The Princess Paradigm
My wedding was a disaster from start to finish. If I had it to do all over again, I would have said my vows at city hall and used the money to add another week to our amazing, but all too brief European honeymoon. When I look back, it's those days I remember with fondness. Memories of the actual wedding evoke only faint nausea and a lingering sense of dread.
Even those that go off without a hitch are often preceded by months of stress and upheaval. Sometimes it ruins friendships and strains family ties nearly to the breaking point. And beyond. People go into debt for weddings and the stress of such financial wrangling can make what should be a meaningful and joyous life experience, just another budgeting nightmare.
It's such a shame, really.
When did things get so over the top?
My parents' wedding reception was held in the church basement with crepe paper streamers, accordion wedding bells, and silver balloons. I still have them in a plastic bin, along with the guest book, the cake topper and the many cards they received. The church ladies prepared a buffet of finger foods, petit fors and ubiquitous cocktail wieners. That was the norm in 1965 and it was perfectly lovely. The wedding photos show a very happy and relaxed bride and a smug looking groom.
But now...there are themes and favors and bridal registers and place settings and designer gowns and "destination" weddings and gourmet meals and decor that would put a sultan to shame. It has become such a complicated and profligate undertaking that an entire profession has emerged out of the madness: Wedding Planner.
Why has this happened?
I blame the Princess Paradigm.
Somehow somewhere, the notion has arisen that being treated as a Princess; pampered, idolized with no purpose other than being pampered and idolized, her sole function allowing those beneath her to look upon her and wait upon her with slavish devotion and reverence; to pay homage to her very existence and carry out every whim...is the highest and most desirable plane to which a woman could possibly hope to elevate herself.
You've seen them in the grocery store. I know you have. Tiny little tiara adorned fledgling princesses. They march through the aisles surveying their kingdoms and their subjects; resplendent and regal. The conviction is easy to see - their rule is uncontroverted. It seems harmless enough, I know. Let her wear the tiara, the tutu, the high heels. What does it hurt?
I think it hurts a lot.
The Princess Paradigm is spawning a generation of pampered, entitled, artificial and superficial young women.
Now, there's nothing wrong with loving glamour. I myself was indoctrinated into the world of glamour and beauty at a very young age. I love glitz, I love bling, I love color and fashion and dressing up. I would wear a ball gown to the grocery store if I didn't fear being carted off in a straight jacket. BUT...my mother made sure that we understood it was all in good fun and that our real value lay elsewhere. We learned to value and guard our intelligence, our independence, our integrity our humor and our individuality. Yes, she put our hair in curlers, but she read to us as we sat under the dryer. Yes, she took us to beauty shows, but she took us to art shows as well. And when she could afford it, concerts, plays and productions. She enriched our minds while she painted our faces. It's a gift I never really appreciated until I was older, this insistence of hers on molding us into well rounded women.
There's this thing that my husband used to do when we were first married. He would ask me.."Who's pretty?" and I was supposed to answer, of course..."I am." It drove me nuts. To him it was just a harmless little romantic game. And honestly, it was. But I felt...diminished...by it. I felt foolish and thoroughly discomfited every time he did it. I finally worked up the nerve to tell him so and he was taken aback. He had seen this game played out time and time again in the culture in which he was raised. A culture that is rich and varied, but one that I don't think places much value on rearing the kind of women who grow up to be leaders and visionaries.
The Princess Paradigm. Women are ornamental; beautiful, graceful, but essentially, of little substance beyond their ability to inspire love, lust and devotion. Oh, and have babies.
You would think, with the progress the world has made and the slow, steady, often painful march of feminism across the landscape of our history, such a concept would be growing obsolete. But I don't think it is. I think media and technology has only made it worse.
Look at Kim Kardashian. She is essentially a modern day Princess. She does nothing to earn the celebrity she is afforded, except look beautiful, dress provocatively and cultivate an opulent and indulgent lifestyle, complete with famous, wealthy musician boyfriend. She is paid for appearances. JUST appearances. She doesn't speak, she doesn't carry out humanitarian functions, she doesn't even mingle with the masses. She is simply there to be revered; the Princess Paradigm in full mettle.
This has become a cultural phenomena and it is thoroughly beguiling the young women of our generation. Young women are saving for plastic instead of college these days. They're working at menial jobs to afford new boobs, butts and noses.
Can I say it again? GROSS.
My husband and I were discussing this just today. He asked me why it's so important for women to have that perfect fairy tale wedding. The answer is simple. Because a wedding is the perfect opportunity for an ordinary girl to indulge the Princess Paradigm, if only for a day. And sometimes it's the perfect opportunity for a girl who secretly believes such adulation is her due, to bask in it.
I think it's okay to want that one day; one day of perfect sweetness and happiness. One day to focus only on one another and celebrate all the hope and promise of building a life together. One day to look only forward, without the stress of right here and now. One day to love and be loved.
The rest of it is just superfluous garbage, though painstakingly pretty and artfully well coordinated garbage to be sure.
I used to think that I would one day get a do-over of my wedding debacle and it would be all that I dreamed of and more. But you know what? I don't need it. I don't need to be Princess. God, the pressure!
What are Princes taught? To defend and protect, to steward, to govern. To learn and to teach. To effect change. To promote unity. To be a leader and a visionary.
Once I had Princess aspirations. But now, I'd rather be a Prince.
And if I had daughters, I would teach them Princely things.