When I was at my all-girls school my biology teacher blew a condom up like a balloon and brandished it in front of our faces.
“Never let him tell you it isn’t big enough.” She shouted.
Those of us close enough to smell the spermicide, tittered nervously and gazed at her admiringly. This was cutting edge sex education. Those of us at the back dived deeper into our Just Seventeen magazines.
But sex, mind-blowing or orgasmic or mechanical or perfunctory, cannot be taught through books (or biology teachers blowing up condoms). Sex – necessarily – needs practice and has a learning curve. Relationships and relationship skills on the other hand, can be taught through both theory and practice. But there is no such thing as relationship education in school. Which means we had to get it from Disney.
In Disney, Cinderella sits around dreaming about the day her prince will come. She scrubs the floors, serves her relentlessly abusive family and sings to birds. One day out of the blue, her fairy godmother comes and gives her the opportunity to go to a ball where she flirts enough with the prince to make him hot enough to marry her because presumably in Disney, there is no sex before marriage (and not just because cartoon figures have no genitals).
Disney teaches us that if we women suffer oppression in silence, are virtuous and submissive, we will one day be able to obtain freedom… in the form of marriage (apart from that we will still have to serve and obey if the traditional roles are to be respected).
As a little girl, the pinnacle of my dream was to get married. The dress. The rescue. The prince. The fabulous hair. The happy ever after.
It’s what we were promised. But I’m 37 now, and divorced even though I had a wedding planner (although I still have fabulous hair).
The promise of the happy ever after is nebulous, mystical and exciting. But essentially an illusion.
And somewhere, somehow, we know this… but refuse to believe it. If only the ring is big enough. If only the dress is expensive enough. If only everything on D-Day is planned to the nth degree, the marriage …will be a happy one.
It’s a common enough phenomenon we have of throwing money at something to try and improve it. Money gives the illusion of security and in the hope that we can skip off into the sunset with prince charming, we feel that the more we spend on our wedding day and the more carefully we plan it, the less likely we will be to end up in the divorce courts.
Wedding planning is big business because we are creatures of control. Love, an essentially uncontrollable force, the master of our rescue and our fairytale is too scary to be left to fate. And so thousands of women opt to plan, plan and plan again. Because as the saying goes – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail – and when it comes to our happy ever after, no price is too high. Ironically, the more you plan, the more rigid you make your life, the more likely you life is to fail. Because life is not linear or binary. Life is complex and you never know what–or who–is around the corner.