by Vicki Larson
“I've been saved ... by a woman/ She won't let me go/ She won't let me go now.” — “Trouble” by Ray Lamontagne
“Some day my prince will come/ Some day we'll meet again/ And away to his castle we'll go/ To be happy forever I know.” — “Some Day My Prince Will Come” from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”
“We’re our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.” — “Still Life with Woodpecker ” by Tom Robbins
It’s a familiar story — a talented but tortured man, consumed by drugs or booze or womanizing or all of the above, meets a woman and falls in love. Then, she lays down the law.
“It’s me or your partying, Bub.”
And just like that — well, maybe not quite that easily — he cleans up his act and starts putting her and their family first. Then they live happily ever after — just like in a fairytale.
The latest man I’ve read about like that is Metallica front man James Hetfield, who credits his wife for saving him from certain doom:
"My wife, Francesca, has been the most amazing person in my life. She has ridden the big waves with me. We have gone through some extremely difficult things and come out stronger. She's stuck with me through all the hell. When I met her, I knew she was brought to me to help me get out of this hellhole. And she did.'”
It’s a feel-good story, one that makes us think that fairytales really do come true.
Hold on a minute. Somehow, this isn’t a fairytale I grew up with; did you? In this fairytale, it’s the woman who rescues the man. But, honestly, when did you ever read a Princess Charming story? When did you see a Disney movie in which the beautiful princess rides in on a white horse, rescues the man in distress, takes him to her castle and they live happily ever after?
Yet, I heard that collective “awww” when Hetfield acknowledged the power, faith, patience and love of the little missus. As a woman, there’s no better testament to what we do best — we love, nurture, trust and wait, patiently. We stand by our man. Judging by the covers of women’s magazines and the titles of self-help books, it’s up to women to rescue their relationships. And we can even bring him back to faith and the church, or so says David Murrow in his new book “How Women Help Men Find God .”
But if women can save men with society’s blessing, why is everyone so down on men saving women? Oh yeah, because we women “save” a man emotionally and men “save” us financially.
You can be an emotional gold-digger, evidently, but you sure can’t be a financial one.
Shrinks, friends, parents, financial advisers and lovers past and present have been hammering in the message to women — Prince Charming doesn’t exist. A man is not going to come and rescue us, so we need to get our heads out of the Aesop fables and Disney movies and into reality and 401(k) plans.
As much as we women understand that, those fantasies still run deep. That’s why that episode of “Sex in the City,” in which the foursome wonders why firefighters are the archetypal female fantasy, resonated with so many of us. “Because deep down women just want to be rescued,” Charlotte says, as Carrie, Samantha and Miranda sit there, quietly, knowing that in some ways — more ways that they’d want to admit — Charlotte was right.
But “Sex in the City” is, like, so late-1990s. It’s totally different now, right?
Not too long ago, Cosmo reported the results of a few surveys that found most young married and single young women would ditch work if they could afford to and be taken care of.
And just look at Stephenie Meyers’ “Twilight” series, which has created a legion of female teenage fans that matches and maybe even topples Harry Potter’s. “The success of Meyer's gorgeously crafted hymn to convention,” writes Kirsten Tranter in the Australia, “proves that authors and filmmakers are still happy to create stories that end with cowering girls being saved by powerful guys, and girls are more than happy to embrace them.”
And that’s why romance novels are still selling well, even in these recessionary times.
Yep, despite whatever feminist wave we’re currently in, we still are surrounded by messages that women want their men — even if they’re vampires — to be able to save us from whatever it is that we want to be saved from.
Can you blame us if it’s hard to let go of that fairytale?
OK, in truth, it isn’t just women who want fairytales to come true. Men do, too, or so says Robert J. Sternberg, a professor of psychology at Yale University. But they don’t dream of being saved. No, they’re dreaming of ending up with someone like the flawless babes in the pages of Playboy and Esquire, whores in the bedroom and Nigella Lawson — who’s sexy no matter what she does — in the kitchen. And if they’re really lucky, she’ll pamper him as much as Mom did.
Few would begrudge a man that fantasy.
I never quite bought into the Prince Charming thing although I spent more than one Halloween dressed as a sparkly pink princess (although since I grew up in New York City, nobody could tell what I was underneath the heavy winter coat, gloves, scarf and hat I was forced to wear while trick-or-treating). Which is a good thing because once you get divorced at midlife you realize whatever “Prince” you married wasn’t quite as charming as you thought, and “happily-ever-after” is a relative thing. If nothing else, we boomer divorcees know that we’re truly on our own, and we may be that way forever. There isn’t a rush of Prince Charmings looking to save any menopausal Snow Whites and Cinderellas.
But, can I at least have a Fairy Godmother?
Check out Mommy Tracked's Anti-Princess Reading List  and Meredith O'Brien's New Age Romeo and Juliet