Ladies, get rid of the prince and be your own hero!
Every woman I know loves the movie Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. How could we not? A modern Cinderella tale, Pretty Woman plays into every fantasy we have as women, yearning for a rich, handsome and dashing hero to save us from a life of grinding reality.
I saw it twice – once in the movie theatre and once on TV. The unforgettable scene for me was when Vivian, Julia Roberts’ character, went into a Rodeo Drive boutique and emerged moments later looking like a princess with several shopping bags on her arm, the catchy tune of Pretty Woman playing in the background. Like a shopaholic’s wet dream, Vivian could finally buy anything she wants because it’s all paid for by Richard Gere’s character – a ruthless tycoon who has fallen hopelessly in love with her.
The problem with movies like Pretty Woman is that it reinforces the notion that women can’t be strong, rich, powerful or pay for their own stuff – without the support of a man. Not just any ordinary man but a financial saviour-cum-superman – a Prince Charming.
Granted, the emancipation of women took place half a century ago, but our biological and cultural programming runs deeper. It tells us that men are the pursuers and protectors, while women are the pursued. If you don’t believe this, just answer 3 questions:
- Do you expect your man to be the first to propose marriage?
- Do you love to be romanced in style by the man you love?
- Do you leave most major financial decisions to him and ask no questions?
Don’t be surprised if you answered ‘yes’ to all or some of the above. Though women are leading Fortune 500 Companies, deep in our hearts, the Prince Charming myth persists. Enjoying a good fairy tale is okay; what’s not okay is believing in them. Here’s why believing in Prince Charming can be damaging and what you can do about it:
He raises our expectations of what a good man should be
If a ‘good man’ to you is someone who treats you like a princess and supports you in everything you do, you will always be disappointed. Men are fallible human beings. Just like you, they have bad habits, they make mistakes, they grow old, put on weight and often fail to appreciate you.
Antidote: Lower your expectations. So what if he’s not romantic? Just be happy and grateful that he’s home early!
He robs us of our identity
When you marry a man who’s rich and powerful, your life revolves around his work, his activities and his schedule. Take Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. These are powerful and accomplished women. But what about the women who stay home and mind the children while their husbands conquer the world? Can stay-home mums ever emerge from the shadows of their rich powerful husbands when, God forbid, the marriage ends?
Antidote: Never give up your work or career entirely. Work part-time and develop your own interests and circle of friends
He causes us to develop a sense of complacency about money
This is by far, the most damaging effect of the Prince Charming myth. When you marry someone high above you in accomplishment and status, the power balance shifts to him. Who are you, to argue and question someone who pays all your bills? Lisa, my friend whom I profiled in my book When Love and Money Are Gone, was a former banker who gave up her career to take care of her children as the wife of a top corporate honcho. Her husband cheated on her and they divorced. To her shock, she realised that she had neglected her own finances. Bargaining for full custody of their two children rather fight for a bigger divorce settlement, Lisa had to rebuild her own life and financial independence from scratch.
Antidote: Insist on being a joint decision maker and partner on all financial matters concerning you and your family. Never take your eyes off your own savings and investment portfolio. Continue to save and invest your own money, with or without your man.
He causes us to forget our big goals
We diet and spend enormous amounts of money and time on dressing up and looking like ‘Pretty Women’. We panic when we spot wrinkles or cellulite. In fact, the multi-billion dollar beauty industry is built on women’s insecurity about their looks and their bodies, all because we need to keep up with the ever younger and more beautiful women who will seduce our ‘prized possession’.
Antidote: Accept the fact that ageing is inevitable. If your looks and sexuality are the only assets you have for keeping your relationship alive, you are standing on shaky ground. Besides investing in a costly weight loss package, why not invest money on becoming a more interesting person with bigger goals? Educate yourself, start a business, contribute to charity and develop yourself intellectually, spiritually and socially.
On this International Women’s Day, remember that you are the heroine of your own story. If you are single, don’t wait for your prince to come. If you have a partner, don’t expect him to shoulder all your burdens. May Prince Charming forever rest in peace in the pages of dusty old story books and may he never be resurrected!
Contributed by Elsa Lim who is a life coach and the founder of www.moneyfitcoach.com and the Facebook group Women With Wings as well as the author of the book When Love and Money Are Gone. She offers a free 30 minute coaching session for any woman wanting to take charge of their financial lives after recovering from the Prince Charming syndrome.
Photo credits: GIPHY, Pexels, Pixabay