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Why is the Prince so Charming?

December 28, 2008

I have been wondering the past couple of days what it is about the idea of “Prince Charming” that enthralls girls so much.

I think back to the Prince Charmings throughout the movies and stories that I grew up with — Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid. What was it about those men that made them the creme-de-la-creme, the ultimate desirable partner, the manliest man since men were manly. Okay sure, he could dance, he could sing, he could sport a cape with the most dashing ease. He was rolling in money and usually was in line to replace his doddering old father as king, while he spent most days riding horses and speaking in sonnets to his kindly manservant. He was kind to his subjects and always fought bravely. He was inexhaustibly handsome and well, charming, but once the crescendo of the closing song was hit and the credits began rolling, that was it.

(Granted, there have been several satires on the character of Prince Charming and fairy tales in general– this one is my favorite.)

Did Prince Charming ever cook Sleeping Beauty dinner? Did he rub her feet when she was pregnant and be patient with her cravings for chocolate-covered raisins and pickles? Was Prince Eric a good dad to his children or did he scamper off to battle sea monsters every time a diaper needed changing? Did Prince Charming (#2) tell Cinderella she was beautiful even when she took off the ballgown and put on sweatpants? Did her love push him to become the best version of himself?

I wish I could say I was this inquisitive about this as a child, but alas, I was just as easily pleased as every other six year old girl. My very favorite, Prince Eric, had a boat and a dog named Max, so basically all I needed was fins and long red hair, and my happily ever after was signed, sealed, delivered.

But let’s face the truth — none of them even had beards.

(See, Aragorn has a beard.)

My friend Frank once told me to always look for men that have beards.
“I hope even though you don’t have your list any more, you’re still holding out for a beard,” he said. “Real men have beards, Caroline, remember that.”

Facial hair aside, I’m not sure I subscribe to the whole idea of Prince Charming as the ultimate for anyone other than a six year old girl. In the light of age and wisdom, I don’t find him so charming anymore. I don’t want some fellow in tights to prance in on a horse, stick a sword in a dragon and expect my undying adoration and devotion. I would rather have a man whose strength didn’t hinge on the reach of his sword; who would rather live in a simple straw cottage than an elaborate palace; who became friends with the dwarves and whose merit was not earned by defending castle walls and rescuing maidens.

I don’t want to be rescued, I want to be known.

Most women aren’t looking for someone to waltz in (figuratively or literally) and save the day — they are looking for someone who care about their details. Who wants to know what your childhood best friend was like and what kind of tree houses you used to build; who can’t wait to hear the stories about each Christmas ornament that you unwrap from ratty old tissue paper; a man who cares what you center your life around and wants to understand each delicate and lovely intricacy that makes you exactly who you are. Someone who loves the snowflakes sticking to the tip of your nose and the awkward way that you smile in pictures. Who loves you even when you begin acting just like your mother and refuse to admit it.

A man can be the worst dancer in the world, wear big glasses instead of a glossy white smile or live in a paper box that wasn’t even fit to be in front of a castle. I’d rather have him fight for me by refusing to let me forget how deeply I am loved than to pull out his sword to prove how strong he is — because that’s not fighting for me, that’s fighting for him. I’m not interested in rubies and diamonds and white horses, I’m more interested in his heart and how he treats his mother when no one else is looking.

We waste so much time creating expectations for each other that we forget to fold our arms around all our imperfections. The crooked smile and extraordinarily odd habits that make people so unique — we deeply cheat ourselves when we don’t allow people the opportunity to dazzle us with exactly who they are.

I’m not looking for Prince Charming or Prince Eric or even Mr. Darcy.
I’m just waiting for someone else…I can’t wait to meet you.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. this0side0of0the0truth permalink
    December 29, 2008 2:44 pm

    Cinderella had sweatpants!?

  2. Caroline permalink*
    December 29, 2008 2:54 pm

    Of course.
    She wore them under the gown.

  3. Glo permalink
    December 31, 2008 10:04 am

    “My very favorite, Prince Eric, had a boat and a dog named Max, so basically all I needed was fins and long red hair, and my happily ever after was signed, sealed, delivered.”

    The Little Mermaid was the first movie that I saw in theaters, ha ha. This part made me laugh out loud. The archetype of prince charming is kind of a downer once you experience life and the joy of messiness and connection. There is also another truth in this quote, women feel the need to fit into the stereotypical maiden to attract the prince charming that they grow to not even want. I think it may take a level of maturity to be okay with being the “Cinderella in sweatpants” (which I love, you are quite good at making quotables!) And it takes the right kind of man to make the sweatpants feel like a ball gown.

    Also, thanks for the video, I forgot how amazing that movie is!

    Also, I have a Christmas gift from Thailand with your name on it. We must reunite early this semester.

  4. December 31, 2008 11:33 am

    Wow! I’m impressed! I’m impressed with the writing and I’m even more impressed with the content! As a middle-aged married man (with a beard) let me just say–and I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m pontificating and/or playing the wise old sage–I think you’ve hit upon the Truth. It sounds to me like you’re ready to meet up with your own real life prince charming. I hope he’s half as insightful or mature as you are. Perhaps even now the Master Chessplayer is moving two pieces closer together on the board…

  5. Caroline permalink*
    December 31, 2008 12:03 pm

    Glo: The idea of us feeling pressured into fitting the “maiden” mold is also very interesting. I love how you always pull things out of my posts and put your own spins on them — it’s wonderful and I love reading your thoughts.

    We will reunite soon! I promise! Name the date!

    Misterwrite: Well thank you! πŸ™‚ As a typically single gal, I have had a lot of time over the past few years to figure all this out. It’s been a real blessing, actually, and I’m glad to see that you see Truth in it. We’ll see if PC ever makes an appearance — if so, I will make sure to let you all know. πŸ™‚

  6. Marc permalink
    April 10, 2009 2:31 am

    I agree with what you said “..her love push him to become the best version of himself.” But in a man’s eye being like a prince is the form of her love making him the best version of himself. Sure opening doors and changing diapers is kind and considerate but a man needs to “slay dragons” once and a while, if he is to remain a man.

  7. Caroline permalink*
    April 10, 2009 8:05 pm


    I suppose you’re right. I’m not terribly good at thinking like a man, so if you all need to slay a dragon once in awhile, go for it. πŸ™‚ As long as there are no actual dragons involved, I’m okay with it.

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