I actually mentioned that before, but recently I have thought about this issue longer than usually, talked to few friends, boiled and therefore now I am in a ranting mood. Weeks ago I was sitting at the Shabbat table with one of the families I visit and we generally spoke about how I am acclimatising in Beersheva, how are my living conditions, people etc. My teacher’s husband replied to every problem we mentioned with: ‘What’s the problem! She needs a shidduch! She needs to get married!’
As if all my problems would be solved if I actually got married. Now. No time-wasting.
Since early childhood we, girls, have been fed stories about Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jasmine, Bella, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty and more finding their one true love. We were over-indoctrinated that we have to wait for our princes. That one day they will come, save us from our misery, while we wait for them, all feminine, all slender, all sleeping or being victimised, while they take our hands and lead us into a better world away from our ordinary lives and tears into a fairy tale world, with unicorns, candy floss and flying pink elephants.
‘I want to marry I prince’ all girls used to say, including me. When in primary school boys asked us whether we would marry for love or money, only one was brave enough to say that she would only marry a guy if he had money. All boys ganged up against her calling her a materialistic gold-digger, not differentiating between the role “love” plays for women anyway, the sense of belonging combined with the sense of financial stability and pure chase after someone else’s money. Then they turned to us and asked us the same question. Sheepishly we answered: ‘oh no! We would only marry for love!’ From the perspective of time and years of living by myself, I can honestly say that an extra pound, zloty or a shekel would make a huge difference in a girl’s life. Would I marry for money? Still no, but I would certainly not marry someone who is completely broke, a jobless, lazy slob with no intention to improve his financial standing, in spite of how many love letters he would write and how much he would claim that love is “all we need”.
We took the princesses as our blueprint of femininity; how we should look, behave, or rather how not to behave and what to expect from our lives, how far we should dream. I was told on a number of occasions that I did not behave like a girl. “Girls don’t climb trees with boys, girls aren’t loud, girls don’t beat up boys during a break between lessons, girls don’t excel in sports… rather they are pious, quiet, they sit straight at all times, with a faint smile on their faces hopefully looking like a beautiful swan slightly injured and needing help…”.
Following many years of experience, fending for myself and seeing how one or another ‘prince charming’ gives into the circumstances that I wouldn’t give into, or he is not as charming as I hoped, or he is just a bum, a twat, a slob, or an opportunist, or simply a self-proclaimed gold-digger (yes, they do exist), a commitaphobe, an alcoholic, another –holic, a possible –phobe etc, I have come to the conclusion that the Prince Charming was only able to be charming because all princesses were dames in distress believing that he was their only deliverance from their boring lives. Or at least they pretended. In either way I am curious to see what a brief overview of each of them will reveal. Of course I am aware that everything written here is completely biased, but again I am sure that there is a grain of truth in every female rant. My flatmate actually threw these names at me and I have decided not to amend them, but work with what I was given.
Now that my intentions are clear, let’s start with Snow White. All begins absolutely like in a fairy tale (it is a fairy tale of course), she appears in the window, he sees her standing by the well, they start singing and of course they fall in love. She’s a princess, with blameless skin, which probably indicates that she has not left the castle (ever!) or worked a day in her life. Here appears a handsome prince, who allures her and she falls in love with him immediately and unconditionally. Then, the tragedy happens, another man tries to murder her, but touched by her beauty and innocence he cannot. He lets her go and she ends up in a little, very dirty hut, with seven beds and she falls asleep there. If that was me, I wouldn’t even enter that hut, but she’s obviously a more confident female, a princess after all, who, sensing a demand and creating her own niche, ends up as a cook and a cleaner to seven men of questionable origin and she happily lives with them. This is a typical example of a liberated woman working for her daily bread with reasonable integrity. No one of course questions her morals here. She’s alive, away from the evil stepmother, living with men who have access to diamonds and other stones, she could have started trading in those and have her own castle, but unfortunately, she is silly enough to eat the apple, falls into a deep sleep and, here’s the twist, it is not the prince who took care of her, she did, with a help of seven men of unknown origins, for her beauty she is murdered and laid to rest by those men. The prince only arrives at the end, and what does he do? He helplessly kisses her (I mean the guy kisses the corpse for all that he knows), she opens her eyes, leaves the potential career in diamond trade and all seven men, and marries the prince to become yet again a furniture in a palace, at his side, a side of a man she does not know, but this is what girls do right? We marry.
Rapunzel is an easy case. She is trapped in a tower for being herself. Basically she is bored off her shoes. The prince comes to save her from the tower and how does he get there? He climbs up her hair. Question number one, how come she did not come up with the opposite idea of climbing down using her own hair? Question number two, if the prince was so mighty, because only the mightiest could have freed her, was he too weak to climb that tower himself? He actually climbed up her hair? This shows that she was perfectly capable of helping herself and didn’t have to live in that tower, victimised, waiting for a guy that couldn’t help himself, let alone her, even if he wanted, had it not been for her hair.
Cinderella. The girl had a hell of a life. She goes to the party to have fun and hopefully catch a glance of a prince. They do and they dance, and they sing, and the whole blah blah, and they fall in love, and then she has to run off because it’s midnight (I had to be back home by 9:30 p.m.), she loses her glass shoe and comes home where she’s imprisoned by her stepmother (why are stepmothers always evil?). Cindy obviously sees her only escape from the situation by marrying the prince, but actually her step sisters are more interesting here. They are so determined and blinded by the greed and desire for this guy, whom we again don’t know, because he just doesn’t do anything himself, that they follow their mother’s instruction to cut off their toes and heels to fit their feet into the glass shoe. I mean, are they out of their minds? Is agreeable marriage worth self-amputating our limbs?
Jasmine basically, when forced to marry a prince, runs off with a thief. Full stop. This is the clearest rebellion in its purest form. Of course he lies to her that he is an actual prince and she pretends to believe him so she could marry him.
Bella also refuses the one whom everyone want her to marry and instead falls for a beast with a huge library, dark and enchanted past, and financial potential. My type of a girl. I would go crazy if the guy had his own library. Though falling in love with a dangerous type may give you a thrill, you never know if you are going to wake up alive so it may be slightly too risky.
Little Mermaid however reaches another level. She actually gets the legs to live with the prince, whom she has to convince to love her to start with. She is already over-investing, but also the deal is that in exchange for the legs, she would be walking in excruciating pain for the rest of her life. She is given a chance to regain her tail to stop the pain, but she would have to cut the princes’ throat and pour his blood over her legs because only in that way she would see her family again and live pain free. She did not of course. She loved him too much. I wonder if she ever regretted her decision.
Last, but certainly not the least, we have Sleeping Beauty. Poor girl was under the spell, fell asleep and got woken up by a kiss. Of course she danced a little around the forest too. That was pretty much her entire life; outside of her own decisions or experiences.
So basically let’s sum up, princesses, mostly apart from Sleeping Beauty, run from their adversaries, fend for themselves, make difficult and painful decisions, rebel against the establishment, start up businesses, even cut their limbs off and princes… kiss? And they are the heroes of the day, the salvation for the dames in distress?
For years we have lived in the society where women’s only choice for a better life, or any life for that matter was to marry. If they ever wanted to have food on the table they needed a man. They never had their rights, never could decide for themselves. In Victorian England women did not exist legally. They didn’t even have rights to their own children. Men could do literally anything to them, and still they were tied to them for life. And then the wars came, and the shift when women had to join the workforce to sustain their economies, when men lost their lives in the field. Women dropped fancy dresses and went into factories proving that they are equally capable of sustaining not only their families, but also their countries. When men returned home, or mostly not, they experienced how much the society they had left changed. Women often refused to return to being a house doormat. Throughout the 20th Century we experienced women increasingly joining universities, excelling at work, often choosing a lifestyle of single women, but I personally think that the biggest revolution in the social life of both genders was the invention of a contraceptive pill.
Suddenly women were not tied to each pregnancy, whether it was willing or on the contrary. They were not tied to the life of poverty with twenty children. They could choose for themselves. They gained the power to say no. They could choose to have a career, support themselves and make sure they will never again be abused, trapped in a loveless marriage or forced into one. Women work as hard as men contributing to the GDP of each country, though they have been often underpaid for simply being women.
I’m staggered by the contrast of what world I was taught to believe in and what world I actually live in. The contrast here lies between waiting for the prince charming and then discovering that that’s not the way women can or want to live their lives, eventually becoming more or less self-sufficient, educated and certainly not needing a protector or a deliverer. Suddenly there is no rush to get married, if one wants to also have a career. Suddenly there is less, if any prince charming type because women’s expectations are rising mostly in terms of the need for independence. They have their own income so they do not have to rely on the man. If they want to go shopping they go shopping. If they want to buy a car they do just that. Suddenly we do not need to be saved and since we are not looking for a deliverer, what does a prince charming have to offer?
We have become self-sufficient and yet… (sigh) Why, oh why, do we use potentially all tricks to build up male confidence enough to get them to date us and marry us? Of course men feel intimidated, our body language shouts that we can do everything they can do and if we wanted we wouldn’t need them. How many times do I hear stories about women who did all they could to get the guy, because he would be just too intimidated to approach them. I must admit I tried too. I have heard enough throughout my life about why I am “too much of this” and “not enough of this”. I tried appearing slightly less intelligent, weaker, needing more help, talking less, be less ambitious and I even didn’t admit to having certain degrees or knowing how to kick-ass… I was able to put up with this farce for around ten minutes until I was tired of pretending I didn’t know something. We force ourselves to play the game we really don’t need to play.
The question I am asking myself, my circle and generally women (or men, if they know) is: are we actually willing to sacrifice a toe or a heel to fit into the shoe? Are we willing to sacrifice independence and a potential for development in terms of career and personal life to fit into someone else’s expectations? Are we really going to be happy if we do it?
Or on the other hand, do we really have to fully rebel against tradition, our families or the regular way of life only to escape the life that we don’t want? What is more, what on earth draws us back making us try again, and again, and again? Yes, biological clock, pheromones, hormones, other –mones… I do understand all this, but should we push into marrying at any cost just to satisfy others and not feel like we have somehow failed in our lives? I think that some of us perhaps feel that way, but personally I have this deep need to share things. I think at some point of having a reasonably happy life (and I don’t mean being jolly all the time) one feels the need to join forces with someone on an equal level and build something together. It’s like eating chocolate ganache all your life, which in itself is terrifically splendid, however after joining it with ice-cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, perhaps strawberries and… hold on, I’m thinking what else I am in a mood for… almonds and halva (!!) we realise that all these combined, together taste so much better and we can’t have enough of it. I personally wouldn’t stop eating. It’s all or nothing for me, really.
I can’t speak for all women, but I can speak for myself. I do not need a prince charming. I do not need a deliverer, a saviour of the day. I have been saving myself and despite all ups and downs I am still standing, thank G-d. I am not going to pretend that I am stupid, less educated, less intelligent, even uglier, only to make a guy feel like he is actually “improving” me. I am not perfect, but I am great the way I am. I want a partner, an equal and someone who knows his worth so he will be able to appreciate mine, equally allowing me to appreciate his; someone who will speak his mind so I can speak mine. Not a lazy or a jobless slob wining about unconditional love while checking my wallet. I am not going to sacrifice a limb for a relationship. I will not walk in excruciating pain for the rest of my life only to be in a relationship. My limbs, mouth and family stay in the picture. Rant over.