When I was a little girl I developed a Cinderella fantasy. My prince was out there. We were going to fall in love and after a beautiful fairy tale wedding, live happily ever after. You can take Cinderella out and insert any fairy tale princess. She was just the one that worked for me.
It never dawned on me that the story always ended at the wedding. In my fantasy, the happily ever after implied wonderful things, not the reality of every day living. In my fantasy life I never had to think about things like bills, kids, daycare, or even whether or not the Prince was very nice guy. He was tall and dashing. Wasn’t that what was important? The beautiful dress and the Prince showing up?
Someone close to my 14-year-old daughter recently became engaged and my daughter asked someone else close to her if maybe “Jane” was a little too young to be getting engaged. My daughter was told that “Jane” was very moody and should consider herself very lucky that anyone would want to marry her. My daughter came home and expressed sympathy for “Jane” because as she put it, “if that’s what’s being said to me, I can only imagine what is being said to Jane.”
After I finished hugging her, I told her how much I loved her, that she was beautiful, she is worthy, kissed her some more and told her again about all the amazing things I know she is. She rolled her eyes at me but I knew in that eye roll was appreciation for the messages sent to her over the years and the many more she knows are coming.
I do a very delicate dance with my kids when it comes to marriage. I believe in love. I believe in marriage. I think it can be done successfully and beautifully. But I also look at the divorce rate and wonder how many women, like me, walked into a bridal salon and thought that the gorgeous silk organza gown with delicate stitching along the 6 foot train would magically erase the problems in the relationship.
And I wonder how many quieted any nagging doubts with the simple placement of a cathedral length veil lined with Swarovski crystals. It’s almost enough to make me want to grab a total stranger and have a wedding. It’s almost enough to make me understand what Kim Kardashian was thinking. But she’s another story.
Back to my daughter, your daughter and “Jane.” In my eyes, my daughter is perfect. She is exquisite. At 14 she still tells me she loves me all the way up to God and back. And I tell her that I love her all the way up to God and back infinity. And I also tell her that anyone who wants to be in her life in a real way better love her like that too. I’m not waiting until she’s in her 20’s to tell her though because love and crushes and feeling good about yourself don’t start when you’re 20.
It starts at that first boy who likes some other girl and at 14 we think there must be something wrong with us or we must have lousy hair or be fat or not have the right clothes or there must be something wrong with us or we must have lousy hair or be fat and repeat a million times until you believe the worst things about yourself.
We don’t know at 14 that there will be plenty of time for boys and that there are so many out there to choose from and that yes, we do get to choose. We don’t know that unless someone tells us that. We don’t know that unless someone tells us that we are worth it when we are young and impressionable. And we will never know it if someone who is supposed to love us tells us that we are annoying and should be grateful that anyone would have us. And trust me; they don’t have to use those words. If that’s the message being sent, it can be conveyed in so many different ways.
As a former desperate girl who saw a wedding as a chance to out-do Cinderella and not actually as the beginning of a life with someone, I want to save all the young girls from becoming part of the Desperate Girls Club. The most beautiful wedding in the world does not bring happiness if you are marrying a frog. And no girl should ever marry a frog just because she’s grateful. The best prevention is to raise girls who know they are the world. Because really, they are the world, each and every one of them, including “Jane.”