A Feminist’s Search for Prince Charming

BY MARIE-CLAIRE MARCOTTE

My writing process involves a lot of doing and being as Natalie so cleverly points out in her opening note. My doing is the actual act of writing. But before writing I spend just as much time being—listening to podcasts with writers talking about their process, wringing my hands (like in the picture!), sweeping my floors, stretching, eating pastries… I’ve stopped calling this procrastinating because it’s a part of my process—the being part of it.

I’m sharing an essay with you that has been for a while—meaning that it has sat in a folder on my desktop for months. It is now doing—coming to life in this issue of She Said Notes!

I’ll leave you to your reading. Hope you enjoy it! I’ll be out for a walk wringing my hands as I settle in the being of my doing.

I have asked women in my life if they ever daydream of being saved by a man. Their response: yes.

“From what?” I asked.

They didn’t know.

I have asked men in my life if they ever daydream of saving a woman.

Their response: yes.

“From what?” I asked. They didn’t know.

I am a huge believer in the value of daydreaming. Daydreaming gives my brain a break, allowing me to escape the mundane. Most importantly, it allows me to DREAM BIG. And if I can dream it then it can happen, right? Dream it to be it. That’s probably printed on some overpriced magnet sold at Chapters but… I still believe it. Dream big baby! Another way of explaining daydreaming might be Manifest Your Destiny. (I don’t mean Manifest Destiny—the 19th century belief that the expansion of the U.S. was justified. I’m referring to those groups of people who actually do it—manifest their personal destinies.) I hear that Manifest Your Destiny is a very effective mantra for some. I’ve never tried it but I picture a lot of self-talk in front of mirrors: “I am an amazing chef,” “I won’t be a grumpy networker,” “I will be good at hip-hop.”

Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any skill. I think daydreaming is one of my skills since I’ve been daydreaming about Prince Charming saving me ever since I can remember… I think that pretty much makes me an expert. Though I wish I were an expert at something else like grammar or coding.

I’ve recently become obsessed with figuring out WHY, as someone who was raised in a feminist household, I had been so consumed with the fantasy of encountering a type of Prince Charming and having him save me from whatever banal or scary path I was on. My parents did their best to help me believe that I was strong, independent and that I could save myself if need be. They encouraged me to say “NO, BACK OFF” to Justin, my grade one bully who would push me in mud puddles at recess and give me bruises. Not only did I say “NO, BACK OFF” but I also stabbed his face with a sharp branch. He cried. So did I. My dad was proud. I had saved myself.

My parents also had a hate-on for Archie comics, Barbies and Disney movies—basically all things plastic and too pink that gave the message to their three girls that they should play house, fight over a boy and one day be saved by Prince Charming. But we wore them down with our requests. It was hard for them not to. We were three. They were two. So in succumbing to our base desires they also developed rules to rid them of their parental guilt:

  1. No Archie comics allowed during the school year. Only during the summer.
     
  2. If we watched Disney movies we would also watch obscure international movies at the Regina Public Library.

    (Obscure international movies include La Reine Margot where a French Queen is overthrown by her violent and incestuous brothers. In my parent’s defense, they didn’t know the film would be so… explicit. I squirmed in my seat when a close-up of a flaccid penis appeared on screen. My first visual of a ‘live’ penis. At home we had a lot of books with pictures of naked families having a picnic, taking a bath, making supper—books that normalized nudity and sexuality. But a picture is very different from a moving, flopping genitalia. I was not prepared.)
     
  3. They bought Barbies but they refused to buy Barbie cars or houses or anything we could make ourselves using our imagination, Lego blocks and/or cardboard.

So why did I so heavily indulge in the Saved By Prince Charming daydream? And for so many years? Do I blame Barbies? Archie comics? Disney? My parents? Society?

When I was about eight years old I would play ‘Queen & Servant’ with my older sister Émilie. I was always the servant. (Funny how that worked out in her favour every time.) But, in truth, I didn’t actually mind because that’s when my Prince Charming scenario worked best. I would wear old skirts my mother gave us for dress-up and an apron. I’d set up my servant station in the upstairs bathroom. I’d wash the bathroom mirror until ‘Prince Charming’ came to rescue me. The end.

I feel like I’m a good example for parents everywhere to cut themselves some slack. You might be trying your best to raise your children one way but try as you might they'll probably start doing the opposite. And it’s not your fault.

Another example of this recurring daydream used to happen when I was a teenager. I was always wearing a flowing dress, staring at the ocean. I’d be in another country all alone. And for some reason I’d be bored. And lo and behold, Prince Charming shows up! And you guessed it, he saves me. From my boredom, I guess? The end.

Thinking back now on those daydream sessions of some man saving me from boredom I can’t help but ask myself a loathsome question—am I a horrible feminist? I don’t even fully know what that question means. I guess I struggle with the disconnect between my declarations for equality one second and then my draw to the Prince Charming cliché the next. About a year ago I asked my mom what she thought about my conundrum and she responded with a mere: “You’re surprised? Look at everything around us still screaming misogyny.” I think she blames society.

I can at least say that most of my exes weren’t ‘savers.’ We existed on an even playing field and the whole Prince Charming debacle happening in my mind didn’t manifest itself in reality. Until…

I dated a man from France a few years ago. He lived by the Mediterranean Sea. And he approached me when I was staring at the sea, feeling lonely and bored out of my tree. So is this where Manifest Your Destiny comes in? Dream it and it’ll happen? Then that’s some scary shit if you ask me. Not everything we dream up should happen. Anyways French man caught me at a highly influential time. I felt ‘saved.’

We dated. He bought me roses all the time. I think this might have been his daydream: girl will be yours forever if you buy her roses. Good morning, here’s a rose. Bought some batteries at the cute French corner store, here’s a rose. It’s summer, here’s a rose. It’s 2:00pm, here’s a rose. I always wondered who was the type of person who bought flowers from the mustached-men walking around tables at restaurants. My French man did. I forgave this cheesy act of love on account of his Frenchness. My roommate once told me that she’d prefer getting a bouquet of broccoli than stupid flowers. To each her own.

I think he might have been my breaking point. Men in the south of France aren’t exactly known for their interest in discussing feminism. I never got to “Am I a horrible feminist?” with him because I never got past being allowed to use the word ‘feminist’ around him at all. He was the pinnacle of my Prince Charming daydream come to life. And… it sucked.

I saved myself out of that one.

I’m now dreaming of more important things. Or, in my most honest moments, I’m waiting for the next Prince Charming daydream to pop up in my mind and take on a grandiose life of its own. I mean I have spent most of my life feeding these fantasies so I wouldn’t be totally surprised if one popped up again. Only this time my plan is to slay the dream. I hope.

It’s hard to live in a society that encourages women to be saved and men to be life savers.

It’s hard to encourage children to silence the Prince Charming noise.

I do know that my Prince Charming daydreams are getting fewer and less interesting to feed. The other day my boyfriend’s car wouldn’t start and I immediately went into passive mode. I’m no mechanic so I thought, “he’ll take care of it.” He would “save us.” Though he managed to find someone with booster cables, I soon found out that he’s no mechanic either and didn’t quite know how to put those booster cables on! I loved him so much for not knowing what to do. I downloaded the flashlight app on my phone and read the instructions with him. We saved ourselves.

Originally from Saskatchewan, Marie-Claire Marcotte works in English and French as a writer, translator, actor and producer. She is the co-founder of the production company She Said Films, featured at numerous film festivals including Cannes, the Berlin Web Fest and SeriesFest. Their newest project, Running With Violet, can be viewed here. She recently played the lead role in Far West Productions’ web series Abigaëlle et le date coaching to be released in early 2018 on TV5. She is a Dora, Jessie and SATA award-nominated actress and playwright. She is also a recipient of the 2017 Chalmers Award for Creativity and Excellence in the Arts and of the Jeanne Sabourin Prize for her play PEAU, published with Les Éditions L’interligne.

 

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