Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer. Natalie Portman in Garden State. Any quirky girl who wears Modcloth dresses and serenades pigeons with Carly Simon before cartwheeling into the distance. This is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a sexist trope coined in 2007 by Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club. The MPDG is whimsical and zany and helps the male main character along on his journey like a pastel Disney forest animal. Unfortunately, she’s one-dimensional and only exists in service to the dude’s self-discovery.
The internet chomped onto the Manic Pixie Dream Girl concept and didn’t let go. Something about it struck a chord (on the ole vintage ukelele, of course). On days when I’m not feeling badass and empowered and driven, it seems easy, tempting even, to find a floral thrift-store dress and be someone’s sidekick. After all, there’s nothing wrong with hula music, Mama Cass, or rollerskating through life (trust me, I would if I wouldn’t immediate break my neck). Needless to say, same for equal partnership where both people support and encourage each other. But letting a dude subsume your agency and identity out of fear and/or laziness is different; that’s what I don’t want to do.
So why is being a manic pixie dream girl sometimes so appealing?
As my therapist explained it, it’s less about spying the dark shadowy parts of yourself and frantically digging them out with a scalpel…and more about having compassion and self-awareness about your Darth Vader Dark Syde™ without indulging it. Trying or pretending to be ONLY good is futile and untrue. (Whew! Which is a relief, right?)
(BE your own husband, not bring your own husband, although you can do that too, obvs.)
My memory is terrible, so the other night, I wrote my sleepy future self a reminder:
Then I groaned inwardly at the Cheesy Domestic Bliss vibe, like I was June Cleavering some nonexistent spouse. It felt good, though–in that tiny act, I was doing something nice for myself (saving myself from annoyance and a $13 salad, in this case).
When my overworked friend said her husband suggested she treat herself to a pedicure, I had a similar thought. Hmm, interesting…I don’t need a dude, though. I can do that for myself! Admittedly, I don’t have a kid or family, so self-care is easier*–I’ve gotten two pedicures already this summer just for the hell of it. A theme was starting to congeal like the gummy brown fat oozing off a sizzlin’ chicken leg. (WHO’S HUNGRY?!)
The last straw (slash blobby chicken fat globule, EWW) was when my sister told me she’d taken a few weeks to “date” herself. Former me would’ve rolled my eyes, but now it makes sense: Why sit at home binge-watching Netflix for the tenth night in a row, soaked in self-pity, when you can take yourself to a play/movie/concert/dinner? (Or even do something free like a little picnic for the park, or a long walk.) I don’t need a partner to treat myself well, and I shouldn’t wait for someone else to encourage my own self-care. Take a second to think about what you wish a husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever would do for you, and then do it yer dang self!