The Princess Who Falls Asleep
“We were never told anything growing up, and that is what harmed me in my adult life”, Miranda tells us, turning 35. “My sisters and I thought we were royalty and that we could have whatever we wanted. The expectations were clear, we were each to marry a prince and to live happily ever after. The husband would provide for his wife and while it would be romantic, more importantly, it would be safe. In other words, there was no room for divorce or failed relationships in this picture, there was no room for any unhappiness of any kind. If we somehow did not succeed, it was our fault.
“I worked very hard at getting married young to a professional man. This pleased my parents and won my sisters’ approval. While I might have been deluded at home, in my parents’ house, it was worse in the marriage. I thought he was going to sweep me off my feet and that I would, figuratively, live in a castle. That was not my life, not at all. I was so young and so naive. I think I fell deeper into sleep at that point. What else could I do?“
As young daughters, it is implied that we are ‘sleeping beauties’ and that whatever we desire is attainable and deserved. And yet by the age of thirteen, daughters know their power has been diminished, although they cannot explain the loss. Author Judy Mann remarks in her book, THE DIFFERENCE/GROWING UP FEMALE IN AMERICA, that by the time that girls graduate from high school, they believe they have fewer choices than do their male counterparts. Later, as women who go out in the world, they learn that women, in fact, cannot have whatever they want. Appearances are deceptive, nothing is quite what is seems, no one is quite who she/he proclaims to be. These young women have been taught to be quiet and passive, to be less. In believing we are less, our goals now seem unattainable, yet the conflicting concept, that we are princesses, entitled to some kind of kingdom, persists. In this fantasy, we are still special. It is at this point that the bewilderment sets in.
Above all, females in our society are encouraged to be compliant. So while there are mixed messages and compliance is not the only behavioral norm, compliance becomes overvalued to the point where women do not know what they are in search of or what they truly desire. “Compliance breeds passivity and instigates confusion,” Dr. Michaele Goodman tells us. “Women are taught to be too pleasing, too cooperative and too nice.” As Carol Tavris writes in her book, THE MISMEASURE OF WOMAN it is the sexual stereotype of women which has pigeon holed us as ‘the peaceful, nonaggressive sex”. The fundamental problem for women is that while they are aware that they are not treated as the equals of men, they have a difficult time in facing this concept and consequently in liberating themselves from what amounts to a life long preparation of second best.
Over forty years after the woman’s movement, the improvement in equal opportunity for women crawls along. While there has been a significant change in the attitude of many women, their unsheddable compliancy complicates their goals. It seems that our culture is not yet ready for women to be independent and freed from the stereotypic dream of a whole life as one which includes our husbands, houses, children, and finally, our careers.
Because we have historically been “princesses,” waiting for the “dream,” even though this ‘dream’ denies us our complete self, we are conditioned to be in constant search for it. This illusion leads us toward the wrong partner, who we marry for the wrong reasons. We have children because we were trained to want children, we accept jobs in less than optimum conditions, we care for our elderly parents while a male sibling would not have such an obligation.