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.]