Why Do Fairy Tales End In Weddings?

And it all ends happily ever after – the dragon slain, the terrible King overthrown, the witch thwarted, the wolf outrun, the villagers saved, the damsel rescued and…wedding bells. In old folktales, in Disney cartoons, in far too many movies and, of course, all over real life. Many people spend a lot of time, pain and money trying to craft that perfect day – the white dress, the giant cake, the big guest list. Sometimes they’re lucky and the only problem is the slightly leery uncle and other times it’s a disaster of catering, drained alcohol supplies and family feuds. Either way it seems we’ve taken the concept of a fairy tale wedding very seriously and tried to recreate it in real life. But I think we’ve slightly missed the point.

I do love a good fairy tale but I get pretty bored when it’s all about cisgendered, white, straight guys rescuing helpless damsels and marrying them, yawn. But the tradition was somewhat reclaimed for me when someone explained why fairy tales have a habit of ending in weddings. It’s not because the tale is literally a how-to manual for planning the big day, no, it’s a little more subtle than that. One way to interpret a traditional fairy tale is to see the characters in the story as facets of our personality (or psyche). We all have a questing hero in us and sometimes we can be a bit of a tyrant as well. There’s a wild wolf in us too, a wise sage, a jokey trickster, a helpless victim, a cunning witch and even a terrifying dragon (metaphorically speaking). We’re not just supposed to identify with the hero (y’know, that dull straight, white guy), instead all the characters represent different aspects of who we are. Many of us might play the part of the fool more often than the wise one, or the tyrant than the victim, but the point is the potential is there and our psyche is multi-faceted (whatever those dull personality tests tell us, give me dragons and witches over ENTJ any time). Basically, folktales are a form of psychology and therapy developed hundreds of years ago, pretty cool huh.

So why the wedding? Well, it’s not just some random straight folks tying the knot, it’s the marriage of your psyche. Say what? It’s when all of you, all of you, is invited back home to one giant party – it’s when you finally come to terms with being you. In many traditional tales the wedding won’t just include the in-laws but the tyrant king will be there (and he may well ceremoniously die as metaphor for you conquering your inner b*stard), the annoying brother, the sage, the mentor, the dragon’s head maybe, the witch (providing she survived and promised to be a little less wicked) and even the wild wolf might be seen flitting around in the garden. The guest list is vast and the catering cost astronomical but the point is all of you has been welcomed back home. It’s not about white dresses and multi-tiered cakes, it’s about inner healing and empowerment. So, as symbolism for inner transformation goes I think fairy tales are pretty ace. However, if like me you’re not such a fan of heteronormative ceremonies traditionally based on the buying and selling of woman, you’ll agree that the tales need a bit of a 21st century makeover. No more weddings for me, just one giant queer house party. All welcome.

What Is True Love?

It’s a question on many of our lips as we navigate the marketing campaigns, movies and relentless narratives of heteronormative patriarchy that tell us true love is something to be shared with one other person of the opposite gender for the rest of our lives. True love will involve a white wedding, 2.4 children and a mortgage. True love will look good in public and any problems will be hidden behind closed doors. True love will be shared on Facebook and Instagram whilst the passive aggression happens off camera. Fortunately, P!nk and Lily Allen aren’t buying into this bullsh*t.

Well, ok, I think both Lily Allen and P!nk are married with kids although they probably own their houses outright rather than have mortgages. However, there’s a lot of angst in this song as they complain about how irritating their partners are, how infuriating, how stupid and a whole load of other negative things (there are also quite a lot of domestic abuse references as well as some causal anal sexism, but that will be another post). And at least they’re honest. Love isn’t all roses, doves and honeymoons it can be annoying, smelly and sometimes quite disappointing. But I do like the idea of taking the rough with the smooth and committing to something bigger than  just two (or multiple) people, where 1 + 1 makes more than 2 (or 1 + 1 + 1 etc for those in polyamorous and/or open relationships). I think that’s something worth committing to and not that crass and crushing heteronormative, consumer capitalist version of “true love” created to make us buy more stuff and go to bed feeling guilty and alone. And I don’t think that better kind of true love (maybe just call it love to sound a little less presumptive) has to last forever either, what a sad benchmark for a relationship’s success if it only counts if it ended at death. It also doesn’t need to involve kids and a mortgage, dogs in a housing co-op are ace too. And it certainly isn’t just for straights. Queers welcome.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against people marrying, having 2.4 children and getting mortgages. It’s often a brilliant and inspiring (and very, very difficult) thing to do, hats off to you. But I do mind if that’s all you do, if you’ve just glanced at the ‘true love’ manual (aka watched a few Julia Roberts films and dressed your son in blue and daughter in pink) and taken it at face value. Worse still, not just read the manual but started to recite it as well, as you take for granted that society (and this includes politics, economics and culture) is often weighted in your favour (but only if you’re wealthy enough). I reckon the best thing you can do is acknowledge that space has been made for your type of love, enjoy it, and then set about helping create space so others can enjoy their types of love too. In brief, as with most posts on this blog, check your privilege and don’t be prejudiced. Then we can all have a go at mucking up true love (p.s. and yes, this post was basically an excuse to post that song, it’s just so catchy).

If Made In Chelsea Were Polyamorous

If you don’t know already Made in Chelsea is a BAFTA award-winning ‘structured-reality’ television series that began in 2001. The series follows the lives of affluent West London socialites as they gossip, date, banter, galavant  and cavort their way through lives without financial consequences. It is part fly-on-the-wall documentary, part scripted-soap, hence ‘scripted-reality’ – although in truth this means it falls somewhere between a low-budget episode of Gossip Girl and a dull episode of Big Brother. So sit back and relax as Spiffy, Tamara, Leo, Archibald et al. sip champagne, go for cocktails, converse awkwardly over dinner, and pause to look meaningfully into the sunset/countryside/cityscape/oncoming traffic.

However, once you’ve watched a few episodes the basic premise becomes clear – it’s all about relationships. Conversations tend to concern who is dating whom, who wants to date whom, who used to date whom, who cheated on someone whilst dating, and who is about to cheat on someone whilst dating. But despite all this talk of relationships the one thing the Made In Chelsea lot don’t do very well is fidelity. Many tears are shed as relationships fall apart, get fixed and fall apart again. The characters/real people desperately strive to be happy in faithful monogamous relationships but just end up perpetuating the stereotypes of overly clingy, needy women desperately seeking a man to make their lives alright and louche, unreliable, wannabe Lothario men desperately seeking a woman to have sex with. This is it as far as plot is concerned (yet it does prove bizarrely compelling).

However, so much of the drama could be avoided if the Chelsea bunch embraced the social phenomenon known as polyamory. From the Greek poly meaning ‘several’ and the Latin amor meaning ‘love’, polyamory is the practice of “consensual, ethical and responsible non-monogamy” (Jillian Keenan) – it allows for multiple partners to be involved in mature sexual and romantic relationships.

So what would this mean for the Chelsea set? Well, Tiffy would no longer have to cry at night whilst Harry is off getting it off with Lara because all three could consent to a relationship style that allows for both Tiffy and Harry to see other people. Whilst Tiffy and Harry could remain ‘primary partners’ they could each agree to the other having a certain number of ‘secondary partners’ perhaps for sex, emotional support, shopping sprees etc. It would be a carefully constructed and agreed to non-exclusivity. And if it worked jealousy would fly out the window because both halves of the primary partnership would enjoy the other finding satisfaction elsewhere. Meanwhile, Tiffy and Harry could drop the small talk, which takes up far too much of each episode’s running time, and get straight to the real emotional stuff of making a polyamorous relationship work – expect numerous DMCs, honest accounts of their feelings and much energy being put into making each other feel emotionally secure. There would be no stigma to saying one feels vulnerable, insecure or jealous because in an open and honest polyamorous relationship everyone is there to look after everyone else.

Of course, the bit that people might struggle with in polyamory isn’t the non-monogamy part but the “consensual, ethical and responisble” part. It’s all too easy to imagine the label ‘polyamorous’ being stuck on a relationship that is actually unequal and psychologically upsetting. Harry could just use it as an excuse to sleep around whilst Tiffy gets miserable at something that she had no say in. That’s not polyamory, that’s cheating. Cynicism aside the Made in Chelsea-ers might well be capable of engaging in mature, polyamorous relationships. Things could actually work and then there would be a lot less back biting, far less jealousy and hardly any overblown emotional drama. Basically, what little plot there is would dissipate because no one wants to watch lots of happy people in functioning, respectful relationships. So maybe it’s best the Chelsea set stick to what they’re best at – hit and miss monogamy.