I’ve been writing and rewriting this post in my head for several months now. It was prompted by a book series that had a particular affect on me: I will never let my daughters read it.
No, not that Shades of Grey book. That one’s so blatantly pornographic that it’s rather obvious that I won’t let my daughter near it. This series took me by surprise and reminded of a few things. I also realized that it’s important for me to share my thoughts about it.
I love reading myths, legends, and fairy tales. Something in me thrills to these stories, these glimpses into the souls of empires and nations. Always up for a good re-telling of a fairy tale, I picked up a couple books from the “Once Upon a Time” series in the Young Adult section of the library. Sometimes it’s cleaner, and more fun, to read YA fantasy. And it’s by the kids section. Useful, hmm?
Unhappily, this series has the wrong happily-ever-after in it.
After reading the first book, I was not thrilled with the focus on the princess’ sensual response to her prince. However, since each book in the series is written by different authors, I started the second with hopes of a fun alternative spin on the story of the twelve princesses. This one even placed itself contemporary to the end of King Arthur’s reign and incorporated elements of Arthurian and Celtic legend. Cool, right? Here’s the problem: the princess and the prince were more ‘in lust’ than ‘in love’. From their first meeting to the resolution of all their problems, the focus is on physical attraction and following through on that attraction with complete strangers. But it’s okay, since they’re each other’s ‘one true love’.
No, that’s not love. Physical attraction is a start. I certainly thought my husband was really, really cute when I met him at age 12. You know, just old enough to have a real crush. I look back at pictures of him at 20 and still think he’s really, really hot in them. Thankfully, I was taught by my parents and religion that just because you think someone is cute, or even hot, you didn’t start macking with him. You certainly didn’t run around pressing your body against him as one princess from the series did. I’ve known my husband 17 years now. Even when we lived near each other for about 3 years, we talked on the phone and exchanged notes through my notebook at church almost more than we actually saw each other. Not to say that Handsome didn’t make every effort to find opportunities: coming to my session of church before his own and making sure to come to every church dance. Talk about heady stuff for a young teenage girl. Now I freak out about the idea of a 18-year-old around my 15-year-old. You hear me, daughters? Do as I say, not as I did. No older men. Right, because that’ll work.
But because we didn’t focus our attention on the physical attraction, we had the chance to become friends. Eventually best friends. Even after I moved away, we talked on the phone almost every day. We joked, discussed what was going on in our lives, even told each other all about dates, and boyfriends/girlfriends. (I was insanely jealous when he told me about his prom date, but I also know he tried to keep me away from a very interested local guy when he came to visit).
Surprisingly, although we both knew at some point we were in love, we didn’t have any kind of discussion until I was 19 and he was 22. Before then, I moved before I could date at 16, he went on a religious mission, I went to college, and he got back and started college as well. At that point we both received wise (read: very strongly worded) counsel from friends and family to do something about this long-term friendship/relationship.
To be honest, it’s no surprise we had a baby 10 months after getting married. My dad called that on the wedding day. Yes, we were physically attracted to each other. We almost missed our bus because smooching, engaged people are not focused on buses. We’re still very physically attracted to each other. Being married is nice.
I know that most people don’t have insane long-distance relationships that almost amount to a 7-year courtship. To be fair, that made resisting the pull of hormones a heck of a lot easier. I won’t deny that it would have been hard to keep them in check if we had been able to start dating when I was 16. Yep, my body liked him. But I knew that that was not enough. (Again, I’m so thankful for growing up in a religious home.)
A happily-ever-after doesn’t come from physical attraction. It doesn’t come from making a baby. Only knowing that person and being able to trust them in everything will do it. There are so many hard things in this life. So many forces that strain at a marriage and family. Some of these forces are actively trying to pull you apart. Given what I’ve learned, seen, and experienced, I believe that a relationship that starts with ‘in lust’ will end with the same. If sex is the focus, then nothing else can be. You won’t have the ability or attention span to focus on anything but sex. It’s a powerful force.
The point of this post is this: the “Once Upon a Time” series presents being ‘in lust’ as the only necessary ingredient for a happily-ever-after. This teaches young girls that they should trust the response of hormones over what their mind and heart are telling them. And, since hormones wax and wane, this means they are preparing these girls for relationships that are supposed to be happily-ever-after, but are not. This is a harmful, damaging lie. And I cannot let my daughters read books that teach them this lie. Not ‘will not’. Cannot.
I’m so glad that I ran into these books now. Better now than later. And I hope this helps out other parents who didn’t realize the harm these books, and others like them, can do.