I spend a good deal of my daily commute dreaming about being a spy, escaping from a remote hostage situation, or throwing the party of a lifetime. When my imagination is particularly active, all three. No one has ever said to me, “You need to stop pretending your life can be like that. Movies like Transformers and The Avengers aren’t real.” What an odd thing that would be to say to someone, to assume the things they daydream about are the things they expect out of real life. Which makes me wonder this: why do people tell us we’ve watched too many romantic comedies? That we need to stop looking for our Prince Charming? Or that we need to stop thinking our lives could be fairy tales? Some mornings, maybe when I’m putting on my eyeliner, or maybe when I button my blouse, I think, “today I could meet the love of my life.” Other times I think, “did I finish the peanut butter?” or “traffic should be good today.” Some thoughts make me more fastidious about the application of my lipstick, but they’re still just thoughts.
Women have not watched too many romantic comedies because that’s not an actual thing. We weren’t deluded through the 80’s and 90’s into believing there was a new kind of fairy tale. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks did not hypnotize women into thinking that you could only meet the love of your life through gestures that in actuality would get you arrested. And the thing about love stories is that women aren’t the ones propagating them. In the history of fairy tale romances, do you know how many were written by men? Uhh… most of them. You know why? Because for the better part of forever, they were the only ones getting published. You want to complain about romantic comedies? Dig up Shakespeare.
If it seems that in the last decade, women have noticeably started to laze about dreamily wishing for their prince, it’s not because we think it’s realistic, it’s actually because for the first time, we don’t have to be realistic. We are finally, finally, starting to get to a place where women are not dependent on men, where they’re not daughters, sisters, and wives, but people. Having that autonomy enables us to want, rather than need. Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: women used to be dependent on men for money and thus all the things that money can buy. When such basic needs can only be filled by marriage, of course a full head of hair isn’t an issue. But now women can support themselves. They can raise children alone. They can build communities, companies, kingdoms, and on their hierarchy of needs, they can start to seek love, esteem, and self-actualization.
Do I dream about having an epic romance? Of course I do. But I also dream about my reaction plan in an apocalypse and what weapon I would use if someone were to break into my home. In the same way that not everyone who watches the walking dead becomes a doomsday prepper, not every girl who watches romcoms becomes a starry-eyed princess. But if we dream to prepare for reality, then I’ve certainly known more people who’ve had epic romances than zombie bites.
Do I really think that a man with a great body, adoring personality, loads of cash, and eyes only for me actually exists? No. But I don’t need to him exist, and that’s why I can hope he does.