Saturday, July 19, 2014
Does the Princess Ever Get it Wrong?
His employees seem genuinely frightened of him, walking on eggshells to stay on the better side of his moodiness. His anger is like fireworks-big and loud and explosive. He has a room in his house that is basically trashed from all the times he's broken stuff in it.
And yet, imagine my dear friend asking me if I think she can change him by her friendship. She believes that her gentle kindness, general charm, and patient boundary-setting with this guy can change him from an angry, surly person into the man of her dreams. She's a smart, ambitious girl who loves to read, loves her family, and has dreams of travel. Her cheerful optimism about all this would be inspiring if it didn't seem so misguided.
And doesn't it seem misguided to you? I mean, what would your advice be to someone for whom you wanted only good things and the best chances for relationship happiness? Mine: I tell her to let the man do the hard work of some serious therapy. Let him deal with those anger issues without slapping a flimsy band-aide of a new relationship on it. Life will get stormy and band-aides don't stick when they're wet. You can convince yourself that the anger will never be directed at you, but so did all the battered women out there. They are brokenhearted to discover they love a man who is too broken to love them back.
Why embrace that kind of misery when you still have the option not to? Doesn't it seem like a better ride to hitch your wagon to a star not likely to burn you up in its unresolved fury?
Unless, of course, your name is Belle.
In that case, sweet Disney princess of enduring appeal, by all means, stay with a beast of a man because unlike all of us women in real life, your kind charm really does have the power to transform him to someone extraordinary. Not an encounter with God, work with a qualified therapist or counselor, not a personal journey toward peace and anger resolution. No, none of that. You, by your very nature, are absolutely enough to transform a violent angry man into an extraordinary one. At least, you'll know he's something special because you'll have such great physical chemistry, even your first kiss will seem magical. Everyone knows you can guarantee yourself a healthy, functional relationship if someone's a great kisser, right?
Well, if your name is Belle.
Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale. Just like we know that fairies aren't real, maybe we need to acknowledge that neither are most of the conclusions fairy tales ask us to draw about the world.
But if you watched this narrative more times than you can remember from the time you were too young to understand it til the time you had your first crush on a boy, don't you think some of the ideas might just settle into a reassuring place of familiarity that felt like truth?
Do you know any smart, ambitious girls who seem kind of misguided about the way relationships work? Do you know anybody who believes she can change others? I know we can influence each other, but genuine, sustainable growth comes from just that: growth.
I'm wondering if when we catch ourselves hoping to be the sun, rain, soil and time to affect all that growth in someone else, we might need to ask ourselves if a little bit of the tale found its way into our truth, too.
at 12:59 PM