For years I grew up reading the classic bed time stories and dreaming about ‘Prince Charming’ arriving on horseback to fight off the fire breathing dragon, armed with a modest sword and shield. He would sweep me off my feet and we would ride off into the sunset without a care in the world, and I simply couldn’t wait.
The year is 2018, and I am a 42-year-old divorced single mother to two wonderful children. I am an award winning entrepreneur with two beautiful homes in London and Rome, and a bestselling book set to launch in the UK in May. So where is the fairy tale covering my story? Where is the tale of the strong minded woman who overcame the weight of oppression thrust upon her by a nation of chauvinistic bigots in Italy, to establish two international businesses and land herself on the Spear’s 500 as one of London’s most influential service providers for high-net-worth individuals?
The ‘Prince Charming’ rhetoric is yet another product of our destructive tendency to construct unattainable dreams for our children to chase, only to be disappointed by the sobering truth of a murky reality. As a child, I would hide myself away in my room to indulge in the fictional tales of a princess dressed in the most spectacular of dresses, arm in arm with a tall, dark and handsome man. It was the perfect release to take me away from the struggles of an oppressive and often violent household. I yearned for my prince to arrive at my door and save me from my troubles, but it would transpire that the truth couldn’t be further away from the glitter laden, romanticised folk tale. Life would work out in a way that I never did make my way to the ball, and I learned to deal with that.
But what can be said for the young girl who never came to terms with the realisation that the charming prince is nothing more than a figment of our imagination? This is why I believe that the traditional fairy tales, as harmless as they may seem, are actually extremely dangerous. They end up brainwashing the little minds of vulnerable and easily influenced girls in their formative years, building them up to ultimately fall when they discover that the prince doesn’t exist 99% of the time.
I don’t want to sound like a spoil sport, and the fact that I am more than happy and proud to be a successful, single working mother, doesn’t mean that I have completely turned my back on a romantic happy ending. However, I do believe that it is now time that we changed the game and looked to create a new fairy tale for young children to dream about. Let’s invent new fairy tales based around the extremely intelligent woman conquering the world thanks to her innovation and drive. Let’s talk about the middle aged woman doing incredible things in the world through kindness and empathy. Let’s present new role models to our baby boys and girls, so that they grow up wanting to leave the world in a better place than they found it - instead of fixating around the idea that one day their foot will slide perfectly into the glass shoe, and they will fit into the size six dress. We should want our children to look past the fact that the princesses in fairy tales are always young, with perfect skin and perfect bodies. There are no other criteria – and this is wrong. We should not be conditioning our children’s minds to believe that they have to fit a certain look in order to be considered a princess, and we have a moral duty as parents to not fabricate such insecurities. We are living in an age where mental health amongst youth is rife, and much of this is to do with body confidence. Children see and hear of Cinderella frolicking around the ball like butter wouldn’t melt, blemish free with curves in all of the right places, and they see this as the perfect body image. Yet Cinderella was a cartoon, just as quixotic as the insecurities she created.
I want young girls and boys to know that the fairy tales are not a true representation of reality, and the fact of the matter is that if we can’t find happiness and salvation within ourselves, then no prince can save us. We need to teach our children that they are their own magical prince, and they should learn to embrace their strengths and imperfections in order to achieve the ‘happy ending’. Instead of killing off the witch, who conveniently always seems to be cast as an old lady, we should teach our kids to kill the lack of confidence - because this is the real danger that they will face in their lives – not a woman waving a poisonous apple in their faces, as per the Sleeping Beauty script!
My advice would be to be yourself, own independence and strive to make a positive impact in the world – the rest will come. If it doesn’t? Who cares?