So we’re back to trying to understand my emotional response ...attraction ... chills. I formulated another theory … this time around a fairy tale. What? You’re doubting my research skills? Well, read on and see if this theory holds any face validity for you (see … official researchy term, 'face validity', right there in print.)
When I was a girl, I read a fairy tale that stuck with me. The story was The Plain Princess. The Princess Esmerelda was a little bitch (you are correct in your assumption that the author did not use that term.) Esmerelda sulked. She pouted. She threw tantrums. She constantly looked sour. The prince she wanted to marry tells her he won’t do it because she’s so damned ugly (again, I take some poetic licence for the sake of brevity.)
The King and Queen of the tale are concerned for their daughter who has progressed from a snit into a full-blown depression. They offer riches to anyone who can make their daughter pretty. Potions and lotions and charms are all thrown at the princess by various quacks, but nothing works. Then one day, Dame Goodwit comes to the castle with her three beautiful daughters and tells the monarchs that she can make their little girl beautiful if they will let Esmerelda leave the castle to live with the Dame and her daughters in their poor little house for three months.
You can probably finish the story on your own. Esmerelda has to work hard at the little cottage. She makes friends with the beautiful daughters. She does unselfish things. And after three months, she comes back to the castle with a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye and the prince finds her pretty and they live happily ever after.
There are lots of implications for this story as applied to women, but today, I’m thinking about Dads. It is reinforcement that attraction is more about acts than looks. I can see beauty in every father caught in the act of being a great dad.
Galahad and I have been together for 27 years. And we’ve known each other for 36 years (we passed the I’ve-known-you-for-half-my-life milestone ages ago.) We were married for 13 years before we had our first squire. I thought Galahad was attractive pre-kids. But I think he’s drop dead gorgeous post-kids. He gives me a thrill every time I catch him playing with our squires: bike rides, workouts, watching Godzilla movies, being dungeon master for a rollicking D&D game. Really, the last one, in particular. We are a family of geeks, and watching Galahad catalyze their stories and imaginations just does it for me.
As for my own King Father? He was a pilot, so he was either on a trip, or he was fully home. That fully home part meant that he could do things that lots of other dads with regular day jobs couldn’t. I remember him attending my 1st grade play where I was the narrator of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I remember him making me flashcards and working with me for hours. 12 - 7 = 5! I can’t say I loved it at the time, but I find lovely now. He was the only dad chaperone when my 4th grade class went to the aquarium. That same year, we had a party at my house for my classmates and he put on a magic show for my friends. In high school, he chaperoned an out-of-state speech and drama UIL trip. He attended high school football games to watch me march in the band (and then generally left after half-time like a good band parent.)
I think my dad was an unusually involved dad for his generation. But the expectations of dad involvement change over the last half century. As I was hiking on our neighborhood trail yesterday, I saw three different sets of dads and their very young kids. No moms. Just the dads. I gave each one a blinding – and perhaps startling – smile. I see the spouses of my girlfriends being great dads. These men talk with and play with and encourage their kids. They drive the kids to sports practice. They attend concerts and talent shows. They joke with their kids. And they listen to them.
In this, I am encouraged by our modern culture. This is good news since there is much that is currently discouraging. But on this Father’s Day, I'd like to acknowledge how lucky I am. I’m lucky to be raised by a dad who loved me, but more than that, by a dad who did the hard work and the unselfish things. And I’m lucky to have a partner who loves our squires and also does the hard work and the unselfish things. My own King Father and Prince Husband are beautiful to behold. Happy Father’s Day!