“Though scary is exciting, nice is different than good.” (Into the Woods, Lesson 1)

As I mentioned in the introduction, I will be explaining several life lessons in a series of posts based on the musical film Into the Woods, which intertwines several well-known fairy tales.

In this lesson, we will examine the scene in which Little Red Riding Hood ventures into the woods on the way to her grandmother’s house. She is portrayed as a strong and independent girl with a saucy demeanor and a competent air about her.

Into-the-Woods-Lilla-Crawford

As she strides down the path, she encounters Mr. Wolf, portrayed by Johnny Depp. He has a dark of air of danger and mystery about him.

Mr Wolf

Yes, Mr. Wolf quite definitely has an air of Mystery about him.

mystery method

He tries to engage her and at first she resists, but eventually he succeeds in distracting and charming her, and she gives in to the temptation to stray from the path her mother warned her not to leave.

lrrh and the wolf

 

The rest of the story follows the classic fairy tale, with the wolf proceeding to devour the grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood before the baker cuts him open to free the trapped females.

Little Red Riding Hood then sings to the audience about the lessons she learned during this adventure, wherein we find our lesson for today.  I have copied in the lyrics to her song below.  The audio from the film is available in this YouTube clip, which you should listen to while you read the lyrics.

Mother said,
“Straight ahead,”
Not to delay
or be misled.

I should have heeded
Her advice…
But he seemed so nice.

And he showed me things
Many beautiful things,
That I hadn’t thought to explore.
They were off my path,
So I never had dared.
I had been so careful,
I never had cared.

And he made me feel excited-
Well, excited and scared.

When he said, “Come in!”
With that sickening grin,
How could I know what was in store?
Once his teeth were bared,
Though, I really got scared-
Well, excited and scared-

But he drew me close
And he swallowed me down,
Down a dark slimy path
Where lie secrets that I never want to know,
And when everything familiar
Seemed to disappear forever,
At the end of the path
Was Granny once again.

So we wait in the dark
Until someone sets us free,
And we’re brought into the light,
And we’re back at the start.

And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:

Do not put your faith
In a cape and a hood,
They will not protect you
The way that they should.

And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.

Now I know:
Don’t be scared.
Granny is right,
Just be prepared.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit not…

Mr. Wolf is clearly meant to symbolize a player, a man who seduces a woman, gets what he wants, and then disappears (and if you think I’m reading too much into it with that interpretation, have a look at the Wolf costume used in the original Broadway musical to confirm that this was the image Sondheim had in mind). Little Red Riding Hood correctly identifies him as a wolf at first sight, chirping, “Hello Mr. Wolf” as she strides past purposefully. It is only after he manages to detain and engage her that he is able to charm her with his attention and it is at this point that she refers to him as “nice”. Although she refers to the wolf as nice, in the film he doesn’t actually do anything that we would typically think of as a nice thing to do for someone. His behavior is lecherous and devious, which scares and excites her.

lecherous wolf

What I believe Little Red Riding Hood interprets as “nice” here is the same as what many other young women interpret as “nice” – he paid attention to her in a dominating and sexually suggestive manner. But as the classic fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood teaches, not everyone who pays attention to you is actually “nice”; they don’t necessarily wish you well or have honorable intentions.

The moral of the story: Young women, you cannot base your estimation of a man on whether or not he seems exciting and scary and pays attention to you, which you will interpret as him being “nice”.  Wolves are easy to spot if you have eyes to see and a “nice” man is not necessarily a good man. If a stable marriage and family formation are what you desire, seek a good man but keep right on walking should a wolf try to detain you, no matter how scary and exciting he may be or how nice his attentions feel.

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The pleasure of a quiet evening at home with family and a few thoughts on prioritizing family formation.

Last night was cold, rainy, and windy, so after the day’s activities and chores were finished, we gathered for a cozy dinner en famille. This kind of weather is definitely a breakfast-for-dinner kind of weather, so we made homemade sausage gravy and buttermilk biscuits.

biscuits and gravy

 

The girls can handle biscuit-making pretty well on their own now, and Chef John from Food Wishes’ recipe for buttermilk biscuits is our favorite:

Beautiful Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into thin slices, chilled in freezer
3/4 cup cold buttermilk

Chef John is very entertaining to listen to and has a sharp sense of humor, so his cooking videos are fun to watch:

After dinner, we gave the fireplace its maiden fire – the previous owners never seem to have used it, so I think this may be the first time in the nine years since this house was built that the fireplace has actually been used:

 

first firelight

 

Eldest daughter eventually broke out her guitar and sang to us, while my husband Philip stretched out to read. It was such a quiet, pleasant evening at home with our family.

So the little lesson I’d like to impart in this post is the importance of family formation and taking this seriously when you are still young. I find it sad that young women are pushed hard by society to delay family-formation and preparing for being a competent, helpful wife and perhaps mother and instead pushed to focus solely on education and career. I believe this is backwards thinking.

Of course young women need to study and work, but they should prioritize learning how to cook and care for a home and should definitely take seriously looking for a suitable mate when they are still young. Women have all the time in the world to earn college degrees and money, but we have a limited period of time when we are still young and attractive and easily able to find a good man to marry while still able to have children without costly fertility treatments. Consider this:

Apple, Facebook to pay for women to freeze eggs

Facebook said it offers egg freezing for female employees up to $20,000. The company also offers adoption and surrogacy assistance and “a host of other fertility services for male and female employees,” the company said via e-mail.

Apple also offers egg freezing and storage, extended maternity leave, adoption assistance and infertility treatments.

It sounds very nice, like a young woman need have no thought of family formation until she is 35 or 40 or older. But what is the reality?

Women whose…eggs were preserved before age 30 had a greater than 8.9% likelihood of implantation per embryo which declined to 4.3% for embryos from eggs frozen after 40.

So the data shows that even if a woman has her eggs frozen in her twenties, she’s only got about a 9% chance of those eggs being able to form an embryo that implants.  And I would guess most women don’t go the egg freezing route until they are well into their 30s, which means that this is not a good strategy to rely upon if a young woman wants to have a family of her own one day. Also consider this, from Pew Research:

Nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s.

If marriage and children are important to a young woman, she should prioritize them while still young. This doesn’t mean she can’t go to college, but it does mean that she should skip the partying while she is there and focus on finding her spouse while earning that degree.