October 25, 2012

{Changing Times & Girl-Power} Part One

[This is the first of a three-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. It's taken from a section titled, "Women Attending Women." ]

As the world is shifting and the role of women becomes more open and far-reaching today, it is even more important for women to connect with each other in empowering, mature, loving support and friendship. Whether to help fill in the self-esteem gaps missing since girlhood, or to boost one’s confidence with some ‘that a girl!’ cheers during life’s transitions and rite-of-passages, or just for some heart-to-heart conversation—circle up the women-folk in your world! Attend to each other. Teach young girls not only how loving and supportive women can be for each other, but how satisfying the rewards are.

The young Diana may not have gathered ‘round women from her personal world during her own wedding planning time, but she reached out to women friends for supportive and nurturing company at other times of her life—especially when she needed to find her balance and direction again. And she gave as good as she got. Despite her royal status, the changing times swept into her world and the princess looked at her life with an independent eye and to her community of women friends to buoy her along.

For Diana, “…as the fantasy began to crumble,” Rosalind Coward, author of Diana: The Portrait, stated, “something more interesting began to emerge. In that era of female self-discovery, Diana, too, was a young woman forced into creating a working life and identity for herself.” Like women all over the world, the most glamorous woman of her time looked to see how to organize her private and public life, including motherhood (since she was a hands-on mother despite the old royal protocol) and a busy work schedule (public appearances and charity work were her duty and she was in constant demand.) And also like a lot of modern women then and now, Diana looked toward her personal happiness beyond children and work.
Post-divorce, as she was re-focusing and re-defining her work commitments and re-assessing her motherly role, she spoke to Paul Burrell (her friend, butler and helpmate) about her boys and a secret wish for herself. “‘They have both been brought up with enormous love, support and direction,’…then added: ‘Now it is time to find my happiness…if I’m fortunate enough.’” You may not have the protocols of royalty or the schedule of a sought after princess to deal with in your life, but if you were peering through your full, busy, complicated life, what would “finding happiness” look like for you? At this time in her life, Diana felt as thought she’d lost herself and seemed ready to explore new paths of self-discovery. How would you find that sense of belonging to yourself again?
Quoting from Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love: “If I am to truly become an autonomous woman, then I must take over that role of being my own guardian.” What would it look like, sound like, feel like to be the true “guardian” of your own life?  ~

[This is the first of a three-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. It's taken from a section titled, "Women Attending Women." Part Two posted soon!]

October 15, 2012

{Relics of a Marriage}

Elyse Defoor's current art exhibition in Atlanta, Relics of a Marriage, features a collection of wedding dresses worn by a variety of women through the years. Not shown as delicate "princess gowns" but hanging more like shouds, naturally on their own weight, the gowns become unromantic reminders of what was, what could have been, what never was. Elyse's vision for the display is to act as an invitation to open "a dialogue on the mythology and  beliefs around the concept marriage."
The exhibition ends on October 27; Elyse is having an "artist talk" on Sunday October 21. Click here for more information.

Below is a short excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, that speaks to this "white wedding gown" mythology.

Scholar Elizabeth Freeman, in The Wedding Complex: Formsof Belonging in Modern American Culture, points to the industrial “white wedding” phenomenon that exploded after the middle of the twentieth century and the judgmental attitudes that grew out of it. 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?” In modern cultures marriage is a choice, but a choice of what? For some couples the wedding ceremony seems to have become a robotic procedure to go through while dressed in fancy costumes. Does the heart of the “wedding complex” often reveal, as Freeman says, a woman’s “longings not for marriage necessarily but for public forms of attachment, ceremony, pageantry, and celebration”?   

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 over and over. Brides-to-be, usually with an enthusiastic entourage, gather in mirrored salons devoted to ‘princess myth enthralled women’ trying on those fabled white feminine-to-the-core gowns. “The grandest dress of her lifetime,” as Carol McD. Wallace described it in All Dressed in White, and the bride wanted to make the most of the occasion! “This was as glamorous as her life was going to get, as close as Everygirl would come to being royal,” the author added.

The activity of trying on 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—commercial drama. (And now fathers or male friends or fianc├ęs sometime get in on the once hallowed all-female ritual.) Over-the-top television reality shows dramatically portray various aspects of the “wedding complex”—from courtship to the complications of planning the wedding.
Shows like “The Bachelor” and “Say Yes to the Dress” drive the notion deeper into the culture’s susceptibility that weddings are part of the entertainment industry instead of about intimacy and deepening relationship and connection. But it seemed to always come back to “the dress.” “Even the feminist writer Naomi Wolf, in an essay called ‘Brideland,’ confirms the unreasonable grip on the psyche that this white gown possesses,” Wallace shared. ~

[Excerpt from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress]

[Bridal images from "Say Yes to the Dress"]

October 8, 2012

{The Goddess Bride} from Season Magazine

[This is a reprint of my article from the Autumn 2012 issue of SEASON MAGAZINE.  I feature Princess Diana, the ultimate "goddess bride," in my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride.]

A practice from ancient cultures—that continues today in parts of the world—heralded the bride as a heroine, honoring and attending her like a queen. These intimate bridal rituals included being bathed, perfumed, painted, pierced, bejeweled, coiffed, wrapped, draped, veiled, adorned with flowers, extravagantly dressed (sometimes changing costumes several times over days- or week-long ceremonies)—and elevated to goddess stature!

For thousands of years, according to mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell, honoring the goddess was a “primordial attempt on humanity’s part to understand and live in harmony with the beauty and wonder of Creation.” Modern culture continues to be enchanted with the “goddess-like” image of the bride—is that because she is a reminder of that harmony…the continuity of life, love, and all that our hearts hold dear?

Even the origin of the word “bride” comes from the legend of the goddesses. In her book, The Ancient British Goddess, Kathy Jones explains that in Celtic ancestral wisdom, the goddess Brigit, considered the Maiden Goddess of Springtime, is also known as Bride in its Gaelic form. It makes perfect sense that our bridal traditions have their origins in the essence of spring: an abundant, life-giving time of renewal and beauty. I tell brides in my book, The Bride’s Ritual Guide: Look Inside to Find Yourself, about Bride as the goddess “who gave her name to a woman about to wed. Therefore, as a bride, you are the true namesake of a goddess!”

But a bride’s goddess legacy doesn’t stop there. Kathy Jones also includes this reference in her stories about Bride: “Bride is symbolically a horse goddess and her consort, the young god, is depicted as her groom, lavishly attending her.”  Perhaps that’s a confirmation that being a bride also comes with your goddess birthright to be lovingly attended and cared for! Isn’t that what we all want in relationships—to be deeply appreciated and attended to in the most loving ways? (What woman would not want to be “honored like a goddess” at all times of her life?)

As many modern weddings became more notable for their amazing lack of intimacy—lovely to look at, but a bit formula-like and commercial—the goddess legends can be reminders how real beauty is an inside job! It’s natural for brides to want to look beautiful on their wedding day, but being “goddess-like” is putting your attention on something deeper. It takes opening your heart and sharing what you find there in all of your relationships. (It’s just naturally what a goddess would do!) Here’s a tip: Be the “goddess of love” today—then all of life, including our wedding celebrations, gets just a little bit sweeter. ~
[This is a reprint of my article from the Autumn 2012 issue of SEASON MAGAZINE. I feature Princess Diana, the ultimate "goddess bride," in my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride.]

[Bottom photo: David Willems]