Thursday, January 7, 2010

Women Who Need Gods, Handsome Princes, Paramedics, and Vampires

 {This was posted by a regular at one of the forums for ExMormons that I frequent. I thought it was fantastic and got permission from the original poster to repost it here. Enjoy!}

When I was a little girl, my sister ("Mary") and I would often play make-believe together. Mary was obsessed with a certain TV actor (Johnny) who played the part of a paramedic in a weekly series. So was I. Mine and Mary's playtime usually involved pretending we were injured so Johnny could come and rescue us. It was quite hilarious but we were quite infatuated. Especially Mary.

I remember one specific occasion when Mary wanted me to break her leg so paramedics could be called to her rescue. No, I'm not kidding. Of course I would not even try to comply with her demands and even at that young age (5ish?) her obsession struck me as not a good thing. Not emotionally healthy. Where did it come from? Make-believe was one thing, but hurting oneself to get attention took playtime to a whole new level.

Mary and I were raised in a very patriarchal home and had several other siblings. We read lots of fairy tales about the beautiful princess who was always saved -- not by herself -- but by a handsome prince. So we dreamt about handsome princes who would someday come to save us.

Our mother and older sisters devoured Harlequin Romances that were all pretty much the same: Some perfect chiseled and ruggedly handsome brilliant man who possessed a bottomless fortune, who was named something like "Roarke" or "Thor" or "Rex" somehow fell madly in love with insipid female idiots with "honey brown hair" or "silvery blonde hair that framed her elf-like face just so."

I started reading those "books" when I was in junior high school. At first I devoured them too. But after about a year, I learned to hate them. I hated the women. I hated the men. The men were all about rugged and authoritative anger and passion while the women were boring and weak and helpless and unbelievably stupid. And somehow it was supposed to be a turn-on when the perfect man roughly grabbed the blank woman in his painful and passionate grasp because he could no longer contain his inexplicable passion as his lips crushed hers in their bruising and mobile moist exploration while his manhood made his desire for insipidly boring femininity painfully apparent. Ahhh. Romance.

I moved on to a different genre where the women were more intelligent and interesting and the men were more human and interesting and frankly, attractive. My sisters and my mother thought I was weird. Thank God, I was breaking the mold. Well, sort of. There was still that God I was still thanking.

Our father was a well-respected and perhaps even idolized church leader who also had a prestigious job. People in our ward and stake loved him and told us how brilliant and amazing and spiritual he was. Because he was our Dad, that made us feel special and important too. We basked in his priesthood and patriarchal glory. So did my Mom.

The boys in our family were treated with more respect than the girls. My older brother "needed" a car so he could drive to high school. I "needed" to take the bus. My mother expected me to clean my brothers' messy rooms and it raised all kinds of hell when I refused. I never thought it was fair that "housework is for girls and boys do yard work." What was so special about having a penis?

Then there was Jesus, The Perfect Man, who was also a god. Only he could save me. My puny efforts fell far short of sufficient. I couldn't escape my need for a male savior even in my faith.

In our patriarchal world where men were the idols of our idle thoughts, where the idea that women were nothing without men was the reality, Mary and I both married young. Of course we did.

While I had no visible talents, Mary was a talented and naturally gifted artist. She was an excellent student and only a class or two away from graduating with a degree in art when she casually discarded her gift upon realizing her one true dream of becoming Mrs. Johnny Doe. Now, several years after her divorce, she draws cutesy signs and posters and disposable handouts for her calling in the Young Women's program. She feels her lack of a man like a chronic pain. She knows she is nothing without one.

Mary found her "one and only" for the umpteenth time several months ago. She fell head over heels and said things to me like "he hangs the moon and the stars in my heart." Mary is still a little girl pretending, waiting and hoping to be rescued by the love of a fantasy man who will finally prove her value. He's an exmo and she's still hopeful. An unworkable combination. He persuaded her into his bed, and she persuaded him to attend church, all the while clinging to her temple recommend so she could show up all "righteous" to my TBM daughter's temple wedding -- from which I was excluded. I don't hold it against Mary. I feel sorry for her. Mary's exmo boyfriend recently dumped her. Poor Mary is again sitting at home alone feeling like she is worth nothing because no man appears to want her.

Her efforts to find her "one-and-only" have become increasingly more desperate as she expands her search to the internet, where she is advertising her availability like some package deal on overpriced ink cartridges for an outdated printer.

Mary loves the Twilight series about obsessively controlling and stalking vampires who step out of a magical world into the reality of young women who, like Mary, are not that special either ... and inexplicably fall madly "in love" with someone who has no special talents, no dreams or ambitions of her own to speak of. She's happy and fulfilled just being loved by some fantasy version of perfection.

What Mary does not realize is she does not need a god, a handsome prince, a cute paramedic, or a vampire. She is a beautiful woman with an inner strength she refuses to realize. Every week when she attends her church meetings her status as a second-class citizen is systematically confirmed. Her reliance on men for any sense of her self-worth is carefully reinforced. Her female role-models of true beauty, intelligence, strength and independence are silently absent. Instead, she gets bombarded with examples of bitchiness, jealousy, submissiveness, and obedient resignation to the patriarchal status quo.

Ahhh. Romance.