Wednesday Journal Entry, Week 17
Karina Lafayette – August 17th 2022
For a girl who spends her younger days scrubbing floors, sweeping, sewing, cooking, and caring for an entire family that isn’t even her own, Cinderella sure gets a lot of flack. She wakes up early, gets the house together, and nevermind is the only one to hold everything else together, including herself, but people still don’t like her. Even though most women have been there. We’ve all been that girl.
Except it’s not because you don’t actually like her, you just don’t want to depend on a man. The idea of being swept off your feet by a prince who might take you for granted, sounds less appealing than having to do it all on your own. In a world full that encourages treating women like property anytime they’ve been provided for, you have every right to want independence, not just emotional and physical, but also financial independence. You have the right to turn your nose up at anyone who wants to do you a favor, just because there’s a chance they’ll use it against you later. It’s no secret that in this day and age, many would rather struggle on their own, than deal with the burden of someone who expects to come home to a clean house, in an otherwise loveless marriage.
In my case, Cinderella is one of my favourite Disney princesses, because her story is similar to mine. My mother was a narcissist who expected me to take care of chores and be her emotional support toy. I’d sit there and she would tell me all her problems, while nodding, pretending not to have any problems of my own. Once I graduated from high school, she signed me up for loans and bursaries to go to college because it meant extra income for the both of us, but I wasn’t able to truly enjoy it. If I so much as bought a summer dress or anything for myself, I was selfish. Meanwhile, Mommie Dearest could spend as she pleased, whether it be on bills, groceries, or for her love of cigarettes. So when I had the opportunity to make my own way and no longer be a servant, you bet I was more than happy.
A few years later, after divorcing from a narcissist myself back in 2019, I can wholeheartedly say that never again would I let a man provide for me, even with all the work I had to put in to build my life again. Sure, life was a bit easier with my ex. The bills were almost always paid. I could have everything I wanted, but I wasn’t treated with respect; I wasn’t valued or appreciated; I had depression and was crying almost every day; He would use the silent treatment in arguments, except for that one occasion where he punched a hole in the wall. All in all, I was treated as if my purpose in life was to be his “wifey” and my dreams didn’t matter. I basically went from having to serve my mother, to having to serve my husband, and neither of them really loved me, or said so much as “thank you”. This is the reality for too many women. However, what if despite all that, Cinderella has a valuable lesson that’s often overshadowed by a society that puts money above everything, including love? Maybe the reason we’ve grown to despise Cinderella is because our idea of love has been so skewed, so made to be about benefits and security, that we overlooked the part where anytime one partner is struggling, the other should want to lift them up.
Much of our resentment toward Cinderella has to do with how much we’ve normalized struggle as the foundation to success. Pop culture literally has a collection of struggle porn, showing a main character who suffers through a number of challenges, till the very last moment, where they finally achieve success and get their happy ending. Movies like ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ and ‘Flashdance’ make good money and inspire us and sell good movie tickets, but when it comes to the people who live those stories in real life, they don’t matter as much. As for the real Cinderella daughters, they still scrub floors and don’t get a prince. We love a good struggle story, because deep down, we don’t feel like we deserve to succeed otherwise. A lot of us are so wrapped up in the idea that life is supposed to be hard, that anytime something comes a little too easily, the imposter syndrome kicks in. We behave this way in career, achievements, and even in relationships. Our entire system is built on the idea that the harder the life, the better, instead of normalizing a system that actually manages to get our needs met and lifts our burdens, like we rightfully deserve.
Of course, it’s not to say that the Disney version isn’t without it’s flaws, but we can value a story without agreeing with every bit of it. While in modern versions she sometimes has more agency, the message that young girls deserve better than to fulfill the role of parentified children needs to be looked at a little deeper. From a spiritual perspective, Cinderella also teaches us about law of attraction and the importance of believing that something better is always on the horizon, regardless of your current situation.
It also doesn’t negate the fact that older, we become accustomed to a life that’s about making our bosses rich, to the point that we no longer believe our own happiness can be a reality one day. Whereas when we’re younger, we believe anything is possible. No matter what, we do deserve that happy ever after, not because you shouldn’t want to work hard, but because you shouldn’t always have to. You should be able to enjoy the results of your hard work and have that vacation or new pair of shoes, instead of every penny going toward the bills. The more we go on pretending that this way of doing things is normal, the more we continue to perpetuate a culture built on enabling a handful of people to stand on our backs.
If Cinderella didn’t have to spend the rest of her life struggling on her own, good for her. She could always get the opportunity to travel, focus on her career, or have a family. She shouldn’t have to look after everyone in the first place- women have been doing that for centuries and we’re tired. It’s time we put ourselves first and take a page from her story. I can guarantee that nobody will take you more for granted than a man who expects you to do it all. From my perspective, Cinderella wanted a night on the town, a break from every day life, so she could wear a pretty dress and dance for a few hours. Along the way, she met a man she loves, and so be it.
The stepmother and stepsisters could easily hire a team to clean their home, so it’s not like they needed her. How often do we see toxic family dynamics where there’s that one daughter who’s expected to take on the burdens of her siblings, so the parents don’t have to. When you think about it, we should be ashamed fo allowing that to continue. The fact that Cinderella walked away and chose herself is something we should all strive for, with or without a prince. For those who have kids, we should be there for them to make sure some burdens are lifted, that’s what a community is built for anyway. As for me, I’ll never take pride in doing everything myself- the sleepless nights and panic attacks at work- just to get a pat on the back and be called superwoman, that word alone is something I’ve grown to resent. I don’t want to be superwoman. I just want to be a woman. Interdependence is more attractive than independence ever will be.
What if in 2022, rather than having a prince who provides everything, he was an equal partner who could stand by Cinderella and defend her as she takes the steps to walk away from a narcissistic family system? What if instead of walking through every struggle on her own, he was just there to hold her hand and assure that everything would be okay? One of the things that is problematic about Cinderella, and many other love stories and fairytales, is that the ending happens when two people fall in love. However, if we were given a glimpse into what happened after the wedding, maybe we would see a happy ever after that’s build on respect and mutual support. Maybe it is possible after all.
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