“Romances have a setting; I had only intervened to place myself well. Mainly, I spotted the precise trouble of being a woman ahead of time, tried to surf it instead of letting it drown me on principle. I had grown bored of discussions of fair and unfair, equal or unequal, and preferred instead to consider a thing called ease.” — from the essay “The Case for Marrying an Older Man” by Grazie Sophia Christie, published in The Cut (3/27/24)

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Sometimes, on a dewy summer evening, when I am standing on the balcony of my storybook castle in the deep and scary woods, I almost can’t believe my luck. And yet, it isn’t luck that brought me here, but a series of intelligent decisions—decisions any woman would be advised to make if she wants to live a life as enchanted and carefree as mine. For while the women of the village are scrubbing pots and eating cabbage and hanging their clothes out on a sad little string, I am over here enjoying a nonstop happy ending, all because I did the wise thing and married a prince who was turned into a beast by a witch and then transformed back again.

When people learn how we got together, they are sometimes judgmental. Passing a gaggle of milkmaids in my carriage, I often catch whispers of “You know she was just seventeen when they met” and “Did you hear he held her hostage in his castle in exchange for her father’s freedom?” For some reason, they insist on seeing me as a victim in this scenario, probably because they are kicking themselves for not snagging a cursed bipedal wildebeest with a giant inheritance when they had the chance. Instead, they are sleeping on lumpy beds in dumb cottages and praying Gaston will wink at them. Meanwhile, I have a house full of doting servants who joyfully attend to my every whim because they are all so grateful not to be plates and candles anymore. This is the life I have always wanted, and I got it by being smart.

Every marriage is a bargain. Perhaps the woman is a good cook with soft skin, a slender waist, a fertile womb, and lots of cows, and in exchange, the man will protect her from being attacked by worse men. I can’t help but think, however, that there is no better deal than marrying a prince who was turned into a beast by a witch and then transformed back again. When I see the married women of the village, I feel a pang of sympathy because I know that they will never be truly appreciated. They may give their husband endless devotion and five to ten children, but the one thing they cannot give him is the lifting of a cruel curse that had rendered him a bitter, disfigured hermit with no hope of ever finding love. This is why if you have the choice between marrying a normal man and one who has been turned into a beast by a witch, you should choose the latter every time.

Some village wenches will claim that through a committed relationship, a man may change and grow. But no woman can change a man unless she is a witch dressed up as a beggar with magical powers and a heart full of spite. This is why the only way for a woman to secure a good life is to find an angry monster in a deserted castle and fall in love with him. Seeing the contrast between her youth and beauty and his furry face and under-bite, he will be overcome with gratitude that she was able to look past his condition and love the man inside. And once the curse is lifted and he transforms back into a handsome, wealthy prince, he will continue loving her forever. Probably.