I have always loved reading. My mother called me a bookworm. I would devour books, rarely putting them down until the last letter of the last word on the last page had been savored. As a little girl I heard, then read by myself, all the childhood favorites.
I learned the nursery rhymes one by one until I new them all by heart. I remember Little Boy Blue, Baa-baa Black Sheep, Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Little Bo-Peep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Jack Spratt, and so many others. The characters all seemed so real to me and with my vivid imagination I would charm them all to life as I lay in bed.
Then, of course, there was Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. How many nights did I fall asleep with the image of myself in one of my very ordinary little dresses being turned into a shimmering creation of gossamer silver and silk. Or seeing myself with a handsome prince (who looked suspiciously like Johnnie the boy next door!), riding off in a glimmering golden carriage into a rosy pink sunset. And those were the ideals that were cast in stone in my childhood memory banks for the future that could be mine. I would be “rescued” from whatever paltry life I was living and I would be carried off to live “happily ever after”.
The only problem with Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty is that no one wrote the sequel. So here we are left with the never-ending final scene of riding off into that proverbial sunset and being happy. We are never shown what happens when they got back to the palace. I presume that’s where they were eventually headed.
I mean, I realize that if they did live in a palace they would probably have access to a maid or two, and a cook, and a butler, and a gardener. Life wouldn’t be too shabby as they created an edict or two and smiled magnanimously at their subjects. But they’d still have to think about day-to-day living and waking up to each other everyday.
However, I have to admit, that if ever my little girl mind went further than that ride into the sunset, I always imagined Cinderella walking the corridors of her palace in different ball gowns and tiaras, and leaning out of balconies in the palace turrets as little blue birds flew down to her fingers and sang to her. I’ve no idea what the prince was up to as she floated around in her perfectly idyllic life!!
No wonder we are set up for failure in real life relationships! Given the state of today’s society full of drinking and drugs, fast paced living, crime and abuse, there probably isn’t more than a handful of healthy families in each neighborhood. Pessimistic – maybe; realistic – probably.
Let’s just go back to the sixties. Actually we need to back further still, to the time of prohibition. Everything was forbidden, especially alcohol. When that law was revoked there was a wild swing into drinking which eventually ended up in the free love and drug experimentation during the era of the hippy sixties.
Although the sixties ended and the hippies went out of style, drugs had taken a firm hold. The hippy youth of the sixties became the next generation of parents. Many of them continued to use “soft” drugs and some “not-so-soft” drugs also spilled onto the market. You don’t need to be a psychologist to realize that these people were not the best of parents and a whole generation of dysfunctional families was created.
As their children grew up and began to look for mates we had the first layer of inter-dysfunctional marriages. Many people used alcohol to chase away their demons. Others got into heavier drugs which were becoming increasingly more available. Wherever there is a new market entrepreneurial minds will flourish, and many criminal minds were savvy enough to realize that there was much money to be made with drugs.
And let’s not forget the wave of people who began to turn to prescription drugs to treat the depression and other psychological ailments that came from the pain of knowing there was something wrong but not being able to pin point or explain that wrong. Very few people could bear the stigma that was associated with going to see a psychologist or therapeutic counselor, so they used whatever was available.
“Too depressing, way too negative”, I hear you cry. “Depressingly true”, I respond. “But what has this got to do with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty”, I hear you ask. “Everything”, I say. When there is nothing, or at least very little, left but darkness or depression we look for salvation wherever we can find it. When no decent role models are around we turn to fantasy and make believe and the realm of fairy tales and try to turn them into reality.
Is it any wonder that the explosion of New Age religions and spirituality was so enormous? By now we have generation upon generation of dysfunctional people searching for something, searching for salvation, searching for real role models. On a subconscious level people realize that there is more to life than “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”.
Thank God more and more people are reaching out for the help that they need. There is definitely a movement toward the return of old values. Many people are seeking professional help as that stigma drops away. The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous are growing in number and in size.
Many people see that it takes courage to ask for help and are discovering that courage. Even men, the proverbial “strong, silent, macho one’s” are becoming brave enough (they always thought it was a weakness!), to approach therapists. Couples are recognizing that jumping into divorce does not remove their problems. Divorce may remove the other partner, but each partner is still left with attitudes and behaviors that they will drag into a new relationship.
So perhaps we can lay the fairy tales to rest, or at least in recounting them to our children and our grandchildren we can help them to understand that they are just that – fairy tales. Perhaps some new good authors will emerge who can write a “second level” of classical fairy tales for our children as they reach early teens. Stories that will shine a light of good healthy reality on how life can and should be lived after that ride into the sunset.