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Irritatingly, I have a headache again - it makes it hard to think.  I guess it's the weather, which cannot decide where on the temperature scale it wishes to stand.  Of course, all the local flowering trees are ignoring this prevarication and have decided to bud and bloom with alacrity - three days ago, bare trees, and today, ooh, pink!

I do love tree blossoms.  It's one thing DC does very well - a lot of neighbourhoods are filled with cherries, and people do take a lot of care with their gardens.  When my family lived in Bethesda, we used to get people stopping on the road to look at our 40-50 foot Japanese weeping cherry, which, for the week or so it flowered, was amazingly gorgeous.  I've never seen one as big - it had to be at least 70 years old.

When I was in high school, I used to walk the 3/4 mile or so to school through the cherry-lined back streets, and my favourite time of year was when the blossoms were just starting to fall and bury the streets in drifts of petals.  Being a complete fantasy geek, I used to pretend that I wasn't a dumpy unattractive teenager during those days, but the girl in Legend or some such movie/story, walking in a long flowing dress through drifts of romantically whirling petals, my long perfectly ringleted hair lifting gently in the breeze, to where unicorns and my True Love[tm] were waiting to take me to my happily ever after.

God, I do not miss those days one bit.

The absolute agony of feeling like every single facet of my life and appearance (so brutally important during one's teenage years) did not (and could never) measure up to the kind of girl who got to have the Prince in all those stories poisoned my entire existence.  Romantic fantasies are lethal, because real life can't compete with unicorns, ferchrissake.  Getting hooked on that kind of thing as a hormone-addled teenager practially guarantees misery.

Oh, God.  The yearning.  The muthafekkin' aching lonely yearning.  I'm surprised I made it out as mentally intact as I did.  Thank all the sweet Goddesses and saints watching over me that I did get over it - Many women don't, and still fervently buy into the idea that there's a Prince out there with their name on him (which is why so many terrible chick-flicks are made that have agonizingly stupid endings).

(He's Just Not That Into You is one such festering boil.  I read the synopsis on The Movie Spoiler, and I wanted to barf at the stupidity.  Please, avoid this movie.)  

This isn't a diatribe about "not needing a partner to be a whole and functioning human being", btw - I would be a total hypocrite if I did one of them, since I have not spent any time without a partner since I was 18, and I really, really prefer not to be alone - but being able to look at your man and know he's perfect for you without requiring him to be perfect is one of the key things in a successful partnership, and that's kind of what I'm rambling about.

(I think Bob is perfect.  I'm just sayin'.)

These fantasies that so many of us grew up on (and see perpetuated in movies) - they are so passive.  Waiting for the Prince.  Being saved by the Prince.  Being woken from a deep sleep (what's more passive than a coma?) by the Prince.  Being carried off by the Prince to his castle (maybe I like my castle - it's got all my stuff, and a bitchin' garden, to boot).  This is madness - who wants to be like that?  I want autonomy.  I want a man who listens to my opinion, who laughs at my jokes, who lets me know when there's one apple left, and gives me the option of eating it instead.  I need to be appreciated for what I am, not what someone wants me to be.

But the romantic fantasy interferes with all of that - it requires me to be a certain way, or else I end up the bad girl who dies (in the old-style movies) or the "quirky" best friend who remains alone (in the newer movies - a fate even worse than death, according to the romance fantasy).  Being unwilling to fit into Princess mode means NO MAN, and this causes otherwise sane women to panic and focus on unnecessary things like their weight and forget about important things like whether the guy has a sense of humour.  Or worse, they get silly and ignore clear warning signs, like the fact that he stares at other women the whole time you're on a date.

There is a song that's quite popular right now called "Love Story" - sung by a beautiful, dewy (and young) Taylor Swift, it is an update on the Cinderella story, with a bit of Romeo and Juliet-type "We're not supposed to be together" thrown in.  In the grand tradition of completely unrealistic romance fantasies, everything works out okay, and he tells her to pick out a white dress, because her daddy says it's okay to get married.

(The video is hilariously badly costumed, but I have to admit that guys do look yummy in early 1800s clothing.)

Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy, but most people seem to have forgotten that, considering how often it is referenced in popular culture as the ultimate romance.  They don't end up together despite all objections, they end up dead.  Deservedly so - frankly, they're both idiots.  But the idea of young love and perfect endings is part of the romantic fantasy, and a veil is discreetly drawn over the happy ending, since marrying at 17 (or 14) is a less than good idea, and the next act is Juliet at home with three kids by the time she's 20, and Romeo working a crap job, drinking away his earnings just so he doesn't have to deal with the disappointment that things didn't turn out to be "happily ever after" at all.

The ultimate romantic fantasy is sterile - and futile.  Life continues past the end of the "happily", and the "ever after" needs to be considered.  Unfortunately, teenagers - riddled with longing, awash with hormones, and no idea who they really are - aren't very rational thinkers, and they have no idea that the initial stomach-dropping excitement of infatuation needs to mature into a steady calm love if the relationship has any chance of surviving.  The excitement can't last at that level - our bodies simply don't produce enough endorphins.  That rush is supposed to get you through the first weeks of knowing someone, allowing you to overlook their less attractive attributes just long enough to get pregnant and perpetuate the species.  If you get pregnant quickly, the man will stay around long enough for you to give birth, and maybe through the first year.

Then it all wears off, and if a girl is too wrapped up in the romantic fantasy of Twoo Wuv to notice that the guy she hitched her star to is not actually compatible at all, the sudden lack of anything in common comes as a bit of a shock.  The purported happy ending that was supposed to magically appear doesn't.  What happened?

She never bothered to actually look at her Twoo Wuv, is what happened. Participating in (and wholly buying into) the romantic fantasy is willingly putting on a blindfold.  Every man becomes potentially TEH ONE (omgz!), and the poor unfortunate man the girl has focused her fantasy on, even if he's a really awesome guy, doesn't stand a chance at being seen for the great guy he really is.  I hate this idea.  Most guys are absolutely awesome, but they're not some Disney fantasy meal ticket, and it's insulting and demeaning to expect them to conform to some girl's unrealistic fantasy. 

(Plus it allows those really icky predator guys to use you and ditch you, since they're master manipulators, and can play into all your fantasies.  Be suspicious of the guy who does everything too intensely, too fast.  He's an asshole.  Awesome guys are too nervous about being with an awesome girl to pull everything off perfectly.)

I hate the pain of the fantasy - it not only obscures your view of the person you're dating, it destroys your self-esteem.  No-one is willowy, perfect, delicate, and always gorgeous, with perfectly tousled hair and long eyelashes framing perfect almond shaped violet-blue eyes.  We're always too fat, too short, not graceful enough.  Our hips are too big, our laugh is too loud, we say "fuck!" at the wrong moment.  But we're real - and the awesome guy that wants to date us is real, too - as long as that dreadful romantic fantasy doesn't get in the way.

I'd put this over to the guys, too - that fantasy woman you're looking for?  Doesn't exist.  Even Angelina Jolie gets cranky, and eats the last cookie sometimes.  It's called life.  Life is full of compromises - ones that you will happily make in a healthy relationship, because the other person is compromising as much as you are.  No man is an island, and good thing, too.

Romantic movies and music (and the entire fashion industry) are predicated on you being unhappy.  They like the romantic fantasy, because it means they get to sell more stuff to people desperately trying to find their Prince or Princess.  Enjoy the movies and music, and have fun wearing great clothing by all means, but don't look at any of it as some kind of blueprint for happiness, or you'll drive yourself insane.

Even if, by some horrid happenstance, I ended up single again, I refuse to hit up that romantic fantasy again, no matter how seductive.  I am ideal for someone, and someone is ideal for me (hi, Bob!), and neither of us would fit into the Disney mould.  I never want to yearn like that again.  Worse, I might miss out on a great person because they didn't fit my romantic ideal.  How ironic!

Save it for the movies and the music videos - I prefer real life.

But I am looking forward to the cherry blossoms.  And I think that red hair goes quite well with tumbling pale pink petals and a gentle breeze - even if it does mean my hair goes funny and stands up in a goofy way.

Comments

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isenglass
Mar. 11th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)
You've got it alllll wrong . . . . Angelina Jolie does not eat cookies. Ever. :-P

Seriously though, I was composing a similar post myself. Was even going to use the same references. I'm glad you beat me to it. You said it much better than I was going to.
attack_laurel
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
HJNTIY (the movie) (well, okay, the book, too) made me just want to scream the very first time I saw the ad for it. Teh Wimminz is all about the booys and nothing else, don'tcha know, so the menz needs to tell 'em where it's at.

Changing oneself is stupid, unless one has things one wants to change for oneself. Of course, now, VH1 has come up with "Tough Love", a show where a guy tells women who want that special someone how much they suck, and how they need to change to please a man. I'm sure it will have all the class of "Rock of Love Bus".

The T. Swift song is pretty (I have listened to it on OnDemand a couple of times, because I am happy to watch mancandy in a detached sort of way), but it's so... teenage. I remember being a teenager, and it sucked. It took years to re-build my self-esteem (which is now alarmingly healthy) after buying into the idea of what romance was supposed to look like.

My ex, while awful and destructive for me, was not a bad person, but just as unrealistic about what a real relationship was about as me, and it was pretty much doomed from the start, especially as I used it to escape from the fear of actually growing up. The romance fantasy does a similar job of infantilizing women and turning men into blank pages that all kinds of unrealistic expectations are heaped upon. I think it's horribly unhealthy for both parties.

A real relationship seems to work best when each person takes turns being taken care of, and tending to, the other person. The give and take allows both people to feel loved. And anyone with a lick of decency in them does not want to marry a child, amirite?
snailstichr
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Sigh - I have a friend who is "totally done with dating" and wants a relationship - a full blown relationship from the git go. We are trying to convince her that this is a fantasy, but as far as I can tell she intends on staying home until Prince Charming knocks at her door. Her attitude reminds me of this fantastic quote I found just the other day - Parties who want milk should not seat themselves on a stool in the middle of the field in the hope that the cow will
back up to them. - Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

Isn't that great!
attack_laurel
Mar. 11th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
It's so awful to watch someone do that to themselves. But nothing you say will make any difference. This is the kind of change that needs to be internal.

It is based on our genetic predisposition to want to be with someone - humans are pack animals, and a pack animal is a sad panda if he can't be with others - but it gets subverted by people wanting to sell things, and people will buy anything if they think it will make them more attractive to the opposite sex, and have an insatiable appetite for stories about true love conquering all.

- all of which is fine, as long as you realize it's a fairy tale. It can be a fun fairy tale to play at. But the minute a girl starts thinking the fantasy is real, she starts sitting at their kitchen table, imagining that Prince Harry is going to knock on her door because he needs directions, will be struck by her unearthly beauty, fall head over heels in love with her, and whisk her away to England to live happily ever after in Buckingham Palace.

Bitch, please.
(no subject) - reasdream - Mar. 11th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
lorebubeck
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
More proof that I've always been weird. When I was a teenager I was the one chewing the up and spitting them out. huh.

You mentioned the Taylor Swift song. I blame country music for a lot of the fantasy out there too. MFH listens to it and, at first, thought that was how our life was supposed to be. OY!
soldiergrrrl
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, this whole damn post is awesome.

I loathe the Hollywood ideal of "Twoo Wuv" as I think it sets people up for total and utter failure.

May I link?
attack_laurel
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
absolutely. :)
(no subject) - soldiergrrrl - Mar. 11th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
gwacie
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
My older sister is stuck in that mode; waiting for the 'perfect' man, and every new guy she dates is absolutely Prince Charming, no matter how much her well-meaning family tries to dissuade her... and then when he turns out to be a mere mortal she sobs "Why didn't you warn me!??" *sigh*

The real problem is she's looking for a man that doesn't exist... one who will absolutely adore everything about her and be completely selfless, never get cranky or fart in public or not like her recipe for chicken fricassee. What's she's missed that most people in successful relationships get is that it's a -partnership- give and take. I like to say a person's flaws are more important in compatibility than their merits; if their flaws mesh well with yours, and vice-versa you're good.

Okay, I'll stop ranting... that was a lot of words to say "OMG! Me too! LoL!" ;)
(Deleted comment)
aeliakirith
Mar. 11th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
"She's dumb," I replied. "Really, how so?" dear mum asked. "She's just waiting for stuff to happen to her and isn't doing anything about it. That's Dumb."

I love that. I've rewatched Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty a few times, and while I'm still a sucker for Disney sappiness, the passivity of the heroines annoys me. They've gotten better, at least. Belle and Jasmine have a little bit of spunk, and Fiona and Mulan kick ass. The remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, with Brandy, touches on that a little too. The fairy godmother is encouraging Cinderella to actually *do* something instead of whining about her life. Living with your rotten stepmother sucks? Then *leave.*
(no subject) - aeliakirith - Mar. 11th, 2009 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
elizabethnmafia
Mar. 11th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
When I was little among the many stories my mother read to me was a tiny little book called The Paper Bag Princess. In the story a beautiful princess is supposed to marry her hansome prince until a dragon comes, destroys her castle, and kidnaps the prince. So she finds her crown, puts on a paper bag, and goes off to get her prince back. She manages to defeat the dragon and saves her prince but realizes he's a jerk and leaves him. It's a great little story. I've enjoyed my share of fairy tales and fantasy for what they are but remembering that little story always makes me smile.
lady_jem
Mar. 11th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
I LOVE THIS BOOK! We read it to my daughter all the time. " 'Ronald, you are handsome and you have perfect hair, but you're a bum.' They didn't get married after all."

Robert Munch. Great kids' author, though sometimes his books get a little creepy.

a big "word!" to everything everyone's said here.

Are we really wired to want this fantasy, or does the world teach it to us? We try to keep my daughter as much as possible away from the passive princess stuff, but she still makes up all these games about the princess in trouble and the prince has to rescue her. However many times I suggest, "Hey, maybe the princess can rescue the prince sometimes?"...then again, she has a sitter who has a TV, and she has friends, and the Disney Princess cult is all around us...
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Mar. 11th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
mistressrhi
Mar. 11th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
I actually love the fairy tale, but fortunately, I do recognize it's a "fairy tale". (Just like I recognize historical fiction movies are actually "fictional". I can suspend disbelief with the best of them.) And I also recognize that even if you're completely willing to accept the frog with all its warts, sometimes, there just ain't a frog for you, anywhere. C'est la vie.

But it's nice to imagine that somewhere, somehow, somebody got the Prince, even if his name is Bob, and not Charming (although Bob is rather charming.). ;-)
pinkleader
Mar. 11th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
Heh, now I've got an image of Bob doing his best Sean Connery accent saying; "Charming, Bob Charming..."
(no subject) - mistressrhi - Mar. 11th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
donal_mac_r
Mar. 11th, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
Even the Arthurian legends, the desire for sovereignty is evinced.

Dame Ragnell (who first appears as a "loathy hag")tells King Arthur what women want: "We desiren of men above alle manner thing/To have the sovereinty, without lesing,/Of alle, bothe highe and lowe."

And Sir Gawain rescues her from the curse of being loathy by giving to her the choice of whether to be fair in the day or in the night - that is, by giving her exactly that: Sovereignty.

The tale doesn't say for certain that she and Gawain lived "happily ever after," but it seems they got off to a good start.

But the telling point is that the rescue is in the form of letting the lady make her own choice
elfie_chan
Mar. 11th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
This is one of the many reasons why Sir Gawain is my Fictional Crush.
reasie
Mar. 11th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
There are subtle distortions too. I was thinking about this last night when my older sister was complaining about how her boyfriend hadn't put in a bathtub like she'd asked... the passive fantasies prepared her for a life where if she wants something, she doesn't go out and get it. (It's her house too, right? If she wants a bathtub, she could just ask him if it's all right and get one!) No, the proper way is to hint an cajole and nag and WAIT. Always the waiting.

GAH! I hates it! Passive sucks!!

attack_laurel
Mar. 11th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)
It does - it also puts one in a completely powerless position. Unfortunately, both men and women have to give up some old expectations - women need to be more forthright, and men have to give up total control of the house. I think, deep down, most people are okay with this newfangled thinking.

Any guy that isn't deserves to be saddled with a passive princess who sees him as nothing but a walking wallet.

(no subject) - reasie - Mar. 12th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mistressrhi - Mar. 11th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
janestarz
Mar. 11th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing this! I'll be adding this entry to my memories for future reference.
I just hopped on by through my Friend's Friendslist. Don't mind me!
elfie_chan
Mar. 11th, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC)
*hugs you* I love this post.

I want this T-shirt, and I thought you'd like it, too:
http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/womens/b3e7/
Don't you know? Most red-headed princesses are self-rescuing. ^_^

Also, Romeo and Juliet would never have lasted.
grian_ruadh
Mar. 11th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
I love that shirt! :D
sarahbellem
Mar. 11th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
I've been there... we've all been there. Some of us are STILL there and completely unable to break out of the relentless monotony of "Someday My Prince Will Come". Around and around in the same merry-go-round of self-inflicting wounds because they are incapable of attracting The Perfect ManTM. It's depressing when they KNOW they are trapped on that ride and they know how unrealistic it all is, and they get into relationships with guys thinking "OMG HE'S TEH ONE!!!!" only to exit the relationship as fast as lightening when it is obvious that they got worked up over nothing. And then they complain and cry and rail against the gods for being alone and unloved.

Yeah.

Someone asked me yesterday what I'd do if a guy I like dumped me for someone else, like it was the end of the world, or something. I burst out laughing. That scenario has happened countless times to me that I now know that I can pick up and move on after it happens. It doesn't scare me anymore. If it happens, fine, whatever, I'll get a lot more sewing done without him around.

(Now I kinda have to wonder what I'd do if a guy actually stuck around for a change... Heh.)

NEWSFLASH TO THE LADIES: BEING SINGLE IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD AND IT IS ACTUALLY A HELL OF A LOT OF FUN IF YOU LET YOURSELF ENJOY IT WITHOUT BEATING YOURSELF UP FOR BEING A SAD SACK SINGLETON.

edited for some overly aggressive content, which was a bit unnecessary but, still, totally justified.

Edited at 2009-03-11 05:06 pm (UTC)
grian_ruadh
Mar. 11th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
I was such an odd duck growing up (not that that's changed a lot, really). I loved fantasy stories and the tales of Arthur and McCaffrey's cavorts with dragons, and all manner of shapes and forms of reality that had nothing to do with growing up under the thumb of religious wingnuts. My parents buy in completely to the passive princess idea. They think that's the Way Things Should Be. They're part of that Old Guard you mentioned who are at the moment having fits of apoplexy that a massive cultural shift is underway. My mother did her best, you see, to instill me with feminine virtues a la Disney. I wasn't allowed to wear colors that she considered "for boys". My room had to be decorated in pastel shades (I bucked for royal purple walls when I was 11. I got lavender). I wanted one of those digital watches with a built in calculator so bad I could *taste* it when I was 13. After being told to save my money and hoarding my allowance for six months, I was told that it was "too masculine" and was not allowed to purchase it after all. I was not even allowed to join the Girl Scouts because my mother did not want me picking up all those "women's lib" ideas. It was to my mother's great disgust that the first case of hero worship I developed was on Princess Leia at the age of five. I wore that stupid costume, plastic mask with pecan danish hairdo and all, on Halloween for years. Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty were out. I was totally into a Princess willing to grab the hero's gun and say if you don't have any good ideas, then get out of the way! I was into the heroine who could save herself, who was leading an army, and was clearly the one in charge. My taste in heroines hasn't changed much either. My mother insists that my behavior was and is simply an outcrop of adolescent rebellion and is still clinging to the idea that at some point what she considers to be "adult reason" will come over me, and that I will see and admit she was right all along. I am approaching forty these days. My mother has many other delusions as well. The real breaking point came when I was in college and my parents not only did not get into the whole cutting of the apron strings thing but tried to attach more of them when I started to act independently (you know, like an adult) and date boys from my university. They actually sat me down at one point, as though I were slow on the uptake or something, and explained to me that I was essentially my father's responsibility and property and that I would remain so until he handed me over to my hypothetical future and parentally approved husband. Then I would be my husband's responsibility and property. They wanted to make sure I understood that any delusions I might have had about going my own way and doing my own thing with my life were just that, delusions, and I was going to just have to like it or lump it. Obviously, nothing has really turned out they way planned. ;)

Consequently, I have an utter revulsion at weak, passive women set up as "heroines" in fantasy and the idea that all women should behave that way. What also sends me up a tree? Stories that feature women who start out all independent and strong and knowing what they want only to put all that aside to *become* one of those pretty, passive princesses once the hero has "tamed" them. Ugh! Another peeve? Book series' that begin with a powerful female protagonist who then marries her hero by the end of the first or second installment and then recedes to the background of future stories which focus principally on her clever but more often than not male offspring. I don't really want to read about the exploits of yet another hero who is the paragon he is because of his strong mother. I want to continue reading about his mother!

I grew up with no desire to be the pretty princess waiting for her prince to save her. No, I grew up wanting to be a Sovereign Queen with a sword and an armada and an empire. Yeah, that's more like it. ;)
devikat
Mar. 11th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
*yeay* I <3 you even more (and I didn't think that was possible...)

It's so ironic that this link also crossed paths with me today...
http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/03/05/review-knight-moves-by-jamaica-layne/


My favorite growing up was "The Ordinary Princess", as originally told in serial form in my favorite of all magazines, Cricket. Seventh-born princess, supposed to be the most fair of all, get's gifted with ordinariness as a christening gift by her crotchety old fairy godmother... and when they find a dragon to lay waste to the land to attract a prince they can marry her off to, she runs off... and finds her own prince (totally unintentionally)!

I love it! (Now I have to go dig through my old stack of Cricket magazines and find this again.)
textileowl
Mar. 11th, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
COTP! Cricket magazines! I loved those as a young teen and their earlier(ladybug?)/older(Cicada) couterparts and wish there was something similar for us now relatively young adults. I remember that story as well!
(no subject) - fiberferret - Mar. 11th, 2009 09:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kargashina - Mar. 12th, 2009 04:30 am (UTC) - Expand
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