Fairy tales are the biggest lies we are told as children. From Snow White to Cinderella to the Frog Prince, the Brothers Grimm filled our heads with stories meant to teach moral lessons about honesty, charity, and tolerance. As girls listening to the stories we learned entirely different lessons about helplessness and the importance of waiting on a man to save you.
From day one I couldn’t stomach those stories. I didn’t see myself in any of them. And it wasn’t about being black and not having proper African-American representation in Disney movies either.
I didn’t believe in Cinderella. I didn’t believe in Sleeping Beauty. And I could not identify with Rapunzel. Not because they were white but because they were pitiful.
For Women’s History Month I’ve been spending some time writing about the lies we’ve been sold as women (to read more in the series click here and here). These lies were created to package our happiness into consumable bites that can be marketed in 30 second slots.
The biggest and most offensive lie, little girls are told is that their ‘happily ever after‘ is directly tied to a man. Billions of dollars are spent every year to perpetuate this very idea.
Did you know Disney Princesses are a multi-billion dollar market? That’s $1,000,000,000 times an indeterminate number. Dressing your baby girl head to toe in the latest Disney Princess rage (Beauty) has a starting price tag of $45 per costume adds to their profit margin but may lower her self-esteem margin. It seems innocent enough, that yellow dress, but the message it reinforces can take a lifetime for some of us to overcome.
Consider the fact that women are more likely than men to purchase online dating services, thereby helping fuel a 2 billion dollar a year industry. So that small seed planted with a bedtime story grows into a forest watered by desperation and the illusion that ‘I alone am not enough. That I alone cannot live happily ever after.’
Well…I call bullshit.
No One is Coming to Save You
My father was not someone you would have called wise. He made his mistakes. Owned his mistakes. And when he ran out of mistakes to make he recreated adventures to replay old ones.
He was, in truth, a live and let live kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong he had strong opinions but they were most focused on things like science fiction, movies, comics, music, and whether or not a steak should be well done or left rare.
And yet for me, his first-born baby girl, he was very clear about one thing:
You have to learn to depend on yourself.
When I was about 7 years old, Daddy took me to see Sleeping Beauty. He didn’t want to take me to see Sleeping Beauty. I think that both he and I resented the fact that we were in the movies watching the Disney ‘fresh out of the vault’ 1954 animated film. But my mother had banned us from going to see movies like Saturday Night Fever, and with the Star Wars sequel not even being filmed yet, we were stuck with Princess Aurora.
We were watching the movie, bored out of our minds, when the unnamed prince shows up, kisses Aurora, and suddenly all is right with the world. That’s when Daddy leaned over and loud whispers in my ear, “Don’t wait on nobody to come save you. Ever.”
I was 7 but even I knew he was speaking truth to power.
In my eyes Princess Aurora was a punk.
I wanted to be a real princess. A warrior princess like Princess Leia. Princess Leia wasn’t no punk. She was not a “damsel in distress” waiting on a knight to gift her a happy ending.
I’d watch Princess Leia stand up to big bad Darth Vader. I’d seen her cry when the Empire blew up her planet. And I watched her push Han Solo out of the way so that she could go about the business of managing a revolution.
From the moment I laid eyes on her, I was resolved that she was the kind of princess I wanted to be. Watching her confirmed for me that Disney and the Brothers Grimm had been lying to me all along. In order to be happy I didn’t need a knight in shining armor to sweep in and save the day.
I needed to learn how to save myself.
Love is an Act of Rebellion
The problem with the ‘happily ever after’ bill of sales we’ve been sold is that it only comes in one size. And the size it comes in isn’t a proper fit for anyone.
40-50% of married couples in America divorce. Does the fact that 40-50% marriages end in divorce mean divorcees are bereft of a ‘happily ever after‘?
The answer, of course, is hell naw.
In 2017, American women are aware that their ‘happily ever after‘ is not a matter of finding and marrying Mr. Right. There are women living in America right now who live single, by choice, all their adult lives with plenty of ‘happily ever after‘ just as there are women who found their ‘happily ever after‘ as wife.
The problem with this lie, that as a woman you are helpless and must have a man come save you to be happy, is that it’s masked as a universal truth. And as a society we have accepted it as the standard toward which every women should strive.
But what if your happily ever after is a career where you feel you make a difference? What if your happily ever after is a community garden where you get to play in the dirt daily? What if your happily ever after is decorating bathroom cozies?
Loving yourself properly requires that you say no, I don’t have to live by the standard society has set for me. Loving yourself properly means you reject the illusion that you along are less than enough.
Loving yourself properly means you don’t take your hard-earned money to buy things that make you feel like shit. Loving yourself properly means you walk away from conversations that make you question every single move you’ve ever made in your life.
You deserve the ‘happily ever after‘ you pick.
Here’s the thing buttercup, picking your ‘happily ever after‘, is an act of rebellion.
Welcome to the revolution, princess!