I’m not sure how I got my Cinderella complex, never having been a pink tutued princess type, but it could be something to do with 95% of pop culture suggesting I hold out for a hero. I even went out with one for two years in my twenties. By most people’s standard I am pretty damn independent, but still there’s a part of me that craves a saviour who could somehow make everything OK. While many of my crushes clear my thoughts of mundanities via obsessing about beautiful eyes and gorgeous voice, I am not immune (yet) to gender-normative fantasies of a DIY-happy alpha male sorting out my domestic headaches or a broad-shouldered millionaire ‘taking me away from all this’. But I am just about as ill-suited as I could be to a relationship with this type of knight in shining armour, as a disastrous date reminded me this month. I am neither trophy girlfriend nor housewife material. What could I possibly bring to the table in this kind of deal? I had much rather pay my way and leave my DIY undone (and consider doing it myself or paying someone to) than learn to cook or spend much time or energy doctoring my appearance. It’s perfectly legitimate to think all this makes me sound lazy, though more generous souls understand me as a contemplative type who would rather spend life lost in a world of ideas than attending to the sysyphean everyday, and that it is not inherently wrong to be more of a thinker than a doer. The constructive conclusion is of course somewhere in between. Respect and compassion for my preferences and acceptance that some knuckling down to the less-preferred is a necessity of a well-functioning life (for the unwealthy at least).
I also really dislike feeling in debt to people, and have inherited a bit of a family tradition that limits requests for help to a small group of trusted insiders, who inevitably resent and pull away from the responsibility sooner or later. A pattern I am hell-bent on breaking, using strategies that range from broadening and diversifying my social circle, increasing my self-reliance, and doing more for those who help me. This is not only because of my own experience of ‘breaking’ close friendships by asking too much, but also because of watching others vainly hope to be rescued. This includes an acquaintance currently floundering because of changes at work, who is very difficult to help because when she reaches out, she asks not so much for moral support or information but, it seems, for ready-made answers, someone to make decisions for her. Few want such responsibility for anyone other than their own young children, and when they do it tends to lead to at best co-dependent and possibly abusive relationships.
These days our yearning for rescue also has stealth outlets. We compulsively check online social networks, hoping to be saved from boredom, loneliness or tasks we dread by getting involved in someone else’s life or an intriguing news story. This can be a harmless crutch to get through the day (most of us aren’t lucky enough to spend all our work time in flow working endlessly fascinating vocational jobs, and even some of those that do are known for procrastinating a lot). Or it can be a sign you should reconsider your career choice.
As with most things in life, finding the right balance between self-sufficiency and interdependence takes some trial and error. Self-awareness and the ability to embrace change are distinct advantages. Problems are usually best approached by asking ‘what can I do about it’, then doing it. Occasionally what you can do about it is seek help, from a friend or a professional as applicable, and those who don’t do this can be equally as infuriating and inefficient as those who never try to work things out for themselves first. But rescue should really only be expected in cases of fire, floods and suchlike.