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The Prince

I am posting this musing on my web site with the awareness of the increased popularity of the Disney princesses, knights, and pirates. This musing was written ten years ago. While parts may be dated, I think the main jist of it is still relevant. Today, November 10, 2009, I invite readers to reflect on the relationship of Obama and society's wish for a Prince.

In the eighties, I was part of a women's group. For almost ten years, we met regularly, using the moon's cycle as our calendar. We read and discussed women's writing and women's music. We taught ourselves about the goddess. We argued the existence of the patriarchy and women's roles. We experimented with women's spirituality for many years and even wrote our own rituals. It was a period of personal growth, companionship, and learning.

Time passed, some things changed, as they will. I see less of these women now, and yet still I am close to some of them. This summer [1999] one of these friends confided that she had told her three year old daughter an improvisational story while they sat on the beach. My friend was perplexed and embarrassed when her spontaneous story contained a princess who was waiting to be rescued by a prince. My friend told me, "There I was, perpetuating a myth that I've spent years trying to get away from!"

The stories that we hear and tell are reflections of our lives. My friend was fortunate to be able to stay home with her children while their father worked to support the family. The story she told to her daughter invited her to look at where she was in her life - and to evaluate it.

While the "women's movement" was widely embraced in our culture, many women worried that the concept of "the prince" would be internalized in an unhealthy manner. Girls, and women too, may spend their lives passively waiting for prince charming to come and rescue them from a place of helplessness, to give them beauty and value. Some women may feel cheated not to have found a prince. The bio-emotional nature of gender issues and a discussion of the effects of the media are beyond this musing - however interesting they may be. For now, I write about archetypes in fairy tales - those patterns that give the story its universal appeal.

I told my friend that I see the prince in her story as an archetype. (Perhaps this is Jungian, but I am not a Jungian scholar.) To me "the prince" represents a dream of salvation - the hope for a way to ease suffering - a belief that life can be improved. The prince, in fairy tales, to me, represents bravery, truth, courage, strength to overcome hardships. I said to my friend, I court the archetypal prince. I bow to the concept of the prince in the same manner that I honor other archetypes: the step-mother, the king, the third brother, the princess, the dragon, doorway, cave, etc.

As a child, I played "prince and princess" with my friend Connie Oliveros. We repeatedly acted out Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. We "played" Little Mermaid. What better way to examine our awe and curiosity about relationships? The wicked stepmother, the fairy godmother, the thorny vines, the uninvited thirteenth fairy, the prince..... we were all of the characters in the story. And all the fairy tales' events happened to us, as we played inside the house in Houston, Texas, with the Venetian blinds tightly closed to dim the room and to keep out the heat of the day.

Today, in the twenty-first century, it is not fashionable to recognize the prince We have become too sophisticated, too worldly, too jaded to see him. Sometimes, we deny that we even need him. We don't want to admit that the prince even exists. We wonder - can the possibility of salvation through goodness even exist? All too often, we have been let down and disappointed.

A Prince? Watch out: he may not prove worthy of our trust. He may not be able to live up to our expectations of perfection. We do not recognize the prince. We do not dare hope for such perfection.

I want to tell you this: The prince exists. All the stories that you have heard about the prince are true. He searches unendingly for the owner of the glass slipper. He climbs glass mountains and slays dragons. He is cast out by his father, the King. He rescues the princess, when no one else can. The prince is us. He is me; he is you. The Prince is our longings, our intentions. He represents the possibility of goodness.

Deep in our hearts, we ache to have a savior, a prince. When we are able to remove the dark glasses, to shake off the blinders, to break through our protective shells, ...... when we can experience the pain of Truth, we can realize it. The prince is real. The risks involved keep us from recognizing him.

I believe this vision of the archetypal prince is necessary to live a good life and build a nurturing society.

Katie Green