I used to perform as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty at birthday parties for little girls. Something about re-telling the stories to these young impressionable females got to me, and one day I just couldn't do it anymore. The high budget films they watch repeatedly are far more influential to them, but I still didn't want to be part of the problem. We teach little girls that something magical happens when they fall in love. The monster can be tamed ("Beauty and the Beast"), the dead can rise from the grave ("Snow White," "Sleeping Beauty"), the poor destitute girl can become a princess ("Cinderella") and all the evils of the world can be overcome. After all, don't all fairy tales end with the phrase, "Happily ever after?"
Reality and fantasy are worlds apart, yet the fantasy remains firmly entrenched into our cultural psyche. Every culture has myths and stories, an idealized vision of reality, where good deeds are rewarded and evil-doers are punished. The adult equivalents of fairy tales are films, television, books and stories about celebrities.
One movie that I couldn't even stomach when I was a teenager was the blockbuster and award-winning "Pretty Woman," in which a street-walker captivates and wins the heart of a wealthy businessman (a total farce of epic proportions, as in reality, no conversations would occur beyond basics for the transaction and the sex would happen in a car, an alley, or an hourly rate motel, not a luxury suite). Yet as far-fetched as this film's premise was, it became an international sensation. Something about us wants to believe in a story so ridiculous. The message of the myth is: if you are pretty enough, sweet enough and sexually skilled, you can overcome your socioeconomic background and marry a wealthy man despite the odds. And of course this does happen, but how often? I call it "the myth of the magic vagina."
Not only can a magic vagina get you wealth and security, but it can also turn a bad boy good. For instance, the motorcycle mechanic Jesse James repeatedly cheated on his movie star wife Sandra Bullock with multiple random women. Yet his latest fiancée, Kat Von D, somehow thought that even though he has cheated on every other woman in his life, she would somehow be the exception. Was anyone shocked when she was not?
A serial cheater will inevitably blame the woman he cheated on:
- She didn't understand me
- She is not there for me emotionally
- She was too concerned about her career
All of these reasons lead to the end result of his penis finding a new woman. And yet, he was able to convince a new partner that "this time, things will be different." A good rule of thumb I try to follow is the following:
"If he is trash-talking all the women who came before you, you will be next on the list."
I have been guilty of breaking this rule. Not so much with serial cheaters, but with emotionally unavailable men. If I just give him enough time he will come around, he is just scared, wounded, and on and on. Nonsense. He is just emotionally unavailable and he will remain emotionally unavailable until he decides to change, and he may never change. The bad behavior will continue no matter what woman is in his life. The same goes for substance abuse. An addict will only get clean when they themselves decide to do so. The bottle or drugs will always win over sex, romance, children, careers -- even financial stability.
Many of us have gone through it or at least known a friend who has tried and failed at the same quest, who thinks:
- I can change him
- He is misunderstood
- He really loves me deep down
- He understands me, when no one else has
The reality is we are all broken people with flaws and faults. People should be taken as they are, and not as the subject of your next attempted metamorphosis. Sexual prowess will not convert him, your never-dying devotion will not turn him around, nothing will change the man he is fundamentally. Taking care of his every whim, desire and need will only enable him to treat you worse. A good manipulator will play into this myth and convince you that you are indeed the one who will cause his transformation.
Although the vagina is a beautiful and wonderful thing capable of sexual pleasure and the beginning of new life, it cannot transform anyone. The only person who can understand the conflicting emotions and self-destruction is the person self-destructing, and even they have trouble understanding their own behavior -- that is why we have therapists.
Now I am not advocating for telling little girls only harsh fairy tales like "The Little Matchbook Girl," in which a poor abused child dies of exposure. Nor would I recommend reading from the crime section of the newspaper for bedtime stories. But can't we get past the fantasies once we grow up and realize that the only person we can truly change is ourselves? As women, we have to take responsibility for getting caught up in the myth, bad boys can only survive and thrive if we keep encouraging them.