my father was a huge sci fi fan. and he imparted this love for all things scientifically fictional on me. i remember standing in line at the woods theatre for an hour before the first showing of star wars: a new hope. hell i could recite the opening lines of star trek before i could mimic perfectly all the letters in the alphabet song. but my mother didn’t like the violence in the sci fi movies too many guns and gory alien guts. besides they gave my little brother bad dreams and me…well my imagination has never really needed much fuel to start a brush fire in my brain. so one day my mother decreed that rated g movies were all that my brother and i would be allowed to watch. my father begrudgingly took us to see sleeping beauty. not one of us was happy about the arrangement. we much would have preferred a night at home with junk food and the newest episode of battlestar galatica. but mama needed us out of the house and daddy had a few extra dimes so off to the movies we went.
i hated it.
passionately and with great intensity i deplored the very idea of sleeping beauty. i dug the fairy godmothers. i’m into magical winged creatures. even if they were a bit ridiculous with their enchantments and the dopey clumsy final fairy…she was my favorite (probably has a lot to do with my procrastinating alter ego). what i hated was the idea that sleeping beauty and her fairytale sisters cinderella belle snow white were such punks.
they were supposed to be so beautiful and smart and brave but when things got shaky they all just slumped over and…waited. i hated them. i hated them and their fluffly dresses and singsongy voices and they way the swooned. swooning is for sissies i told my daddy. a real woman would have woken up kicked that witch’s ass and saved her parents. he laughed at my audacity and because my mother was at home taking care of business didn’t bother to correct my swearing. but i was 8 and probably had seen a few too many green women swoop in to save the day in all those sci fi films to even begin to think that a woman was incapable of saving the day.
beyond the fact that i decided a wimpy woman was no kind of woman to be i also couldn’t stomach the role of the men in the fairy tales. as a child i was surrounded by men both real men and a few boys who were auditioning for the role. i watched the men in my family break their backs to provide for their families. i also saw them make mistakes big and unforgivable as well as those miniscule and tolerable. knights on white horses they were not. and what i figured way back in kindergarten when mrs. carolle the most awesomest kindergarten teacher who ever lived (given that she was a hybrid of my paternal grandmother and carol burnette) read from the brothers grimm was no one back in the olden days really told the truth. i figured they told those lies and wrote them up because they just didn’t know any better. and i took it upon myself to be an evangelist for truth telling. so every opportunity i got i’d cast light on the holes in the fairy tale stories. it drove my teachers my girlfriends my cousins and pretty much every other female i came in contact with crazy.
why don’t you believe in love, wanda.
why are you so cynical, wanda.
wanda, don’t you realize you’ll never meet your prince charming if you keep talking like that.
don’t you ever want to get married, wanda.
wanda wanda wanda.
and to the few who really wanted to make it sink in i would hear that’s against God women are suppose to submit to their husbands. to which my answer would be that’s fucking stupid (i had quite a potty mouth as a child – also attributed to my father).
i don’t know if i was a born feminist or if i was just a girl who paid attention but what i knew was that the stories as told in no way represented human nature and the basic instinct for survival. vulnerability will get you killed in the face of real life threatening danger even a kid knows that. fight flight or freeze are biologically wired responses to threats. our bodies are designed to protect us from harm. ain’t no way in hell snow white would’ve opened the door to some weirdo in the woods after having to run from her home because her deranged stepmother was trying to kill her. think people. that was all i was saying. think.
maybe at 5 i was a budding political activist or maybe i was just paying attention to the world around me. the women i grew up with were stay at home moms blue collar workers white collar workers and others just hustled but they all had basic survival skills. married singled widowed or divorced they didn’t sit around waiting on anybody to save them (other than Jesus). they made the bacon cooked it cleaned up and went out and did it all again. i just didn’t have any examples of women just lying down and taking life any kind of way. i couldn’t imagine that somewhere on planet earth there existed a woman who would eat whatever was feed her without wondering who prepared it. and no woman i knew would willingly put her family in danger. for. anything. so i just couldn’t buy into the role the grimms feed me about submissive vulnerability. i also couldn’t get into the knight in shining armor thing. i mean really who would want the responsibility of knowingly becoming someone else’s every.thing.
how do you raise a boy to become a man who has to ride in on a white horse and rescue some stupid chick from a doom she was only a half of a positive choice away from avoiding. seriously how many men would sign up for some crap like that. what kind of man would knowingly go into a relationship with someone who needs him for everything. someone who would be incapable of making any choice on her own without certain doom falling on her. what man would want a woman that purposely helpless. the thought of it baffled me. even as a child. and it still does. i mean isn’t that what series like twilight and 50 shades are about.
even though the women (and i use the term loosely given the youth of the protagonists) in those stories have a little bit more gumption than the princesses of old they still have to be rescued in order to live and become their better selves. for the most part they don’t even try to figure it out on their own. and the men in the stories require the conscious helplessness in order to be better men. but neither the female nor the male are granted full rights of humanhood (which i guess is moot in the twilight series cause they’re all vampires). at any rate the bottom line is it is all a set up.
romanticized love as it is portrayed in media is a set up. even a 5 year old can see that and it doesn’t mean she’s being cynical just that she’s paying attention.
women are complex individuals. men are complex individuals. as much as we love to screen and ascribe type to one another no cosmo quiz is ever going to give you the keys to a man’s heart. only he can do that and no fairy tale no matter how saucy the sex scenes will help unveil for you the secrets of love everlasting you actually have to love to figure that out.
i’ve loved. i’ve lost. and i’ve loved again and lost again. and even if i never leap onto the back of white horse to ride off into the sunset with a knight (mostly because horseback riding hurts my back and you can’t really hug armor) i would love again. because i’m a woman and i’m complicated and love in the real world is the point.
so i’ll tell it to you just like i told it to my 3rd grade teacher who absolutely could not believe that an 8 year old could have a philosophy on romance, ‘kissing ain’t love and kissing ain’t gon wake nobody up who really want to be sleep but love will.’
it’s the only thing that ever has.
next week: my beef with barbie.