December 30, 2011

{What's Next?}

 [This is the "Addendum" in my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, that I thought was an appropriate post to end a remarkably shapeshifter sort of a year...and to begin another with even more surprises to come. Enjoy...and stay tuned for news of the book's release!]

At the beginning of this book, I spoke of the significance of the year 2011 in the life and legacy of Princess Diana—and why I was moved to complete the book. In addition to it being the 30th anniversary year of the historic wedding that made her a princess, the year that would have been her 50th birthday, and the year her beloved oldest son, Prince William, married the remarkable Kate Middleton—this shapeshifting sort of year also held some far-reaching cosmic landmarks for people.

One such landmark related to a new discovery about the legendary Mayan calendar—a billions of years-old timeline of the evolution of consciousness. October 28, 2011 was the date that Dr. Carl Johan Calleman and other Mayan experts, reconfiguring this ancient almanac of sacred time, declared as the calendar’s actual last recorded day. Not December 21, 2012 as long thought. (Nor, as talking-heads have shouted for years, is it “the end of the world”—only the end of “old time.”) So when you read this, the day of new beginnings, the “new time” is already here! At this very moment, we are already inside what the wisdom of ancient shamans foretold: the new era of “developed consciousness.” What that means may be a bit fuzzy, but this is what it says to me: At this very moment, you are free of your past. The world is your co-creative playmate! So go and celebrate your life and do what lights you up—in the magic of this very moment, all there ever is or ever will be.

It is also the year that welcomed the “day of ones” on November 11, 2011: 11.11.11. Numerologists say that eleven is considered a “power number” and elevens together form a gateway of no obstructions, of open flow. So on the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour (Greenwich Mean Time) of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year, people worldwide came together for a moment of quiet awareness and simply paused—just to be in the moment. And in so doing, it became a moment of unity consciousness and your life was changed whether you participated or not. However, something shifted in your life and the world not because these numbers or dates essentially “mean” anything. (Paraphrasing transformational teacher Werner Erhard: Something happens—it is what it is—and then we make it mean something. Then we live our lives out of the “meaning” that we made up!) The world shifted on November 11, 2011, because of what the numbers had us notice: each other. It wasn’t about numbers, but about relationship…about where we put our attention. In the breath of a moment, we can feel connected to the world.

So these numbers and dates were perhaps just a vehicle to create an awareness of a new possibility; to bring people together in like consciousness to really see each other. It was an opportunity to look into the mirror of ourselves. And then again, maybe it was something else!

I add these 2011 notes to illuminate the mesage of this book: Every belief can be reframed with another meaning and every meaning has a different interpretation; ancient wisdom can affect the present, yet the present reinvents itself in the moment; every moment is a possibility of the discovery of something divine and the divinity is already inside you; nothing is completely what it seems and what it seems is simply a clue into its truth; there is nothing that holds you back from creating the life you love that your mind cannot re-imagine; all of life is a mystery of the heart and it takes an open heart to hear the message you were born to hear.

And the life of a beautiful princess—its shadows, its light; what we think we saw and heard and read and what we made up; or what mysteries happened a bit “beyond the veil”—is just the life of a beautiful princess. We made up the rest. The life can inspire us to open our hearts and be a compassionate force in the world or it can dazzle us ‘til we lose ourselves again. It’s what we do with our life that makes the difference. And you get to choose, this very moment. ~

[Stay tuned for news of the release of The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: Reframing Princess Diana's Legacy {Shattering the Princess Myth & Freeing the Damsel in Distress}]

December 24, 2011

{2011 & the Legacy of a Princess}

 [Below is the opening to the Introduction of my upcoming book: The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: Reframing Princess Diana's Legacy.]

I began this book a decade after Princess Diana’s death, tucked it away for a few years, and then began again with new inspiration looking toward 2011. A year that enlivened Diana’s energetic memory, 2011 marked pivotal rites-of-passage relating to her life: it would have been the year of her 50th birthday and the 30th anniversary of Diana and Prince Charles’ legendary wedding; it also was the year that their oldest son, William, married. As the world’s attention was drawn back to another archetypal royal wedding in the spring of 2011, over two billion of us witnessed this particularly intimate event celebrating the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. And like a heaven’s script, the wedding became the latest “shared rite-of-passage” in Diana’s immense legacy.

Given the soul-searching nature of a rite-of-passage (these transformational life journeys that transport us to a new quality of ourselves), it is a piece of good fortune indeed when we have the chance to share in these royal passages that unfold on such a shimmering, balancing-act of a world stage. And given the archetypal nature of royalty (royals act as points of light that affect change for the masses), it was no small piece of this fortunate happening that we got to have our very own transforming moment as well.

Amid 2011’s tumultuous push for freedom and self-expression around the world, some thought the global excitement of the royal wedding seemed the year’s biggest anachronism. But the wedding and the relationship that emerged was revolutionary in its own right—continuing Diana’s legacy of change. William and Kate’s rite-of-passage marked a new paradigm in “relationships of the heart” and “marriage as partnership”—a revolution whose time had come.

With the spot-lit life of a charismatic, archetypal, even revolutionary princess as a backdrop, this book explores the bigger picture of what Diana’s life meant and what her vast (and sometimes surprising) legacy brings to the world. By reframing how we see Diana’s life as well as the archaic fairy-tale like stories surrounding it—the princess myth, the damsel in need of rescuing, the goddess bride, “happily ever after,” the dutiful wife and mother—then we get to learn and open and grow from what these discoveries reveal. In addition, as the historical role of women in general gets reframed in the shared connection of these stories, we become part of the legacy of a princess in unimagined ways—mythological and real.
And in a remarkably “shapeshifting” sort of way, we get to see how mythology and reality overlap and even merge. ~

[For more on why 2011 was a "shapeshifter" of a year, read the next post on December 31st.]

December 18, 2011

{Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge} Time Magazine's Runner-Up Person of the Year

Time Magazine announced their 2011 Person of the Year and runner-ups. One of the runner-up personalities that affected world change was the bride of Prince William of Great Britain, Kate Middleton; now the Duchess of Cambridge. [Below is an excerpt of the article commemorating Kate with a link to Time for the complete text.]:

Kate Middleton: The Princess
by Catherine Mayer
Every Windsor is a draw, even the minor players. So for Queen Elizabeth's Nov. 28 reception for the media — held in anticipation of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee, her 60th year on the throne — palace functionaries set about organizing their 350 guests into manageable constellations along the elegant expanse of the Picture Gallery and in the drawing rooms at either side. The place was lousy with royalty — not only the monarch and her sardonic consort but also Prince Charles, Camilla and a brace of cousins. But then came word that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were holding court in the Blue Drawing Room, and the revelers swirled and regrouped like iron filings exposed to a powerful magnet. Kate — the single syllable now a global brand — is bigger box office than the rest of her in-laws combined.

Chin-stroking editors of national newspapers, lofty columnists and feared TV interrogators elbowed one another for the chance to inspect the 29-year-old's flawless skin and abundant locks, to find out if she is more striking in person (she is) and to hear her speak. And speak she did, a touch hesitantly, making diplomatic small talk about her strange new life. She hasn't been to Buckingham Palace much since the wedding. She hasn't seen her family much since the wedding. She is proud of her husband. Prominent intellectuals and public figures crowded around to catch these anodyne words. "I've never seen such a bunfight," said one despairing palace official.

For the older Windsors, the spectacle may have brought back uncomfortable memories. Exactly three decades ago, they watched a glamorous outsider become the main attraction. Some of their number appeared a little jealous. Yet by all accounts, the royals also appreciated the renewed sense of relevance that Diana Spencer brought to their musty enterprise. By the time they recognized the strength of her gravitational pull, she had almost dislodged the centuries-old institution from its axis.

Support for the royals held steady in the aftermath of Diana's death, but not even the most ardent of monarchists predicted the excitement around her son's marriage, which brought London to a standstill and snared global audiences in the millions — or billions, according to some estimates. From a news perspective the royal wedding seems like 2011's biggest anachronism. This was a year when — from Tunisia and Egypt to the U.S. and, yes, the U.K. too — throngs came together in rage to topple leaders and challenge institutions, not cheer them.

Is Kate's story a last gasp of nostalgia, a feel-good movie for the bleakest of times? Or a cautionary tale for anyone who dared to dream that the struggles of the 20th century would build a more equal world in the 21st? In marrying the second in the line of succession, the newly minted princess has accepted a mission riven with apparent contradictions. She's expected to uphold tradition while bringing modernity to the monarchy, and to reinforce a system based on birthright while proving that a commoner can cut it as a royal. Though she's the first royal bride to have earned a degree, she is unlikely to build a career or even hold down a paying job. Her primary function is to bear children and prepare for the eventuality of one day becoming Queen. Any other duties, as defined by palace conventions, are largely silent or scripted, symbolic and ceremonial. No wonder her words — any words — have such currency.

Kate has given only one interview of any length: with Prince William at her side, after the announcement of their engagement. In the seven months since her wedding, she has kept her thoughts to herself and abided by palace conventions. There are signs that she intends to continue to do so. The head that wears the crown may lie a little easier than in the Diana years.

Yet Diana didn't join the royal family to undermine it, nor could she have anticipated becoming the most famous woman of her age. An avatar of the Establishment, she became its nemesis. A dutiful bride, she morphed into a feminist icon. The pressures of palace life and the shambles of her marriage were the catalysts for this change. Kate has also been catapulted to relentless, inescapable celebrity. She finds herself a role model whose most pressing task is to define the nature and meaning of the role. If she becomes as popular as Diana, her choices may help the monarchy thrive or bring it to its knees. Whatever she decides — however she goes about the business of being royal — Britain's second most famous princess is already being watched and emulated across the world. We have entered the era of the copy-Kate. [continued...]

December 13, 2011

{Love's Confusing Joy}

[The following is an excerpt from Chapter Five of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress {and Other Princess Myths Revealed}.]

IMadame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert’s nineteenth century novel, his dreamy, grasping heroine, Emma Bovary, mused about how it would be to escape what she considered her boring life if she married:

But her eagerness for a change, or perhaps overstimulated [sic] by this man’s presence, she easily persuaded herself that love, that marvelous thing which had hitherto been like a great rosy-plumaged bird soaring in the splendors of poetic skies, was at last within her grasp. And now she could not bring herself to believe that the uneventful life she was leading was the happiness of which she had dreamed.

Princess Diana’s life did not become “uneventful,” it became very busy and full of events after she married, just not what she expected or was prepared for. So once again the overwhelmed princess was “grasping” at life in a world that was asking for more! And she continued grasping for love to sooth the yearning and loneliness, and to help settle the always hovering unease.

I think that the essence of Diana’s little girl dreams (and the dreams for every one of us) was to be deeply loved, period. “By a prince” was just an added fairy-tale attraction that her/our fantasies made up. (Maybe “by a prince” is a euphemism for being loved unconditionally, for being taken care of completely.)

 “To be loved” is at the heart of most fairy tales. There are probably a thousand or so versions of the “being rescued by a prince” Cinderella fairy tale from Indonesia to the Americas, across Europe, and throughout China and India. Most are ancient, some are modern tales re-envisioned; but all the Cinderella tales are versions where mythology expresses, and sometimes shapes, our dreams. Transformative dreams where love’s journey takes us, through light and shadow. “Beyond and beneath the Cinderella stories,” explained Jungian writer Ann Shearer in When a Princess Dies, “is the oldest fairy-tale of all: the suffering of Psyche in her search for Eros, the archetypal story of the soul’s yearning for love.” And perhaps this was the universal piece of Diana’s fairy tale that drew us into her story so deeply. Were her daydreams so different from our own? Are we all searching for, in the poet Rumi’s wise words from centuries ago, “love’s confusing joy”…? ~

[More excerpts posted soon. Book publication date scheduled in 2012. Stay tuned!]

December 3, 2011

{Did You Know?} No. 7: "To Obey"

[Did You Know? is a random series of posts highlighting facts and folklore about brides, weddings & courtship. To read other posts, click on Did You Know? in the Labels list below.]

Did you know that Prince William’s parents also removed “to obey” from their wedding vows as he and Catherine Middleton had done last spring? This remnant of the Middle Ages (and part of the 17th century Book of Common Prayer) was being removed from wedding vows left ’n right as the feminist movement of the 1960s spread into modern culture....but it took a little longer for the removal of “to obey” to enter the custom of the British monarchy.

Here is an excerpt from the Prologue of my upcoming book -- THE END OF THE FAIRY-TALE BRIDE: Princess Diana's Legacy Reframed {Shattering the Princess Myth & Freeing the Damsel in Distress} -- that shares the ground-breaking moment during Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding ceremony and what the Archbishop of Canterbury advised:

Diana’s entrance into the rich splendor of St. Paul’s interior was announced by a fanfare from trumpeters high in the cathedral’s dome...perhaps a heralding sign of changes to come. And the bride and groom made royal history with a break in tradition even before becoming husband and wife. Removing some outdated words from the Church of England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer, as the couple stood before the archbishop of Canterbury, and witnessed by a large population of the world, the bride’s marriage vows did not include the promise “to obey.”

An article in The Washington Post a few days before the wedding reported that the archbishop of Canterbury revealed “the decision to drop this vow was made very quickly in his discussion of the service with Charles and Diana and that he told them, the usual clergyman’s joke. ‘It’s a bad thing to start your marriage off with a downright lie.’ He told reporters that many couples now omit the vow, which was a remnant from the Middle Ages, when a wife would pledge ‘to be bonny and buxom in bed and board,’” Downie’s byline from London added.

[To read other Did You Know? posts in this series, click on Did You Know? in the Labels list below. Another one coming soon....]

November 22, 2011

{Princess Bride: A Modern Myth of Soul Redemption}

[Wayne Purdin wrote a wonderful article on to illustrate the use of symbolism in myths and fairy tales to transmit "higher truths." He uses a modern myth, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, as his example. Whether you've read the book or seen the delightful movie from the 80s or not, you'll enjoy his explanations of the deeper meaning of what each character represents. The following is a short excerpt; see link below for the entire article.]

In the beginning of The Princess Bride, the soul, represented by the fair Buttercup, falls in love with the farm boy Westley who represents her higher self. You might think he represents her twin flame or soul mate, but, as you will see, he really is the embodiment of her higher mind. Buttercup asks Westley to do chores and he always complies with the reply, “As you wish.” This is what happens when we have a relationship with our higher self – our wishes are fulfilled. In some depictions of the heart chakra, we see a golden throne under a tree. The throne is the seat of the higher self and the tree is called the “wish-fulfilling tree.” When our higher self is enthroned in our heart, we can manifest desires and they have positive effects. The wish-fulfilling tree is a theme of some fairy tales, such as The Juniper Tree.

[Click here to see the entire Princess Bride article by Wayne Purdin.]

November 16, 2011

{Princess Redux} Disney Princesses: Part Three

[excerpt from upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride]

In June 2008 a national report, “Real Girls, Real Pressure,” commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Fund was released, revealing a “self-esteem crisis” in the United States that “pervades every aspect of a girl’s life.” It showed that “seven in ten girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.” The highly respected study, embraced by Oprah Winfrey and others who used the findings to inspire their own work, also showed that “75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities such as disordered eating, cutting, bullying, smoking, or drinking when feeling badly about themselves.”  Conducted online among 1,029 girls between the ages of eight and 17, the study found that “the top wish among all girls is for their parents to communicate better with them, which includes more frequent and open conversations about what is happening in their own lives.”

How can we encourage little girls to let their imaginations play on their way to become more centered and grounded adults? How can we support little girls’ dreams of being a princess or a rock star—or become president of their country or a mother of five (or both!)—when they grow up and keep their self-esteem growing as well? Orenstein reported that, according to the American Psychological Association, “the emphasis on beauty and play-sexiness at ever-younger ages is increasing girls’ vulnerability to the pitfalls that most concern parents: eating disorders, negative body image, depression, risky sexual behavior.”

While magazines geared toward teen and pre-teen girls have cover blurbs that shout “get thinner, be sexier, have the perfect hair!,” they also feature articles on “embracing the beauty of differences and relishing imperfections,” writes a post on Off Our Chest blog about Seventeen magazine. “But the industry and its players can do so much more good. They just have to choose to.”

“Little girls” have always had an infatuation with beautiful “big girls”—admiring and looking up to a teacher or their big brother’s girlfriend or a bride or Miss America or a movie star…or a real life princess in the news. I certainly did. It’s just natural. I recently saw a video of Chelsea Clinton visiting school children as part of her father’s Clinton Foundation initiative. This was a year or so after her wedding where she truly had been like an “American princess bride,” radiating warmth and love. Little girls at the school looked on adoringly, seeming to hang on Chelsea’s every word; perhaps some had seen pictures of her as a beautiful bride. And I had the thought: “This is the positive side of the ‘princess myth’ where a real person—who just happens to be a pretty blonde woman—is making a real contribution by helping to shape little girls’ lives through her love and concern—and yes, her celebrity. So if it’s something sparkly and cute, or a princess gown, or being a “pretty blonde woman” that gets little girls attention—great! It’s just up to us “big girls” to direct that attention to something substantial and grounded and deeply fulfilling so little girls are truly looking up to us.

Princess Diana, a real princess and the most photographed woman in the world, had some of the same emotional and self-esteem issues as today’s little girls and young women. If she had lived, I believe that one of her causes would have been to encourage the world’s population of little girls to love themselves just the way they are. With her sudden death, her legacy can do just that if we focus our attention on the consequences of low self-esteem. Diana’s inner struggles were immense; now we get to learn from her stumbles and fears, benefiting from the awareness that her megawatt life opened for us. And her death exposed the princess myth so little girls can discover their own beauty and power not at odds to anything, not as a reflection of anyone. ~

[This is the final post for the “Disney Princesses” section. All are excerpts from the soon-to-be released book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. To see other excerpts in the series, click on Disney Princesses in Labels below.]

November 8, 2011

{Princess Redux} Disney Princesses: Part Two

[excerpt from upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride]

Toddlers & Tiaras contestant
“‘The ever increasing marketing to younger and younger girls of an adult sexualized version of the princesses is concerning,’” Tomi-Ann Roberts said in a 2007 interview (by Merissa Marr ) titled “Disney Reaches to the Crib to Extend Princess Magic” in The Wall Street Journal. Roberts, a professor of psychology at Colorado College who co-authored a report on the sexualization of girls, is not the only critic who is concerned that “encouraging young girls to obsess about being a princess sends the wrong message, with too much focus on being beautiful and not more substantive achievements,” Marr’s report adds.

Barbie as Princess
But it wasn’t just Disney. Other companies and entrepreneurs found that “pink is the new gold”—as Peggy Orenstein had declared! In 2001, “Mattel brought out its own ‘world of girl’ line of princess Barbie dolls, DVDs, toys, clothing, home d├ęcor and myriad other products,” Orenstein wrote in her New York Times article. This was at a time, she explained, that sales for Barbie were declining in the United States, but after being crowned “princess,” the dolls “became instant best sellers.” Another huge factor in the princess saturation of little girls’ psyche was already underway. A former Montgomery Ward executive, Chicago-area mother Mary Drolet, opened Club Libby Lu which grew into “a chain of mall stores based largely in the suburbs in which girls ages 4 to 12 can shop for ‘Princess Phones’ covered in faux fur and attend ‘Princess-Makeover Birthday Parties.’” Orenstein reported that “Saks bought Club Libby Lu in 2003 for $12 million and has since expanded it to 87 outlets; by 2005, with only scant local advertising, revenues hovered around the $46 million mark….”

Features like The Princess Diaries books and movies (three Disney films that began in 2001 based on Meg Cabot’s series of novels) and other princess-props of pop culture, continued to “up the princess ante” and lower the age of targeted little girls in the marketing campaigns that “presented what many girls throughout the world want to do: live a princess life,” according to the study “Modern Princesses” by Julia Shin. (Or at least what they think it is to live a princess life!) The bigger, real person picture of Princess Diana’s life shows that being beautiful, marrying a prince, having a palace for a home, and living in the world spotlight doesn’t equate to being happy.

When I was working on the final stages of this book, I enjoyed a chat with my neighbor’s 13-year-old niece who was spending her spring break with them in the mountains. I asked Emily—who just happens to be a descendant of the Spencer family, a 17th cousin of Princess Diana her aunt explained—about her take on the whole princess thing. “Well, when I was a little girl,”—meaning four or five when the Disney Princess enterprise was in high gear with their princess heroine marketing company—“my best friend came up and sat down right in front of me and asked, ‘Who is your favorite princess? Which one do you want to be?’ I knew what she meant, I’d seen the movies but I didn’t think of them as princesses. Maybe Ariel was my favorite, but I wasn’t much into that, I just wanted to be me.”

Lois Smith Brady, longtime “Vows” columnist for the New York Times, wrote on the occasion of Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton in 2010:

Most people I know are wary of fairy tales and princesses, at least traditional ones. Ever since Diana, the dream of wearing a tiara has been kind of tarnished. I have a teenage son, and I have never heard any of his girlfriends say they want to marry a prince someday.

“I never wanted to be a princess,” said one [15 year-old girl]. “It seems like their life is superguarded [sic] and they’re not really allowed to go on adventures.” Her sister, 14, added: “None of my friends want to be princesses. They all want to be pop stars.”

Has “American Idol” usurped the ages-long “princess myth” so that “pop stars” are now the new “princesses” for young girls? Either way, it still continues the assault on girls to “be somebody else, you’re not okay the way you are”—and unfortunately the message is be a sexed-up, sassy seven-year old! According to Peggy Orenstein the “girl-power” of the 90’s got hijacked by the new hard-edged pretty and pink “girly-girl” culture.

Orenstein, who has written about girls for nearly two decades including her groundbreaking book from 1995, Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self Esteem, and the Confidence Gap, asks: “Could today’s little princess become tomorrow’s sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality—or an unwitting captive to it?” The author encourages parents to pay more attention to what’s in their little girls’ world:

Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source—the source—of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages. ~

[Part Three of “Disney Princesses” will be posted in a few days; all are excerpts from the soon-to-be released book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. To see other excerpts in the series, click on Disney Princesses in Labels below.]

October 25, 2011

{Princess Redux} Disney Princesses: Part One

[excerpt from upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride]

In 2000, as the world was merging into a new millennium, the nature of the princess myth changed dramatically. In fact, before this new level of hyped-up consumerism, the influence of the princess myth could have been considered subtle. Andrew P. Mooney had just become president of the consumer products division of the Walt Disney Company and saw the next huge market: little girls! He became the chief pioneer of the super successful $4 billion Disney Princess franchise. An idea, he said, that came to him while attending a Disney on Ice event where he realized that there was a demand for “princess products” that would allow young girls to “project themselves into the character from the classic movies.”

Or as Peggy Orenstein, who has written extensively about girls and women’s issues and is the author of the 2011 book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, puts it: “…he went to an ice show in Phoenix and he saw a bunch of little girls dressed as princesses. And horrors: they were wearing homemade costumes that they had developed with their imaginations. That had to be stopped—that had to be licensed.” So old Disney-version favorites like Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were joined by newer Disney enhanced fairy-tale characters Ariel (“The Little Mermaid”), Belle (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Jasmine (“Aladdin”) to become crowned princess-sisters!

“Mooney picked a mix of old and new heroines to wear the Pantone pink No. 241 corona,” wrote Orenstein in “What’s Wrong With Cinderella?,” her 2006 article for the New York Times Magazine that inspired her new book. There are now more than 25,000 Disney Princess items for sale worldwide according to the author. “‘We simply gave girls what they wanted,’ Mooney said of the line’s success, ‘although I don’t think any of us grasped how much they wanted this.’” (Yeah…little girls crave sugar as well; and if they have too much, they become addicted!)

The executive added in his interview with Orenstein that little girls and boys “pass through” various stages of attachment in childhood. “‘I see girls expanding their imagination through visualizing themselves as princesses, and then they pass through that phase and end up becoming lawyers, doctors, mothers or princesses….’” But there’s a big difference in a child being encouraged to use their imagination naturally and to be indulged in staggering overkill by their parents, grandparents and others—usually because of an attempt to fulfill something incomplete in their own desires.

In an interview on American Public Media’s show, “Marketplace Morning Report,” broadcast soon after Orenstein’s Cinderella book came out, the host Jeremy Hobson asked the author about the Disney princess phenomenon: “Now, when you think about all of the characters that little girls look up to and want to be like, I would think princesses would be the least bad.” In response, Orenstein shared: “What happens with the princess culture is that it goes from being this sort of sweet, innocent wand-waving thing to being about being the princess diva, and [about] the make-up. The culture is telling them and encouraging them to define themselves from the outside in.” It’s as though we’ve put the mentality of those little girl beauty pageants, like “Toddlers & Tiaras” (sexing up two year-olds) on a global loudspeaker, announcing to the girls of the world that they’re not okay just the way they are. (Change, and you’ll be pretty. Change, and you’ll be popular. Change the way you naturally are and you’ll be happy.)

This is one of the problems with Disney’s “princesses.” Their look is the masculine-driven idea of the feminine ideal straight out of a Victorian romance novel, only now with digital enhancements. The characters not only continued but reinforced the convoluted Western extreme of female “beauty” by molding the dolls, or drawing the images, or air-brushing the real-live models into distorted versions of being a woman: tiny waistline, large breasts, long silky hair, big eyes, flawless skin, high-bridged nose, long slim neck—and the Photoshop list goes on. And this distorted image was part of a worldwide marketing campaign going straight to the hearts and psyches of pre-teen, and now much younger, girls.

The images were a retro trend toward the ultra-feminine; as though returning to the Barbie doll stereotype (that’s been around since 1959 when the doll made its debut), but with an injection of Disney steroids! Granted, many of the new Disney characters (later labeled “princess” by the marketing team even if they weren’t “royal” or a real princess) were strong, independent, think-for-themselves girls or young women and healthy role models as characterized in the original film from which the characters came. (Or like new versions of old fairy-tale characters that are not part of the princess realm. For instance, Rapunzel in the 2010 Disney film, Tangled, that I mentioned earlier and which I liked.) However, when the characters became more sexualized with the girly-girl marketing slant, then there is trouble at the castle. ~

[Part Two of “Disney Princesses” will be posted in a few days; all are excerpts from the soon-to-be released book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. To see other excerpts in the series, click on Disney Princesses in Labels below.]

October 20, 2011

{Princess Redux} Part Three

[excerpt from upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place]

What fuels the princess dream? What is at its heart?

As Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution, wrote in her review of The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown: “Ladies, let’s be honest: who really among us hasn’t dreamed of becoming a princess?”  Women around the world, “sometimes against their better judgment,” fall entranced by the glamorous prospects and “redemptive metamorphosis that this particular myth promises.”

However, even Lady Diana Spencer herself, who as a dazzlingly beautiful bride became a real princess on her wedding day and lived her life as the most famous woman in the world, confirmed: “Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Being a princess—or a prince for that matter—is a title, a role to play, and for many such title holders, it is a big job (and not always an easy or glamorous one.) The Hollywood “princess” Grace Kelly—who like Diana, became a real princess when she married—said: “I certainly don’t think of my life as a fairy tale. I think of myself as a modern, contemporary woman.”

Howell Conant, in his 1992 book, Grace (a beautiful collection of memories and photographs by the acclaimed photographer and old friend of Grace) shared: “The transition from Hollywood actress to princess of Monaco had not been an easy one for Grace. Yet once she became accustomed to her new role, she showed an eagerness to be the very best princess she could be.” Grace, like Diana, “focused on several pet projects” that included the arts and children.

Soon after Diana became engaged to Prince Charles in 1981, she met Princess Grace—someone she had admired from afar—at the first official formal engagement attended by the couple. The nineteen year-old Diana got lots of attention in a revealing, low-cut black strapless gown and her uncertainty and discomfort at the extreme scrutiny caught Princess Grace’s attention. Leaving the other guests, the ‘experienced’ princess “whisked her off to the powder room,” explained Andrew Morton in his biography. “Diana poured her heart out about the publicity, her sense of isolation and fears about what the future held in store. ‘Don’t worry,’ Princess Grace joked. ‘It will get a lot worse.’”

So if the life of a real princess isn’t always so great, why does the appeal to be one continue, like a call from the other side of the mirror? I believe that this princess myth touches all women in some unique way. Not necessarily as a desire to become a princess or to marry a prince (or princess), but at the heart of the dream is the desire to be noticed, to be seen as beautiful, to be attended to, to be loved. ~

[Next series of posts will being the "Disney Princesses" section of the “Princess Redux” chapter; all are excerpts from the soon-to-be released book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place. To see other excerpts in the series, click on "Princess Redux" in Labels below.]

October 15, 2011

{Princess Redux} Part Two

[Excerpt from upcoming book: The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place]

Darcy Cosper describes young women becoming brides in her novel Wedding Season as a chance to “live out a dream that may very well have haunted them from girlhood.” In parts of the world where the “white wedding” is de rigeur wedding protocol, a particular womanly ritual is repeated again and again. Brides-to-be, usually with an enthusiastic entourage, gather in mirrored salons devoted to ‘princess myth enthralled women’ trying on those fabled white fem-fem gowns. These potentially deeply connecting, heart opening rites-of-passage with friends and family have all too often become angst riddled girly ceremonies driven by too many opinions and much too much “all about the dress and cleavage” drama. 
TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress"
If this sounds like one of those over-the-top cable television reality shows, well, it is! And it is aptly named, “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Disney Princess Bridal Collection
Indeed, without glamorous fashions, the princess myth could not survive; without the gown, there is no princess myth! It’s no surprise that even the Walt Disney Company—the international headquarters of “wish-upon-a-star” princess fairy tales—launched a line of wedding gowns in 2007 as part of their Disney Princess collection. Then in 2010, designer Alfred Angelo teamed up with the Disney company to expand the concept and collection “because every bride wants to look like a princess on her wedding day,” insisted Pam Lifford, executive vice president of fashion and home for Disney Consumer Products. “OK, we get that many brides wouldn't mind looking like a princess,” Joanna Douglas wrote on the Shine blog, “but a Disney princess?

Disney Princess Bridal Collection
Really? We know that Disney often sets up little girls to expect her happy ending, but we didn’t expect grown women to want to literally dress like a Disney princess for her wedding.” ~

[Part Three of “Princess Redux” will be posted in a few days; all are excerpts from the soon-to-be released book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place.
To see other excerpts in the series, click on "Princess Redux" in Labels section below.]

October 11, 2011

{Princess Redux} Part One

[excerpt from upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place]

In my work with thousands of brides since the early 1980’s, I’ve observed many ways a woman experienced feeling ‘special’ as a bride. I considered that when she “felt like a princess” in her pretty ceremonial outfit that it was a sweet, natural and feminine way to express the experience. But the commercialization of weddings during our media-blitz’d, celebrity-obsessed age the last couple of decades has fueled the “being a princess” desire into a brash explosion, making a spectacle of weddings as well as many brides who lose themselves in the fantasy. Women approaching their wedding can get stuck in their heads, not knowing how to center themselves in their hearts (i.e., they are “thinking” more than “feeling.”) The princess tug is so strong for some women they acknowledge that to be able to feel and dress like a princess was the main reason for wanting to have a wedding and get married. (Yikes!)

The Princess Myth
The “fairy princess myth” stirs deep in many women from an early age and it’s easy to see how it can overlap into the dream of being a bride (a shimmering-in-white princess-for-a-day) surrounded by all the trappings the wedding pageantry includes. Is that because, in a frenetic culture hungry for intimacy, the modern wedding ceremony is one of the few times a woman, all dressed up in this costume of a princess, can be the focus of attention where all eyes are on her? We’re a culture needy for approving, admiring attention (or simply to be noticed.)

However, scholar Elizabeth Freeman, in The Wedding Complex, points to a more unattractive and showy side of attention in relation to the twentieth century industrial phenomenon that’s become the “white wedding.” She asks: “Why does the white wedding make the couple, especially the bride, look sacred and untouchable even as it puts them on an often embarrassing regulatory display? Why does it englobe the couple in mystique, and yet also seem to make them run the gauntlet of spectators and pass a series of tests?” When did weddings and marriage become separated? When did ‘being a bride’ sever itself from ‘being a wife’? Does the heart of the “wedding complex” reveal, as Freeman says, a woman’s “longings not for marriage necessarily but for public forms of attachment, ceremony, pageantry, and celebration”? ~

[Photograph of wedding ceremony: David Willems]

[Part Two of “Princess Redux” will be posted in a few days; all are excerpts from the soon-to-be released book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Diana Exposed the Princess Myth & Other Royal Fables that Kept Women in Their Place.]