October 15, 2013

Does Your Happily-Ever-After Begin With Prince Charming?

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What is the issue?
linh.ngan
linh.ngan

As women, culture (and especially its narrative, with fairy tales and romantic comedies) restricts the options we have as to how we live our lives.

We can only love our boyfriends, husbands, children. We can only love our families, our friends, our communities.

We have to give our hearts to other people, people that aren’t ourselves, people, very specific people, not just the human race in general.

It is true that love, the kind of love our society encourages for women, enhances us. Love makes every human, not just women, be a better person. But love towards others is not the only place where our hearts can belong.

Outside, there is a huge world to discover.

There are millions of different opinions to hear, some are the very opposite of what we hold true, and they challenge our dearest notions of what is right and wrong. Some are echoes of what we think made different by slight nuances and small details we wouldn’t have thought of ourselves, and that add unprecedented depth to what you already knew.

There are thousands and thousands of works of art to experiment. They are different traces left by human beings that lived in very different circumstances. They are voices speaking about a reality that will never repeat itself again in the same way, and that is why they are a treasure of immense value.

There are pieces of truth scattered all over the planet, hidden in unexpected places, or held in plain view, but yet ignored – ignored by many who walk past them because they have to hurry and get things done before deadlines stop being threats and start actually punishing the procrastinators.

All of that is out there for us to discover… And what are we doing, women? What are we doing, girls? We are living in a very restricted bubble that doesn’t let us see past our petty concerns. We are wondering if that guy will call back – it was a nice date, wasn’t it? Did he like me? Did I say something wrong? Or we are pining over our exes, as if those who couldn’t love us the way we needed deserve to be in our thoughts any longer. We are getting lost in the daunting forests of drama among friends. We are getting sad because our peers are getting married and having babies, and we feel left out, here, patiently waiting for our turn, for Prince Charming to come in his shining armour and save us from spinsterhood. We fail to see that there is a lot more to us than being the best wife, the best mother, the best friend. We are failing to see that the universe has a bigger plan for us out there, bigger than just falling in love, we are failing to see that there are hundreds of ways to grow and discover yourself, and being a mother and wife are just two from this panoply of paths we can follow in order to find our purpose, our meaning.

The image of the spinster is one that evokes sadness, as if she were tragically and irrevocably incomplete. As if she were a mere leftover from a feast with more delicious dishes to offer. Why doesn’t the image of the bachelor evoke the same kind of emotion? The answer is this: Because culture allows men to experiment the world in all its splendor in the same way that it banishes women from it.

The truth is, listening to classical music for the first time can be just as gratifying as a thrilling first kiss. Having the experience of understanding the native language of someone who was born far, far away from your hometown can make you feel just as accomplished as being a stellar wife. Reading philosophy books and discovering truths we hadn’t even dreamt of can make us feel the same butterflies in our stomachs that we get when we are in the most exciting part of the roller coaster that is falling in love.

And the best part is that, as long as we exist, the world will be there for us to discover. Specific people come and go, no matter how hard you dedicate yourself to them. Even if they remain loyal to you, there is always death separating us at unexpected turns.

That’s why I feel sort of childish when I think how obsessed we are when it comes to finding the love of our lives. It’s such an obsession that it blinds us from all the wonderful things we have yet to discover.

Although it’s not entirely our fault. Culture sets women up to be princesses waiting for their princes, and only after they find them can they live happily every after… Or can we start to build our happy endings before love comes to our doors? TC mark

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