Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Note on Princess Culture & Love

A Twitter update from a friend of mine brought to my attention a quote which struck me immediately and has been on my mind ever since:

"There are so many girls, and so few princes."

First, the most shocking thing to me is that such a quote came from Liza Minelli, who is not someone I would consider to be a font of notable quotables. The irony of such a quote coming from Ms. Minnelli--herself married and divorced FOUR times over--did not fall upon deaf ears. Her four divorces were to blame on the gentlemen's lack of princely qualities; in no way were her own actions to blame. Princesses are divine, infallible, beautiful, and perfect in every relevant way.

Such is the attitude many girls are raised with: You are special, you are perfect, you can do no wrong, you deserve perfection from whomever you come across and should accept no less. If mistakes are made, someone else is to blame. If poor decisions are made, it was a learning experience and no big deal; someone else led her to do it. And so forth, ad infinitum.

There are no shortage of articles and public sentiment that girls are flooded with unrealistic expectations for appearance, what with uber-svelte movie stars and models making the nut and being adored. I don't disagree that these images are damaging to the confidence, psyche, and emotional development of young girls.

What seems to go under-reported is the fact that young girls are force-fed preposterous ideas of love and relationships. Movies, television, and books all tell girls that they each deserve a perfect man: charming, smart, funny, rich, respectable, honorable and, most importantly, exceedingly handsome. Parents exacerbate these expectations by telling their little princesses that they deserve no less than perfection from a man (or woman) and should not settle for less.

How can you expect your daughter to find happiness when you keep telling her no one is good enough for her? When you encourage her to set her bar so high as to reject people out-of-hand?

But who really deserves perfection? We are all imperfect creatures. Sure, in the throes of love, we will often whisper to our partners "you are perfect in every way" either 1) because we mean it or 2) desperately seek some carnal satisfaction (or some melding of both). But do we mean it? When your partner leaves a wet towel laying on the bed all day and the comforter is soaked for bedtime, is that a perfect act? When your partner spends hours cooking your favorite meal and you go out with friends and eat there instead, is that perfect?

Of course not, and we are all guilty of such transgressions from time to time. Even the most loving, successful relationships I know of occasionally suffer the painful silent treatments and cold shoulders and hurt feelings. It is a byproduct of two imperfect creatures in an imperfect world trying to be together: occasionally conflicts arise.

To me it is preposterous for girls to be raised thinking if their man (or woman) doesn't do something exceptionally romantic almost daily, they are being taken for granted. If their partner snaps at them for no reason once in a blue moon, they are not loved. If their partner isn't the physical Adonis seen on US Weekly, they are undeserving and unworthy.

I would like to point out here that boys are subjected to similar unrealistic expectations in love, and in areas such as bravery: if you're a boy and you don't handle a situation like Bruce Willis, then you're not a man. If you'd rather talk out your issues than fight them out, you're weak. If you show emotion, you're a sissy. Equally unrealistic standards are applied.

So I guess Liz Taylor "princessed" Ms. Minnelli into this hyper-perfection orientation that leads her to believe all women are great and most men are undeserving slags. Ms. Taylor is notoriously poor at staying married, as well; that apple didn't fall far from the tree. Maybe if they had looked more at inner qualities, kindness, compatibility, etc. instead of power and money, there wouldn't be more than 10 failed marriages between them.

You are not perfect. I am not perfect. But that doesn't mean we're not right for each other. Doesn't mean we can't have the real-world equivalent of romantic comedies and love stories. In this sometimes cruel and hardscrabble world, you are lucky to be there with someone you like.

And what about us poor guys, sentenced to a life of bumps and bruises inflicted by women who think we are all scoundrels if we make so much as one or two very minor mistakes? When people come into a relationship expecting the other person to let them down, a bad foundation is set forth. Could this be a contributing factor to the outrageous divorce rate in our nation? I'm not saying it is, but I believe there's some connection.

Besides: how insane is it for a woman to expect to get by with murder and be imperfect, yet still expect her man to be perfect at all times? How unfair.

This may sound like a whining diatribe, and if it does, I don't care. I'm just reporting what I see unfolding in the world around me.

For a closing thought, I'll leave you with a quote from Woody Allen's "Whatever Works", that splendidly sums up a realistic and touchingly sweet take on happiness...

"That's why I can't say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works. And don't kid yourself. Because its by no means up to your own human ingenuity. A bigger part of your existence is luck, than you'd like to admit. Christ, you know the odds of your fathers one sperm from the billions, finding the single egg that made you. Don't think about it, you'll have a panic attack."