A friend just sent me this post "Girls, pick your bedtime reading with care" by Samantha Ellis. Jane Austen has had a tremendous impact on my idea of love, romance and "happily ever after." Add to that all the Disney movies I watched about Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmin, Sleeping Beauty, etc. (you can even take a quiz "Which Disney Princess are You?"), and I was pretty much doomed to believe in fairy tales. It probably didn't help that I majored in English and loved medieval lit. And yes, momma put me in a pageant. Once. I only did it once and decided I wanted to use my brain rather than my...uh...other parts.
Ellis talks about the books and heroines that influenced her, the women in the stories that became her role models -- from Scarlett O'Hara (Gone with the Wind) to Jane Eyre to Cathy Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights). She even mentions the Little Mermaid who "exchanges her voice for legs to get a man". Wow, never thought about it THAT way.
Did Ellis choose the right role models? Did I? Did you? In some ways, the stories (whether on the page or silver screen) taught me to believe in perfect men, perfect love and perfect lives (as least, after you get married, right?) as well as to favor the wild, unpredictable Lancelot over good King Arthur. Time to grow up and get real. Would I marry Lancelot now? Not a chance.
What I've learned over the years is that the women I admire most are not headstrong heroines or beautiful princesses, but rather women who work hard, never give up, love their families, serve their communities and the poor, and are incredible friends and mothers. (See my posts on "Women you won't see in the Hall of Fame" and "Here's to all the Mommas".) Maybe that's why I like the fairy tale Shrek, because Fiona chooses to be an ogre raising kids in a swamp rather than a princess taking tea in a castle. Now that's an interesting twist. Do we really need more princesses? Most days, my life sure feels more like the swamp, but I wouldn't have it any other way.