The Cinderella Love Lie
Phoebe sat, staring numbly at the wall. This was not how she imagined things would be six months ago.
Phoebe didn't have the greatest home life. Actually, you could define it as mildly dysfunctional. Her parents fought constantly, and money was always an issue. Phoebe used to lock herself in her room, hide under the covers and dream of when she would get married and have her own home. And when she met Justin, she just knew that she had found the man with whom she could finally be happy.
Justin and Phoebe dated for three weeks. Two and a half months later they were married.
And six months later, Phoebe found herself on her bed, staring at the wall and wondering what happened.
Why wasn't marriage everything she thought it would be?
Why did her dreams shatter?
The answer is that Phoebe fell for a Hollywood Love Lie. The Cinderella Love Lie - Love Solves Problems.
I know, everyone loves Disney. So do I. But let's try to think objectively for a minute about precisely what message is being communicated to us and to our children through these fairy tales that we all grew up with.
Do you remember the plotline for Cinderella? Just to review, after Cinderella's mother dies, her father remarries a cruel woman with two daughters. Things are okay until her father dies as well, whereupon Cinderella's (proverbially wicked) stepmother and stepsisters turn on her, forcing her to be a slave and servant in her own home. Meanwhile, the King has decided that it is time for the Prince to get married, and calls for all the eligible maidens in the land to attend a grand ball, where the Prince will choose his bride. Cinderella wants to go, and with the help of her mice friends, manages to sew a beautiful dress that her stepsisters promptly rip to shreds. In comes the fairy godmother who waves her wand and turns Cinderella into a beautiful princess with pumpkin coach, etc. but warns her that at midnight everything will go back to the way it was. Well, lo and behold, the prince dances with Cinderella to the exclusion of everyone else - until the clock strikes midnight and she runs for her life, leaving a glass slipper behind. The Prince refuses to consider marrying anyone else and wanders the kingdom, looking for the maiden whose foot fits the glass slipper. Eventually, to the shock of her stepmother and stepsisters, he finds Cinderella, and they - what else? - live happily ever after.
Now, I'm sorry to have to burst anybody's bubble, but basically what we have here is a persecuted heroine who, in order to escape her miserable home life, is willing to marry someone she knows absolutely nothing about other than the fact that he's rich and handsome. (As a side note, he knows absolutely nothing about her either, other than that she was gorgeous and a good dancer.) She is so desperate for happiness that she doesn't even bother to find out what kind of person he is! I mean, it's not as though royalty is a guarantee on personality. Is he kind? Is he good? Maybe he's a rich snob with uninhibited ambitions of power, and she's going to be more miserable living with him than she ever was with Drizella and Anastasia? (Yes, I know that the TV version had different names for the stepsisters, but I went the Disney route).
You might think I'm getting carried away. Come on, it's only a movie. But we were fed this stuff as kids, and today we're feeding it to our own kids. Even if you want to say that adults have the ability to differentiate between movies and real life - which is quite debatable - children most definitely do not. And the impressions we get as children are the strongest and most influential. Which means that, deep down, most of us are walking around dreaming of the love of our lives to come along and solve all of our problems so that we'll be able to live happily ever after. The tragedy is that, in a society with a 52% divorce rate, most people who go down that road are going to find themselves bitterly disappointed.
Just like Phoebe did.
Had Phoebe not fallen for the Cinderella lie, then maybe she would have realized that as nice as Justin is, he's not for her - and that marriage to him is not going to solve all of her problems. Would she have been disappointed? Maybe. But not as disappointed as she is now.
But do you know what the real tragedy is - for Phoebe and for the thousands of others like her? The real tragedy is that, had she held out and really looked for someone who was compatible with her, she would have still gotten out of her parents' home, just like she wanted. But it would have been to build a life based on mutual love and respect, not on a need for an escape. Had she not believed that love can solve your problems for you, she might have really found true happiness with a great guy. Unlike Cinderella - who, for your information, was willing to marry a guy who after spending an entire evening dancing with her couldn't even describe how she looked (all he had to go on was the glass slipper) - Phoebe could have left her painful past and headed toward a bright, loving, warm future that would have really been a dream come true.
So, please - if you or anyone you know is looking for love as a way out - don't make the same mistake that Cinderella (and Phoebe) did. If you really want to experience "happily ever after," make sure that you put a lot more thought into whom you marry than their shoe size, or their build, or the fact that you're in a bad place and you want to get out. If you do that, then you'll be much more assured of living the greatest love story ever told...for you.
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