Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Being Rescued By One True Love Is Not A Bad Thing

I read an interview the other day, in which some highly successful woman talked about how she didn't let daughter hear fairy tales because it was terrible for a little girl to grow up thinking all she could do was wait for a man to come rescue her.

The message, as I take it, is: Don't just sit around waiting for someone else to change your life. Be independent. Have dreams. Achieve them yourself. Live your best life. And if love comes along, sure, fine, embrace that too. But don't wait for it to rescue you.

That's not unwise advice, at some level. One should not actively refuse to live and to better oneself out of hopes that somehow love will come descending like a cherub and transform your life.

And yet, to voice that objection to fairy tales strikes me as misunderstanding fairy tales. Cinderella is not passing up job offers or scholarships to clean house, waiting mousily for love to come and rescue her. She is, like many of the young people in fairy tales, dealt a very poor hand: her mother dead, her father remarried to a cruel woman, then her father dead. Trapped in a dead end job, she does the best that she can by being as virtuous as she can, by returning good for evil.

That a fairy godmother sends her to the ball where she attracts the attention of the prince is in some sense simply an externalization of a basically moral point: even in a bad situation, it is more rewarding to be good than succumb to evil.

None of us will be given the chance to marry royalty, perhaps, and swept away a life of wealth and ease. Yet if we do find someone to love, and who loves us, it can be one of the brighter points in life.

Indeed, it's even worth giving up a fair amount of that dream chasing in order to be with the person you love and provide for the chance for your love to be fruitful.

One of the first things I did when we decided to get married was drop all the ideas I'd talked about concerning a creating career and get a job that paid bills. I don't regret that a bit. The dreams I'd toyed with, of trying to be a professional novelist or breaking into film, were nothing compared to a life with my wife and our children.

And even within that more practical way of life, one makes choices for family rather than ambition or dreams. I turned down a job prospect this week, a prospect that would have meant a raise and a company that put a lot more emphasis on the kind of analytical work that I do, but would have meant moving our family to another city, tearing up roots and moving away from friends. There's a slight wistfulness to such decisions, but it's not something I regret. The fact is, my career does not consist of following my dreams. I work my career in order to pay for the welfare of my family. And that love -- of spouse, of children -- is a far greater thing than all the self striving I could ever do.

Why shouldn't fairy tales end with finding love? My beloved is, after all, the best thing that has ever happened to me. What better happy ending will we find?


Agnes said...

The widespread modern objection you quote an be interpreted in two different ways: 1. The girl/heroine is passive and the guy/hero is who does all the action saving her; 2. the means for the protagonists to achieve happiness is romantic love (rather than action/career/adventure). As for the first part, I'd rather say it's better to listen to/read as many fairy tales as one can, instead of just one or two most popular ones. There are plenty of fairy tales with girl heroines (the girl who redeems her brothers turned into swans by weaving shirts of nettle while she is obligated to keep silent is one example; Beauty and the Beast another). as for the other part, I completely agree with Darwin - if someone has experienced this sort of committed love relationship with a spouse and the relationships of a loving family, they will know it is of a higher priority than career and being independent and asserting oneself. Or, at least, the positive values in making and following dreams and self-realization are not contrary/mutually exclusive to finding and working on love relationships within one's family.

Wayne Johnson said...

I wonder if part of the reason modern society is so opposed to the idea of being 'saved by love' is that forsaking a lifetime goal (a career or similar) only makes sense if the new goal (love) has lifetime benefits and consequences. It makes no sense to give up a 30 year career for a 'relationship' that will not last a year. Modern society (or at least the artistic and media representation thereof) does not want to admit that love can actually involve a lifetime commitment and lifetime benefits. If love is for life, how do you justify divorce? If love has lifetime benefits, then profligacy starts to look like a bad idea. The current artistic and media representation of society does not want to admit any of these facts, so they can't allow people to consider love a lifetime investment.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

As I read I can't help but thinking how the fairy tale trope of the woman saved from a hard life of injustice and drudgery by the one true love can also be read as a Christian allegory. Christ is the prince and all of us are undeserving of the reward of life in the mansion of heaven. And yet, there we are, unable to help ourselves and there he is rescuing us anyway.