Sunday, February 14, 2010

Letting Go of the Fairytale: Happy Valentine's Day!

A true princess yearns eternally (mother hunger). Waits for love and stays faithful despite receiving little or no nurturing (deprivation). Suffers for love (masochism). Insists on multiple feathered mattresses (entitlement). Puts exaggerated stock in her locks (addiction to haircare, vanity, the externals). Remains always a princess, never a queen (arrested development). Fantasizes the same dream of Your Princely Arms swooping her up (obsessive, addicted to fantasy -- easier when one is always dressed in a flowy gown). Pines for love, yet is either never or rarely satisfied (masochism, plus victimhood, plus dramaqueen). Gets deeply hooked when presented with challenge and rejection (seriously fucked up, overly driven to fix, and prolly PTSD -- Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome - like so many of us due to our childhoods. Not to mention the cultural messages! How are we to be both sexy bad girl and marriageable good girl? As Kelly McDaniel states so eloquently in her must-read Ready To Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex and Relationship Addiction, this results in a cultural double bind. Which results in self-hatred. What's a girl to do?)
Ah, Andrew Lang. I fed on your pretty-colored fairy books as a child. I devoured your tomes. Traced the romantic illustrations. Dreamed of locking myself away in a tower, pricking my finger with a thorn so blood would spill onto snow and prove my love, enduring pestilence and plagues for my man. You know -- the one in disco-shiny armor that still showed off his muscled limbs, the one thundering on horseback, toward me! To rescue the broken one, the girl incomplete without a knight, a prince, a king.
Since I grew up in a chaotic household, where my mother was crazy and self-medicated with alcohol and my father was not in the picture -- I retreated into books. Specifically fairytales. On one occasion, I strode into my mother's bedroom where she had lain all day, hungover, depressed, though it was already dinner time -- and presented her with a list of chores I should be assigned. "To build character," I said, steely-eyed as only a 'tween can be. She laughed, then sank back into the twisted bedclothes. "Get out," she said. "I don't feel like being a mother." 

So I plucked my ideals and honed my morals from fairytales. This has gotten me into trouble all my life.

Imagine my pleasure when I was invited to talk specifically about this one aspect of a love junkie's journey. How childhood fairytales exacerbated an already vulnerable psychic and chemical condition, one created out of parental chaos, attachment disorder, lack of rules and boundaries, absence of love, trauma.

Upon return from the East Coast, where I participated at Sex Week At Yale (will cover in a separate blog post!), I spoke with lovely Kim Iverson out of Austin, Texas, about Letting Go of the Fairytale. Turns out her radio show producer, the way cool Casey Acevedo, is a self-proclaimed princess who's struck out when it comes to love. I tried to set her straight in a quick 7-minute interview. Here's the link! Check it out. I'd love to know your response.
If you are so inclined, post comments here, and/or on the radio show's blog. Consider it a virtual Valentine -- if not to me, then to all the girls and women out there struggling with their own ideas of love, romance, and their beautiful yearning hearts. Love yourself. That is the best Valentine of all.


[Let me make clear:  I am an ardent fan of fairytales. The real ones. The harsher the better. Bring on Grimm. Check out Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment for illumination on how these potent archetypal stories can help and heal a young psyche still unable to articulate dangerous emotions. It just so happens in my case these stories brewed together with other elements to provide a problematic, unrealistic storyline. That narrative, the story I told myself for years, is the one that needed to be changed. And which I did, in part, in Love Junkie:  A Memoir. Stay tuned for more talk about the transformational power of writing memoir. And of narrative therapy, as invented by David White.]


  1. Thank you for this! I used to suffer from this. It is one of my parenting goals to keep my daughter (7 years old)from this sickness. No fairy tale books are movies are allowed in my house.

  2. ***correction**** No fairy tale books OR movies are allowed in my house

  3. Michelle! Thanks for your comments. That's beautiful that you're so mindful of your daughter. I do want to make clear, though, that I also got so much good from reading fairytales. What was missing (among other things) was a loving discussion about it all with parents. Check out Bettelheim on all this. I think fairytales can be hugely powerful and healthy for kids. I hope you don't turn your back on them altogether! And apologies if I presented the post in such a way that encourages that. The original, undiluted ones are a tonic. Happy post V-Day, all! RRxo

  4. Thank you, I agree too, that most fairy tales have great lessons and morals to be learned, I am having a hard time getting over the whole, "waiting around for Prince Charming" thing and because of my daughters young age, I am afraid that she might miss the less obvious lessons in the stories and focus on the princess thing....I guess it is up to me and how I present it to her. Thanks again for the insights I am LOVING your blog!

  5. i am a lovejunkie too. and for the first time in 21 years.. i am single after my separation with my husband. i just found out about your book as i was trying to google my blog. we are still married, and i am thankful for that marriage because it is my "brakes".... without that piece of paper... i dont know. but until very recently, i saw my ex bf. the love of my life after 15 years and the feeling is still there. but now, he knows what i am... and is trying to help me "fix" me. i sure could use the freedom to finish my book too.

    i think we are all little girls deep inside. you know... always wanting the ever after... and yet... we have be ready to face the little girl in us when the moment comes.

    i hope all is well with you.

  6. I suffered from love addiction too. It's really not a nice feeling coz you never felt whole and complete deep inside. There's always an empty space. I'm on my way to full recovery though and would never wanna go back to my "darkest days". At least now I've learned to love myself before anyone else and wouldn't need to eagerly wait for my "prince charming" for me to be happy.