Finding Love and Boundaries

Finding Love and boundaries beyond Covid and Fairy tales

Well, hasn’t it been an interesting with all these restrictions?  I know a few young adults who are anticipating for the restrictions to lift on bars and clubs again.  I thought it was a good time to bring in the classic fairy-tale of Little Red Riding Hood to help this transition safely in to the physical social domain again.  Did you know the online dating scene has changed during this time?   Covid caused people to stay at home and keep physical distance from others but this also meant people had to do something else.   More on this later.  Let’s bring Little Red Riding Hood in.

Back in 1697 French author Charles Perrault wrote the fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood and it was translated into english in 1889, one hundred and thirty one years ago by Andrew Lang.  Two of Perrault’s best known fairy tales were Blue Beard and Little Red Riding Hood.  I love both of these, they are rich with psychoanalytic aspects and that makes for timeless pieces.  While we might consider that Little Red Riding Hood and their various versions throughout time are intended for children, Perrault’s intention was for the wealthier young women at that time to beware of the wolves in society and to keep their chastity.  Chasity was considered very highly during this period.  You may remember learning about chastity belts in history classes at school.  During this 19 century period they were used to protect women from rape and masturbation.  Prior to 1930 masturbation was considered harmful and the cause of mental health problems.

So let me share with you some parts from this original tale by Charles Perrault.

Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood. One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her,

“Go, my dear, and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill. Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter.”

Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village. As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him,

“I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother.”

“Does she live far off?” said the wolf

“Oh I say,” answered Little Red Riding Hood; “it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village.”

“Well,” said the wolf, “and I’ll go and see her too. I’ll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first.”

Here we see the initiation of the game of deceit by the wolf – “I’ll go and see her too. I’ll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first.”  However, Little Red Riding Hood wasn’t too interested in the game but instead entertained herself by gathering nuts, chasing butterflies and collecting flowers for her grandmother.  Perrault does this to tell the reader that the wolf is mischievous and the girl is innocent.  She has no intentions on playing games with anyone.   Yet, the wolf knows that he is in danger of being caught out of his intentions if he carried them out in woods where the woodcutters are.  Let’s continue as you know the wolf has gone to grandmother’s house and eaten her.  He is now in her bed wearing her clothes waiting for Little Red Riding Hood.    

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…Little Red Riding Hood, who came some time afterwards and knocked at the door: tap, tap.

“Who’s there?”

Little Red Riding Hood, hearing the big voice of the wolf, was at first afraid; but believing her grandmother had a cold and was hoarse, answered,

“It is your grandchild Little Red Riding Hood, who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter mother sends you.”

The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could, “Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up.”

Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bobbin, and the door opened. The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes,

“Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me.”

Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed. She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes, and said to her,

“Grandmother, what big arms you have!”

“All the better to hug you with, my dear.”

“Grandmother, what big legs you have!”

“All the better to run with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big ears you have!”

“All the better to hear with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!”

“All the better to eat you up with.”

And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red

Riding Hood, and ate her all up.

 Moral: Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent,and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

Why is this tale relevant today?  We know there are people out there that act out wolf behaviour and there are people who are lured in by the wolf behaviour.  Now wolf behaviour in our modern society does not necessarily mean they are narcissists or sociopaths.  They could most likely be the people who are not necessarily wanting to be involved in a long term relationship or who have become indifferent to relationships however, honesty is not their strong trait.  Who are the little red riding hoods of today, those who are lonely, those who want to feel loved and those who are unaware on how to detect wolf behaviour.  Now as Perraut states wolf behaviour is not always that clear to identify – they can be charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet.  There is not going to be a big sign on their forehead saying I’m a wicked wolf. So how are you going to protect yourself from the wolf behaviour as restrictions lift?  One way is through boundaries.  Think also about the woodcutters – who would they represent in modern times? How can they help you to stay safe when meeting new people?

So, What are boundaries?

Boundaries are internal and external lines that are drawn to protect ourselves.  They help to define who we are, who we are not, and with whom we are willing to share with.  Boundaries can be physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual and intellectual. Boundaries monitor and regulate the degree of personal space within relationships.  Boundaries are situationally flexible, too rigid prevents growth.  However, many people fear imposing boundaries on relationships for fear of abandonment.  This comes at a cost because it sometimes these people who do not set explicit boundaries who wind up resentful and may become withdrawn or indifferent to relationships (maybe a wolf too!).   Setting personal boundaries especially with a new relationship discourages abuse and exploration, it encourages contact and can lead to a better healthier relationship.

This is where the difference has happened with covid restrictions and online dating.  People had to do conversations.  Probably more than they would have previously.  The dynamics of meeting someone new changed.  It slowed down and it became safer particularly for women.  People were finding out more about each other before being physically involved with each other.  This is a really good thing.  It discouraged ‘wolf’ behaviour.

So, when the pubs and clubs open up again how are you going to set your boundaries to keep yourself safe?

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Here is my hint –

Number one – Be honest.  Know what you want. If you want a brief encounter, state it.  Don’t pretend to like cats to gain a personal favour. If the person is not interested in a one night occasion that is ok, it might surprise you too because they might.   If you want a long term relationship, state it.  You most likely would have done this on an online dating app. Why not in person? If a person you’re talking with is not interested they will soon move on.  No time wasting.  This can be hard. There can be a preconceived notion in social settings about wanting a serious connected relationship. It can be judged as being, ‘too serious,’ ‘too full on,’ or ‘too demanding.’ In other words the ‘no fun category.’ Like who wants to be with someone who doesn’t ‘play around?’ See what I’m getting at – the social pressure can be fierce. Underneath that pressure is ‘have fun, relax, live a little, don’t worry about it, it will sort itself out later’ attitude. The culture that you’re in may have a certain narrative that you need to be aware of so that you are not tempted against your better self.

Number two – Assess. You’ve got to be able to make an assessment if someone is going to respect your personal boundaries.  And the only way to know that is to have personal boundaries.  You’ve got to set them for what feels right for you.  A person who wants to be with you in a caring loving way will respect your boundaries.  It doesn’t matter if it is sexual, physically or emotionally it is about what keeps you feeling safe.  If a person is persuading you or belittling you for having boundaries this should be a big red flag moment especially early in any relationship. 

You do not need to make any apologies for having boundaries.  Remember, boundaries discourage ‘wolf’ behaviour.  This is the modern spin on Little Red Riding Hood.  I hope this has been insightful for you.  Take care when the clubs and pubs open – don’t get eaten up by a wolf!

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