroines of these sagas? How about giving them a choice -- either to depend on someone else, like the Knight or the Prince, or how about depending on their own wits and sensibility (ah, now there's a thought!). Oh, and did I mention that my tiny companions also believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? I am quite certain they are not alone in their blind trust of these fantasies.
I'm curious. If we are so flipping advanced as a species, top of the food chain and all, why is it that we as a collective culture continue to perpetuate these lies to our women (and men) of the future? Prior to the close encounter with my little friends, I (naively) assumed that little girls may not be placing their bets on Prince Charming so much anymore. When I wrote the book, Happily Ever After... Right Now, the thesis of which is that the secret to happiness is an inside job-- no Prince or Knight in shining armor involved, I had thought I was participating in a new wave of thought on relationships. I didn't suppose I would be so outnumbered by the ever more popular "the-secret-to-finding-your-man-themes." Yes, there is a lot of stuff out there on personal growth, self-help, how to be abundant, how to achieve your dreams and more. Nonetheless, finding your soul-mate, or THE ONE are still tops on the list of the sought after guides in the female-self-help department. If you don't believe me, check the numbers on Amazon.
On September 15, 2013, the 87th Miss America was crowned -- Miss New York, who is, incidentally, not a WASP. Progress. She is the first winner to be of Indian origin. By some stroke of coincidence, I happened to be channel surfing and saw part of the pageant. (I hadn't tuned in for at least 30 years). As a child growing up in the sixties I never missed the show. Miss America was my hero. And, I gotta tell you people, the only marked change that I could see in the beauty contest of all beauty contests, aside from a sprinkling of different ethnicity represented was that the late Burt Parks (MC of the event for a zillion years) wasn't singing to the winner anymore. Just as I had remembered from the past, every single one of these gorgeous creatures in the swimsuit competition (now titled" health and wellness" -- really?? Are you kidding me?) had "perfect" figures (or the standard that we hold as "perfect" in our culture -- possibly having starved themselves or fasted for weeks to fit into those little, bitsy bathing suits). There was not so much as a subatomic particle of body fat visible anywhere on that stage. (And, I scanned, people.) Speaking of breath, I wonder if any of those glowing beauties were able to draw any while promenading in their painted on "pretty woman" evening gowns. (I envisioned oxygen tanks ready and waiting just on the other side of the curtain for emergency-close-to-passing-out-from-lack-of-air-victims.)
In the talent segment, one of the contestants sang the song from Les Miserables about lost love and dedicated it to all the men who had left her (or even perhaps some whom she had rejected because of her disappointment in them?). This woman had a gorgeous voice and flawless appearance (and probably a Ph. D from Stanford or something), though it appeared that she was focusing on the loser aspect of herself in front of the entire frigging world. How is this possible? I pondered woefully.
My query sparked a curiosity about the "sad" love song trend in general (termed "co-dependent heaven" by a quippy colleague). How about Aretha Franklin belting out her first major hit in the sixties, making her an overnight sensation -- "I Aint Never Loved a Man"? Here is the opening phrase: "You're no good, heartbreaker, you're a liar and a cheat. I don't know why I let you do the things to me that you do," blah blah blah... (even so) "I have never loved a man the way I loved you." And, of course we have the immensely talented Adele, who in Feb of 2012, won a Grammy for her scorching, Rolling in the Deep "he-done-me- wrong-song." At last check that zinger had 23,048,973 hits on YouTube, and that was only on YouTube. Are these lyrics sung from the guts of these soul sisters about true love, or is it something else (like dependency?). I'm just sayin.
And, why are these melancholy-blues-tunes so bloody popular? Are women, who are still looking for the handsome, charming Prince, setting themselves up to possibly connect with the guy they can't live without (fatal attraction?) whose beauty body suit looks like George Clooney but who's really a beast cleverly disguised (as in "no good liar and cheat")? And if it turns out that he indeed is "no good," how can we not love ourselves enough to flipping show him the door? How can we just come to appreciate ourselves enough to never, ever settle for less than a partner, who really cherishes us? One, who shows us dignity, courtesy, loving kindness and R-E-S-P-E-C-T (another of Aretha's sock it to me (or him) songs).
As to the Miss America standard, to which so many still so vigorously cling (if you don't believe me, pick up the latest copy of Vogue and see the startlingly thin, gaunt fashion models)... I ask you: Do we really, truly have to fit into the child-sized evening gown -- the ridiculous standard of our culture's idea of "perfect" -- in order to be loved?
Girls, pre-adolescents, teens, and women of all ages please pay attention. It is time to rise up and claim your best destiny. I don't care what you have been told, fairy tale or otherwise. You have absolutely got to live, breathe and know with every fiber of your being that you matter, and that you are absolutely perfect in whatever form you may appear, fat, skinny, knock-kneed and all. Please realize that you have limitless potential, regardless of what you perceive your shortcomings to be. You are in charge. You are the one. And once you actually start believing even the tiniest scintilla of this message, watch in wonder at who shows up (or steps up to the plate) to join you (if you choose) in your happily ever after... right now.
Don't forget to visit me on my blog and tell me your story as it is unfolding. Oh, and do slather some butter and jam all over that slice of Pepperidge Farm toast this morning--just this once--just for today.
Believing in you!