Saturday, March 25, 2006

Searching for Prince Charming... the Cinderella Complex or "Does Happily Ever After" really Exist?

Every one wants to be swept off their feet by love, romance and all that goes with it. Little girls typically dream of their wedding day to that handsome Prince Charming. The Fairytales are obsessed with it. The idea of finding love permeates literature throughout the ages. So what is it about the "Cinderella complex" as I call it, that so fascinates us, ok, me.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved the Cinderella story. We had a record (LP) with the illustrated book to accompany it. My mother was constantly nagged to "flip the record" as I was not young enough to do it myself. When she was tired of doing it, or too busy, I would content myself with looking at the pictures and reading the story to myself. Even today, I own 4 or 5 versions of this story on video; from the horrible musical version with Whitney and Brandi, to my favorite of all times, Ever After with Drew Barrymore.
I think it's more than the gorgeous dress or the handsome prince. I think it is an inner desire to be loved in a way that one never thought could be a reality for them. Cinderella is a girl/woman who is a servant, but lives a good life. She is fabulously rewarded for her long unjust years of service, by finding love. Not just any love, but fabulous everything she could possible dream of/want love. To be plucked from the drudgery of one's existence and placed in a life she never thought she could achieve on her own. That is the Cinderella complex, as I define it. To be "rescued" from the boring, dull existence and given a new hope. And Prince C. loves her for who she is. He sees through the peasant attire and sees her for what she is, and what she can be. (Irony is that he meets her at his ball when she is as she could be, but later discovers that she is not as she was presented, but determines that he loves her anyways.)
It seemed like the Cinderella story was a possible reality to achieve on July 29, 1981. My mother woke me up at 7 in the morning and I sat, glued to the TV, to see Lady Diana Spencer wed her prince. As we all know, this did not stay a happy ending. Not for her or for Fergie, although it seems to be working out for Sophie. But I think that is because Sophie was a different kind of woman. While Diana admits she was young and naive about her situation, as well both she and Fergie faced obstacles beyond their control, Sophie was independent in her own right, as she and Edward married when older. So what of the fact that Diana's, I mean when Cinderella's Prince is really a toad? What do we do with this?

As we have seen, the fairytale did not end happily for Diana. But seems that Prince C. did get his happy ending. Sometimes, the fairytale is orchestrated to put the pieces/characters that we think will work. As we have envisioned... but when the story is written wrong, or the characters are not matched properly we see disastrous results. I think it goes back to the expectations that we have for the "happy ending". When it turns out that Prince Charming is a toad, or Princess is a hag, it leads us to question whether "happily ever after" really exists, or do we just "stop reading the story"? (divorce)

There is a such a strong trend in this day and age towards "living together" versus marriage. Friends tell me it is better than marriage. With marriage, you can't throw them out out of the house when you want. But I wonder at the lack of commitment,decline in marriage. As the divorce rates escalate, we see that people are scared to get married for the emotional and financial drain it will have on them. What they don't tell you in the fairytale is what "happily ever after" looks like. It's not all easy street from the altar. It's hard work, compromise, communication... children, stress, laughter, joy, ...
One last comment related to the expectations of "happily ever after". We search for "Mr. or Ms Right" but do we sometimes not see them as such? or do we settle for "Right Now"? Are our expectations about the perfection of the "happily ever after" and Prince/ss Charming too high? What of those who never seem to find the "one" while others seem to be Lucky in love at an earlier stage in life than the rest of their friends? Why do we think we need someone else to complete us?

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