When my daughters were small, we’d play the princess game. I’d make up little quizzes about each Disney princess and they would guess which princess belonged with which trait. I also played this game with Goddesses—but that’s another story.
I always told them that Belle from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” was my favorite for two reasons—she loves books and she sees the beast for who he really is. And hey, it worked out for Belle, didn’t it?
I think a lot about myth, story, and fairytale. My girls and I never miss an episode of “Once Upon A Time,” which is a modern-day mash-up of fairy tales. I also loved the “Beauty and the Beast” show that was popular in the 1980s. The “beast” lives beneath the streets of New York City in this fabulous underground space full of books and antiques. So romantic. He was another beast that had that softness underneath him.
I love that kind of man—sort of rough and bristly on the outside, but a real sweetheart underneath. Part of the deliciousness of a relationship with this kind of man is that very few people know him like you do. My own husband is kind of like this. There’s something about a man who is confident, in-charge, and knows what he wants—and feels good about taking it.
But the danger in falling for a beast type, of course, is that sometimes a beast is just a beast.
Which leads to the arduous trial of trying to separate the real beasts from the crusty on the outside but soft on the inside ones.
So much of that can mean years of sorting through our own personal mythologies where we tell ourselves things like “boys will be boys,” (or Goddess forbid) “If I give him one more chance, I know he won’t drink/cheat/hit me again.” These are the kinds of beasts that deserve no second glimpses. Maybe someday he will change, but probably not, and who has time for that crap?
Move on, sister.
On the other hand, a cool part of the story is that Belle overlooks the beast’s horrific face to see him for who he is. And this is a great lesson. I can point out several men that I’ve been attracted to immediately; then they start talking and reveal they are sexist or stupid, and suddenly the attraction is gone. I’ve had it work the other way, too, where an attraction grows as I get to know someone. This is definitely, for me, the best way.
So as the mother of two daughters who love story, I use the “Beauty and the Beast” story sometimes in my parenting. My oldest daughter is almost fifteen, and she flits from crush to crush and boy to boy. But every once in awhile, a boy comes along that she falls hard for—and most of the time, he’s more of the “beast” variety.
For example, her current crush is a high school senior. (She is a freshmen.) One minute he seems to be leading her on, the next minute he acts like a jerk. Of course, I took the opportunity to point out that, first of all, he’s too old for her. Secondly, whether he really likes her or not is not her problem. You judge people on how they treat you. Period. Okay, he’s basically a kid and maybe a bit confused himself. I get that. But his confusion is not my daughter’s problem. She needs to believe that.
I also took the opportunity to point out that he may be very cute on the outside, but may be a beast on the inside. It’s so hard to see people for who they really are. In truth, I still struggle with this in my own life. I wish I could see my own friends, colleagues and so on as clearly as I can see hers. The cute guy on the outside really will do nobody any good if the inside is beastly.
Sounds very simple doesn’t it? But the truth of the matter is we are emotional creatures, responding to attractions on base levels at times. I’ve made those mistakes where I don’t listen to the voice in my head, but instead I follow the more fun lusty voice that made me feel sexy, even for just one night. Or two. Hell, maybe even more than a few years. “He’s not really as bad as he seems.” Or “I will be the one who can save him.” It never led me to a good place.
I’m not exactly Belle, who ended up living in a castle with a prince—most of us are not. And while I find myself wanting to sharpen my swords and cut down the beasts in my daughter’s lives, I know it’s futile. They will each have to find their own way, learn their own lessons of the heart and body. I can advise, but mostly, I will have to watch from the sidelines, open mind, open heart, open arms.
But I’ll keep my swords nice and sharp—albeit tucked behind my back. You never know when there might be a real beast to take down.