Saturday, July 18, 2009

Prince Charming, Meet Wal-Mart

Okay, Wal-Mart. We need to have a conversation about your new "I'm taking my daughter to college!" commercial.

For those of you who have not seen this short segment of ridiculous, let me fill you in. I haven't memorized the specifics, but basically what it amounts to is a calming voice-over talking about change and growing up or whatever, because Wal-Mart ads are just a CAN of cheese wrapped in more cheese and fried with other cheese. Anyway, the mother and the daughter enter an empty dorm room, the daughter gives the mother a look of sad desperation, and the mother says something reassuring, whatever. Here's the thing.

That dorm room? Spectacular. Huge. It's like the size of my current bedroom. And it has very large windows overlooking a lawn of some kind. And the walls are this bright, gleaming white. And it's CLEAN. At least, it looks clean. And she gets it alllll to herself.

When I walked into my first dorm room, I walked into a place with yellowish walls (there were so many layers of cheap paint that it was starting to bubble and peel) that smelled like an old lady's shoe mixed with rotten crackers. The windows were the size of a large textbook and there were only two of them. And one of the walls was slanted such that half the room could not accommodate my six feet of height. And I was sharing this pit of gloom with another person.

I don't think Wal-Mart has ever been to a college dormitory.

Granted, it's a commercial, so I really shouldn't be so whiny about it. But when I was seventeen and terrified at the prospect of moving away from home, I was desperate for an idea of what college life would be like, so I would watch those commercials very carefully. Imagine my disappointment when my first room was shaped like a submarine. I have this issue with things on television that get teenage hopes up.

That's why I wrote my book, actually. Because I was tired of those movie and television love stories that set you up for disappointment. Here you are imagining that when you find love, it's going to be like a Disney movie, and when you get it, it's hard and requires work. You mean "happily ever after" doesn't exist? You mean a pumpkin can't turn into a carriage? You mean sometimes Prince Charming turns out to be a huge butthole? Shocker.

I'm not as jaded as I sound. I don't have much experience, actually. I've been with the same guy since I was fourteen, and he is wonderful. But that's what convinces me more than anything that there's a problem, because my relationship is pretty kickass but it's still nothing like a Disney concoction.

Okay, so for awhile I didn't think this was a big deal, and compared to a lot of things, it isn't. But ever since I was five years old, movies and books and television and music were telling me what to expect from love. They told me to expect a relationship that would complete me as an individual-- who is Cinderella before she meets Prince Charming?-- and that would give my life meaning. Let us examine, for example, a few lyrics...

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you


Prior to someone pointing out that this song is actually kind of creepy and not at all romantic, this was considered a love song. And the message of this love song? Love = obsession. How...sweet?

Also, take Romeo and Juliet. Most people consider this to be one of the most romantic plays ever ever ever. I take issue with that. Romeo learns that Juliet is dead, so he kills himself? Juliet sees that Romeo is dead, and does the same? The message is that life is not worth living without your respective significant other. Never mind that both Romeo and Juliet had families that loved them and the potential to do something with their lives. Suicide is preferable to losing your high school sweetheart-- didn't you know?

What BS. I don't want anyone killing themselves over me. Love is important and having a boyfriend or a husband or a lovahhh can be life-changing and good. But if you don't have it, there is more to life. And if we could change the way love is presented in popular culture, we could change the expectations that people have for love, and we could prevent a lot of messed up relationships.

Relationships do get screwed up because of expectations. If I go into a relationship defining a "good guy" as one who opens doors for me and gives me flowers, rather than as one who is interested in what I have to say and makes me laugh, I'm going to dump a lot of fantastic people in the search for a Prince Charming that doesn't exist. And if I find a guy who gives me flowers and opens doors for me, he might turn out to be a complete and total jackass. I think girls (and boys, actually) should adjust what they're looking for and focus on what's really important. And it would definitely help if what they were exposed to was...healthy.

How did I go from Wal-Mart to this?

Anyway. That's my rant. I'm going to go read chapter 4 out loud.

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