Almost every girl in any first world country grew up on tales of Disney. A fair maiden princess who can’t help becoming a damsel in distress, held hostage by an evil witch or stepparent, and had to be rescued by Prince Charming.
A friend and I were discussing this on a Sunday afternoon drive. How Disney gave us young girls a dream to believe in. To be pure of heart and body and our prince will whisk us away to a happily ever after. And it was then my friend made an astute observation:
Why is the prince CHARMING? Charming isn’t necessarily a good quality to have.
I was stunned at how quickly the cord resonated when she said this. When I think of the word charming I think of George Clooney and Sir Michael Caine. Men I can’t help but fall for at the slightest smile. They are charming and practically perfect in my fairytale mindset.
Then I started thinking about all the charming men I’d met in my life. They were far from perfect. In fact, the most charming of men were con-artists.
My Prince Charming was a young man with whom I attended school in London. We can call him Jake. Jake was 6’1″, luscious locks of curly brown hair, emerald green eyes, boyish dimples, and lashes for days. Anything he wanted from me he could get. I gave him answers to homework, cigarettes, shots at the bars, my gloves! I couldn’t say no because I knew at some point he would profess his love, passionately kiss me, and carry me away, where I would lose my virginity and live in a foreign land.
Back to Disney: Beauty and the Beast was ground breaking because Belle was smart and independent. She read books and refused to conform to gender and societal norms. Instead she did what she had to do to support her family through determination and autodidact-ness – based on her father’s failing business schemes I doubt Papa donated a wing to an Ivy League school resulting in Belle’s admittance and full scholarship.
I also loved how Gaston was the villian and oh-so-good-looking and charming. It teaches us that just because you are good looking and charismatic, it doesn’t make up for putting people down because of their gender, race, age, etc.
Before you start citing other Disney movies that have lead heroins, I am not bashing Disney or childhood fairy tales or men. In fact, I commend Disney, overall. While I have never seen Frozen, I hear it’s quite liberating and doesn’t feed into a good v evil as the only options for life. And I enjoy being swept up by a charming man over a drink or business as well. I just don’t use that as my reason to fall for them.
On my last night in London, I remember getting mad (and drunk) and telling Jake it wasn’t fair. He knew I couldn’t resist him and that he was using me. He wrapped me in his sheep skin jacket and brought me in so close. I thought, “This is it!” And then I watched him go home with one of the girls from my circle. I was crushed.
In that moment I saw through what I call The Rasputin Effect – where one is so charming and convincing their words spill from their mouth and into your soul like oil moisturizing your skin. You aren’t aware that the tingling sensation is actually alcohol poured onto an open wound until you’re writhing in pain (no Emo, I swear).
My point is not that you should or should not be looking for someone who is charming, but someone that knows how to use their powers for good more often evil – whatever that power or quality may be. There is a Prince Charming and a Con-Man in all of us, and chances are you’ll see both in your partner and yourself.