Monday, October 14, 2013

Love in the 21st Century

I wrote most of the following when I was 21 years old, around the same time that I wrote my article about what I learned from Disney about love. This one kind of goes a little deeper branching off of those ideas that were implanted in my mind during a young age. I'm sharing this now because I don't want a lot of other girls out there to get their hopes up about love. Sometimes, very rarely, it's like the movies or like books. But most of the time shit just doesn't work out the way you were taught that it would.

First, love is kind of bi-polar. It's like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There's a romantic side (Jekyll) where all those lovey-dovey, butterfly-in-the-stomach feelings reside. Then there's the lustful side (Hyde) where the passion and sex comes into play. Unfortunately ladies you can't have one without the other. Especially since society teaches men that it's okay to sleep around, but if you do it you're a "slut". Anyway, completely different argument for a completely different time. What I'm trying to say is that you can be a hopeless romantic (like I am) and think that everything happens for a reason, and soul mates are real. BUT there will always be that chemical attraction, the yearning desire for affection, and your significant other pestering you to take your clothes off. It's just true. It's there. Always. You can't really have one without the other. You can't have true love without sex (unless you've vowed to be abstinent), on the other hand, you CAN have sex without love (some people can anyway). I've never been one for separating the two, but there are some bachelors and bachelorettes out there who have no qualms about doing so. If you wanna live the player lifestyle that's your choice, but for the purpose of this article let's just say that the two are intertwined.

Second, when I was a little girl I was exposed to Disney movies, and Fairy Tales (not the ACTUAL ones by the Grimm Brothers either). I learned to believe in heterosexuality, that the knight or prince always rescues the princess or damsel in distress, there's always some sort of conflict or enemy that is overcome by the couple, everyone that's "good" is usually attractive, love at first sight is more important than getting to know somebody, and marriage means living "happily ever after" (because divorce or fighting are pretty much unheard of).

In Disney's "Snow White", a beautiful princess cleans up after seven dirty little men. Her enemy is the "Evil Queen" who is vain, and tries to poison her. In the end she marries a prince and lives Happily Ever After (even though he is arguably a necrophiliac). In Disney's "Beauty and the Beast", Belle isn't a princess but she IS expected to be both beautiful AND intelligent (hence, the reading while in public), and she's supposed to love her man no matter how beastly he acts and/or treats her (he keeps her in a dungeon for crying out loud!). In "Aladdin", Jasmine, a beautiful princess tries to escape a life of having to "marry a prince", only to fall in love with a street rat who (big surprise) tries to win her heart by acting like a prince. It's all about the money apparently. I guess Jasmine just couldn't be a strong ruler without a big hulking man to take over as Sultan. (By the way, I love the part when her father is playing with all of his little toys. He's so damn cute). In Disney's "Cinderella", a beautiful obedient step-daughter is chosen by the prince because a fairy-godmother makes her look awesome and she has glass shoes. Not only does Prince Charming have a fetish, but he's so god damn shallow. If he'd ever actually met Cinderella outside of the ball do you think he would've given her one glance? Nope. In Disney's "The Little Mermaid", Ariel (whose 16) and Eric (18), fall in love because she saved his life and sings to him. She can't speak most of the movie, and Eric doesn't apparently have any parents so I guess he's just kind of looking for someone to look after him, and he doesn't really care who it is (obviously, because Vanessa tries to take Ariel's spot). In "The Princess and the Frog", Disney introduces the first black princess, who doesn't start off as a princess either (like Belle, Cinderella, Mulan etc.) Big surprise, she likes to cook, because apparently the white men that run Disney believe that a well-rounded woman and house-wife should be well versed in the art of cooking. However, Tiana's prince is NOT a white guy, he's a tall, dark, and handsome foreigner named Naveen (or something like that?). Anyway, after all the years of white, rich men, controlling Disney princesses, they STILL don't want to see an interracial couple (that's why they're frogs the whole movie) - but inter-species doesn't matter apparently because Ariel was a fish and Eric was a human. Next, Aurora or Sleeping Beauty from Disney's "Sleeping Beauty", well - she's a princess too. She's beautiful, she sleeps through most of the movie, and the love of her life just "happens" to be her long lost betrothed. By the way, he fights dragons, is super gorgeous, and he'll make out with you while you're pretty much dead. Lastly, Rapunzel from Disney's "Tangled", although I love the movie, it basically revolves around her attractiveness and desirability because of her fricken hair. Yep, her hair is magical and long and beautiful. It can make ugly old women look like beautiful dames again. And while Rapunzel falls for the "bad boy" thief, in the end her love can change him into a perfectly acceptable human being. Don't we all wish as much from our "bad boy" heart throbs? Don't get your hopes up ladies...Boys will only change IF they want to. You CANNOT save them or force them to change. Trust me, I know from experience. I dated a guy for three years and I thought I could literally turn him into my prince charming. But sometimes, a guy is just a frog. And that's all he will ever be.

The only Disney movie (which I also happened to enjoy) that kind of redeemed itself after all the misogyny and racism, was "Enchanted". Part real life, part animation, Giselle is not a princess. She almost becomes a princess, but she doesn't end up with the prince *spoiler*. She ends up with the (very attractive) Patrick Dempsey, who just happens to be dating someone else, but he is a widow (I think?) and has a daughter. Dr. McDreamy teaches Giselle that there is more to love than just "love at first sight", he tells her about the world of actual DATING. So by the time her prince arrives in town she actually goes ON a real date with him in New York (or wherever they are).FINALLY, a Disney fairytale that seems more than just fantasy.

But it's not just Disney movies or fairy tales or animated cartoons that can give you false expectations. Just as guys can learn false expectations from watching porn, we girls can learn it from watching too many romantic comedies or "chick flicks". Most of these types of movies follow the same storyline. First, boy and girl meet. Second, they either fall in love at first sight, or can't stand each other (so they think). Third, they usually are faced with a conflict. Fourth, the conflict is overcome or all is forgiven and they live happily ever after. An example? The most famous love story of all time: Romeo and Juliet (by Shakespeare). First, R & J meet at the masquerade ball. Second, they fall in love at first sight (even though their families are sworn enemies). Third, rather than run away they have this whole thing where she fakes her death, then he dies, then she wakes up and kills herself. Either way, this leads to part four: they end up together in the afterlife (presumably) because they're both star-crossed lovers in the end.

For a more current example, I'll use The Notebook movie (novel by Nicholas Sparks). First, Noah & Ally meet at a carnival. Second, they have a summer romance. Third, she leaves and never gets any of the letters he writes. Fourth, eventually they find their way back to each other *spoiler* they even die together. At least with The Notebook, Noah and Ally are shown fighting quite frequently. That IS realistic. The unrealistic part of it is that not every fight will bring people back together again. Sometimes when a fight is over, it's really over. I mean done. I mean there's no epic reunion, you're just broken up and it's awkward. The Notebook also points out a very serious illness (Alzheimer's Disease), which is also realistic. True love does not always last forever, especially when one person forgets who the other person is. And while yes, sometimes fragments might come back to them, chances are you won't get to say your parting goodbyes at the same time and then gently drift off to sleep forever. Life (and death) don't really work like that, sorry Sparks' fans.

A few other expectations that I learned (from romantic movies/books) while I was growing up are listed below:

#1 Your first kiss should be spontaneous and perfect, a "foot popping" experience (example: The Princess Diaries)

Reality - it's wet and awkward and you have no idea what the hell you're doing. Plus, it could be with someone who is totally not the right one for you. You're first kiss will probably NOT be your last though, so with a lot of practice and even more heart breaks expect to be kissing a lot of lips.

#2 Your "first time" should be well planned, special, and have music, roses, etc. (example: Valentine's Day)

Reality - it's unpleasant, even painful, awkward, and risky. Even though the movies don't take the time to show you this little thing called birth control, you CAN get pregnant the first time you have sex. And chances are your "first time" won't be around to help you through all the bad stuff. Protect yourself, before you wreck yourself. And don't be surprised to find out you're just a "booty call", people LIE. Just because they say "I love you" doesn't mean that they really mean it. He probably won't stay the night, he might not even stay right afterwards, and chances are he'll probably never call you again. So even if it ends up being nothing "special", just make sure you choose someone you care about and trust because if you don't then your "first time" could haunt you forever.

#3 Marriage means "Happily-Ever-After" (example: almost every Disney Princess movie)

Reality - 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and it's still illegal in most of the U.S. for gay couples to get married (whatever happened to separation between church and state?). The reality is that society focuses so much on the wedding itself and forgets about the point of marriage: companionship. The wedding industry makes billions of dollars off hapless couples when most of them don't even stay together in the end anyway. Marriage is not a fairy tale children, it takes a lot of hard work and commitment. If you love someone you have to work at it everyday - a ring or a piece of paper isn't going to be enough to keep you together.

While there are so many things that society teaches us are "important" or "real" when it comes to love, there is only one thing that I can say remains true after everything: you never forget you're first love. "Firsts" in general are a big deal to us humans (first steps, first words, first day of school, first tooth etc), we store them in our brains even if we don't really want to, even if we try to forget. Someday, without even planning on it, you'll think about your first love and wonder how their life turned out. They'll pop up randomly from time to time, always reminding you of what you had when you were younger and what you could've had if things had worked out differently. For a long time you might try to forget or bury your memories away, but eventually you'll look back and you'll learn not to make the same mistakes now that you're older and wiser. 

The truth is, some people will spend their whole lives being in love with the IDEA of love (because of what they see in the movies or what they read). But if you're always wishing that someone could be more romantic, more like Edward Cullen, or more like that dude from 50 Shades of Grey, then you're wasting your time. You're never going to find someone like that. You're in love with a fictional character, and that's the truth about fiction: it isn't real. Real people have issues, baggage, and emotions. They never say the right things or stop you from leaving. Humans are a very proud species. But if you spend you're whole life believing in fairy tales then you'll never experience anything. Life sucks and people will hurt you, but there's no happily-ever-after served to you on a silver platter. If you want your prince charming or your princess than you have to learn to compromise, to see people for who they truly are, and you have to suffer through a lot of pain and bullshit. I'm not saying that you should toss away your copy of Snow White, or burn your edition of the Notebook - just don't have such high expectations is all. You will find the perfect person eventually. But the perfect person for you is going to have imperfections. The only thing to do now is to hold on to what you have and enjoy the rest of your own story as it unfolds.

No comments:

Post a Comment