I'm Not a Princess

An Essay By Sarah Bethany // 2/25/2009

I had met a friend for lunch at Panera Bread one day in the middle of the week (their bread is so good!), and afterwards we browsed an accessories shop, where I bought a silver headband that looked elven, and a sparkly silver comb for my hair. Driving back, in the spring sun, I felt very full and satisfied. I try not to always have music on in my car. In fact, sometimes I’ll flick off the radio while driving, in the name of unadulterated reality, and then let the woods whooshing by, and the lake, and the salt-white road assault me instead. Pure world; without the extra stimuli. I need that real world, in the way that I need bread... more than I need even poetry, or a song, or any other secondary channel of reality. For it is good to have primary contact with the earth... as much of the time as possible. Even if the world is gritty and salt-white roaded.

I actually didn't grow up constantly listening to music like most of my peers. But even though I still don't listen to a lot of music, I see the possibility of addiction... and addiction embedded deep. A covetousness of the ears, of even a disquiet soul. It seems like it can become a gluttony of a sort. Don't get me wrong; I'm susceptible to the sensuality of it as well (I don't mean to sound high-minded), and can see how extremely easy it is, and could be for me, to get pulled under the current of musical over-indulgence.
(Yes… how many times have I listened to “The Gravel Road” from “The Village” soundtrack just for the emotional thrill it gives me? Or track 17 from “The Return of the King” because it makes me feel nostalgic? Or “The Kiss” from “The Last of the Mohicans”? Lots of times?)
My main moralizing point is this: It's never good to let anything over-influence your state of mind. Your primary font of peace and answers should be another source.

However, however! I'm not decrying completely the influence of music. The other day a Josh Groban song completed in three minutes what I might not have been able to accomplish in three hours of thinking. I didn't seek the song out; I had casually put the CD on as background music for writing. But my mind had been in cobwebs; my mood slightly gloomy and perplexed. The song was not in English; I think it was Italian or Spanish. So it worked wordless. I hadn't even listen to it with any intention. But it re-ordered my soul like unforced magic: the sound of the song was enough to clear away my mind and make me feel as I should: calm, and that the world was right.

Everyone has their key "trigger-music" that makes them feel a certain way. (Irish makes me jumpy and happy, for example!) Everyone has their different temptations... And I'm saying "temptation" with a smile - like "temptation towards chocolate or vanilla" - to compliment you on your unique chemical make-up that may make you respond to, say, country or blue grass, unlike your sibling or friend would. Our hearts each have different tunes in their depths.

But I've been lately thinking about modern music, and liking it more, and giving it more... if not respect, at least more attention... nowadays. It’s so catchy, especially when you start learning the songs and getting to recognize them, like I never did when I was a teenager. I was almost 100% "out of it"; the songs I knew were probably because I heard them in a clothing store, or at a camp! (Though I had my short Backstreet Boys and N'Sync craze during those camp years, and was given their CDs as birthday gifts at thirteen... the only two CDs I owned during those years!) But it’s interesting to think of the beat of today’s modern music as the beat of the blood in the veins of people your age; and you remember good college dances; and then it’s fun. There's something about it that catches the spirit of the times. For example, there is nothing about seventies music that makes me feel excited about life. (Some eighties music makes the cut, though. I mean, I was born during that time. I had to have had the radio embedded in me even in my mother’s womb.)

I know a lot of people write-off modern music - rap, hip-hop, techno, pop, Latin, etc. - anything non-classical and non-traditional, but I think there is something to be said for it. It is important to know your current age, and - in some way - to be a part of it. Yes, some of the music is just plain bad - if not morally or against reality and truth, then at least aesthetically. Yet even some of those (the latter) songs are fun! Yes, the fall-back word to describe what you can't seem to recommend with any other reason... especially not with the name of high Truth and Beauty. You can't have those noble handmaids at your side when trying to explain your weakness for a chick flick... but you do have Fun. Like my favorite Cascada song. It's cheap musically. But it is "fun"!

I also wanted to add what you probably already have thought about: how outside stimuli can drown your thoughts in a not-so-positive way. You can lose touch with yourself and what you are feeling. It's better to tune out the music, or the t.v., or the computer, if it means you can tune into your soul better!
Thanks for listening to me, if you've made it this far. You either have a good attention span, or a kind ear. I should probably stop it here, because the rest of my thoughts driving home were random. But oh, well!

So I was driving home from lunch, enjoying the back roads. Classical had been my citadel station for a while, but I was browsing around the other ones, and stopped at country. The words had caught my attention. Well, I mean, come on. Any time I hear the word “princess” I have to stop and listen.

“I’m not a princess;
This ain’t a fairytale.
I’m not the one you sweep
Off her feet,
Lead her up a stairwell.
This ain’t Hollywood…”

I listened and felt sad, and felt like moralizing on today’s times. The singer seemed so bitter, so duped. I felt so sad when she repeated, “I should have known, I should have known, that I am not a princess…” She is a princess, I wanted to tell her. She was just not treated like one by her boyfriend. I felt like Jesus also was wanting to sing back to her,

“You are my princess;
This is our fairytale.
You are the one I sweep
Off your feet,
Lead you up a stairwell.
This isn’t Hollywood…
This is the real world…”

Not good, but it was what popped into my head. And then I wondered, “Why do people not like fairytales? Is it because they have happy endings? Maybe because they are not like life. After difficulties in a fairytale, everyone gets his just desserts, and the hero gets his desire. So maybe a fairytale is instead just a picture of eternity; some evil is not punished on earth, and some princesses won’t get their prince until heaven.”

“It’s too late for you and your white horse…” fades. I fiddled around with the station, and then landed on a song on Boston’s pop music channel that made my mouth drop. (I hadn’t heard these songs before this. You probably have.)

“I’m standing there
On a balcony is summer air.
See the lights, see the party,
The ballgowns…”

The girl’s voice is soft and young and has a country twang. The imagery is startling at first, unexpected.
As the beautiful trees swept by me, driving along, I felt myself enraptured by this recent pop song. Maybe it’s a silly one, like my Cascada song (“Your arms are my castle, your heart is my sky…”) but what girl could help being captivated by the romantic longings of this song? The words express a frank, bold desire for a fairytale experience. (Oh, my gosh. I just remembered I put that in my bio. Really, I'm not that obsessed with castles.) But you wouldn’t think a popular girl in the spotlight would admit to these fairytale longings that most females have. “You’ll be the prince, and I’ll be the princess…”
I unfortunately got the feeling this was a song probably popularized by middle-school and junior high girls, but whatever. It's not romantically immature to want to be swept off your feet, at any age.

“I got tired of waiting, wondering if you were ever coming around…" The song turned sad. Great. I KNEW it.

"When I found you on the outskirts of town…”

While I was driving I suddenly found myself coming out onto a main road, on the outskirts of MY hometown - probably even over the line - on the complete opposite side of the world I meant to come out on. I had been so swept up by the song and the spring day, I must have forgotten to veer left at the important fork in the road way back! But I was close to home, anyway. I drove on. The singer’s words were sad towards her lover, despite the uppity pop beat.

“And I said,
Romeo, save me, I’ve been feeling so alone
I keep waiting
for you, but you never come.
Is this in my head? I don’t know what to think.
He kneeled to the ground and pulled out a ring,
And said, Marry me, Juliet -”

I swerved off the road. Well, nearly.
Alright, not at all. But saying, "I was surprised," doesn't give the same effect!

“Marry me, Juliet,
You never have to be alone,
I love you, and that’s all I really know.
I talked to your dad, go pick out a white dress...”

I’ve never heard this ending in any modern song in my life before. After the first cynical song (actually by the same artist, Taylor Swift; but I didn’t realize that then) this was as refreshing as a flower burst.


:) Go fairytales. They

Go fairytales. They rock.
In this sinful world there is no such thing as "peace" unless someone strong enough is willing to protect and defend it. -Norm Bomer, God's World News

Anna | Wed, 02/25/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Haha, I love both of those

Haha, I love both of those songs =D really good!

"Remember when 'you play like a girl' use to be an insult?"
-Mia Hamn, American Olympic soccer star.

"Being cool is not acting cool."

Erin | Thu, 02/26/2009

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

I admit, I love being swept

I admit, I love being swept off my feet in love. It's beautiful when its the right guy and the right time.
I heard a lecture not too long ago talking about the postmodern culture needs heroes in fiction. Maybe that's why fairytales and fantasy have suddenly gained in popularity, b/c people see a need for heroes.
Just a thought.
And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Heather | Thu, 02/26/2009

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

When I listen to certain

When I listen to certain music I get ideas for certain things that I want to write. Have you ever heard the song "Christopher Robin's Dead"? I hadn't, and wouldn't usually listened to that type of thing. But it was in our sample music for the computer, and it made me laugh. I wrote the end of "Death's Song" or the beginning of "Confession from a Rocking Chair" (not yet completed for the public eye) listening to it. No, that doesn't make it sound like something good, but really, I wrote that poem with a laugh. I was laughing at myself, actually, for the complete randomness of evil.

Josh Groban is great inspiration for me.....mainly for poetry, but I've tried to start stories with those same thoughts....didn't work very well. When I listen to certain hynmes, I want to write poetry about the earth or something. I'd like to write some sort of sonnet, but every time I try, I am displeased with it, and delete the file from my Word Perfect.

I like songs like "Gollum's Song" and the song that Pippen sings in Gondor, and some songs that my friend had me listen to....something like "I walk this lonely road" or those are the words anyway.

Taylor got me started on Celtic Thunder and that's a big thing with me, and strangely enough, my brother loves it......funny, I didn't think he liked that kind of thing....

Micheal Buble is great! Like him a lot...

Oh, so many, and each put me in a different mood. Josh Groban puts me in a thoguhtful and some times romantic mood. Celtic Thunder usually puts me in an happy mood, unless it's one of their sad songs. Micheal Buble?....the mood varies...I like his song "That's All", but then his faster songs are great too.

So many songs and artist......I like many...Look at this! I've practically written my own essay on the subject of music. Sorry about that...

Great essay BY THE WAY. Music is very important...although, as much as I talk about it, I don't listen to it very often....(?)

P.S. Phantom of the Opera is wonderful! I love the words in "The Music of the Night".

It takes people a long time to learn the difference between talent and genius, especially ambitious young men and women. --Little Women

The Brit | Fri, 02/27/2009


Interesting piece.
This paragraph: "I know a lot of people write-off modern music - rap, hip-hop, techno, pop, Latin, etc. - anything non-classical and non-traditional..." kind of surprised me. Most people I know do not appreciate classical music at all, and only like songs that sound "modern" or that are loud and popular.
Of course you know, Sarah, how much I love music. (:P) And most any kind of music, if it's good. I think it's often a shame that some of the songs that are best music-wise, are pretty low or dirty lyric-wise. I guess that's just the truth of the secular music world...
Being a total lover of music, I know what you mean when you say that music can express your emotions, or make you feel a certain way. That's why I think it's so important what music you listen to. There are some things that music should not make you feel. At some point, it sort of goes beyond personal preference I guess.

But I agree with you that sometimes turning the music off for a bit is a good idea. It's amazing what silence can teach you. :)

Brianna | Sat, 02/28/2009

"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa

Lovely essay. And fairytales

Lovely essay.
And fairytales are awesome. :)
"Elves and Dragons! Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you. Don't go getting mixed up in the business of your betters, or you'll land in trouble too big for you." — Hamfast Gamgee (the Gaffer)

Clare Marie | Sun, 03/01/2009

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

my answers to everyone :)

Heather: Hi! Where'd you hear that lecture? It sounds fascinating. I'd love to hear more about why our culture needs fairytales... maybe you should write about it! :D

Thanks, Anna, Erin, and Clare Marie!

Brit: I love Pippin’s song, too. And the lyrics you mentioned are from Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. :) Phantom of the Opera is great, too. I saw it on stage and was sitting next to my dad during the song “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and I wanted to cry!! You know that one, where she is singing about her father? Thanks for the comments.

Bri: those few paragraphs were geared towards the people (like myself) who tend to listen to mainly classical. :)
The idea of music being an emotional-manipulator is an interesting one to me... and dozens on dozens of queries can be made on it. It's got lots of facets and is not clear-cut. But here's one observation that maybe someone can comment on: Say music makes you feel something we would categorize as a good feeling. (Reverent, happy, etc.) Is it good that it made you feel that? I guess I’m just suspicious of anything outward influencing someone to feel something inward. There seems the possibility that it could be fake. (COULD be, not automatically IS.) Sort of like a potted plant being stuck INTO the ground of your heart... instead of the plant growing upwards through your heart. If anyone has any observation, please observe! :P

I guess here is my thought: it’s alright if music makes you feel happy, reverent, inspired, etc., but it is BETTER if those feelings are pulled from your own breast unaided.
Maybe music is like wine. A little is okay for relaxation and merriment. But it is BETTER if you learn to be naturally comfortable with yourself and easily merry in company out of the happiness that comes from your own well-ordered, loving heart.
There are some things that are good, and then there are some things that are better, in this world.

(If you’re not a person who’s feelings come mainly or almost entirely through music, constantly trying to alter your mood, then you don’t have to worry about this. Lol.)

Sarah Bethany | Mon, 03/02/2009

In reply

Ohhh. I see what you were getting at now. I thought you were portraying the influence music can have as an entirely good thing. :P I think your final conclusion sounds pretty good and solid. The only problem is, I think we are very experiential beings as a whole. Music is only one of the great many things that makes us feel certain ways. Almost everything else does as well. And I don't think it's somehow less pure, or less real when you feel joy at the sound of music, than when you feel joy at seeing the sun rise. I think there's always a cause to our joy...whatever it ends up being in the end. You know?

Brianna | Mon, 03/02/2009

"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa

fairytale longings!

And I forgot to add in reply to Heather's: Go being swept off your feet!! :D

Sarah Bethany | Thu, 03/05/2009

I agree! The music/sunrise

I agree! The music/sunrise analogy was great! I feel like it's a cleaner comparison if the music is instrumental, though... What do you think? Not saying one type is better than other. Just observing when it comes to "making us feel a certain way". Music with lyrics is kind of more like my "potted plant being stuck in the heart" analogy - that type of a song comes as a package, with the artist's opinions and feelings being handed over to us, whereas a purely instrumental song is a little more open to interpretation. By listening to only flutes or violins, we're less likely to have someone else's opinions or feelings imprinted on us. The composer is more like God showing us the sunrise, and telling us to think as we will. We may feel joy, or we may not, but either way, a sunrise can't manipulate, and we know our feelings are authentic. I guess it's just this that I'm thinking about: mistrust of the emotional-influencers of art (movies included!) that might make us feel something we would not otherwise feel.

Wow, there is so much more to this than that. "How can something MAKE us feel something?" "Isn't instrumental music suggestive, too?" Whatever, whatever. Anyone else can take up that train of thought if they want. I'm tiring myself! I give up thinking.

Haha. I totally was not just nitpicking your analogy, Brianna... this is something I've been thinking about. In the end, I feel like, when it comes down to a question of "genuineness", it's something that can't really be figured out, and just lived. You know when your emotions are being played upon, and when they are truly authentic.

P.S. - I agree with you saying that we are experiental beings. I liked that.

Sarah Bethany | Thu, 03/05/2009

whoops, no delete

whoops, no delete

Sarah Bethany | Thu, 03/05/2009


Don't worry. I'm totally following you. :) I think the last few lines summed it up.

Brianna | Thu, 03/05/2009

"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa

Sarah Bethany, what you said

Sarah Bethany, what you said about the opinions of the creator of something being put into what they do is a hard thing to avoid. I love the show (not the movie) M*A*S*H, but the political things they say in the show are hard to get around. It's a funny show, and I like the way they did certain emotional battles (though some of those were wrong too). Okay, but I've got to go because I have people here. I may talk more about this later.

The Brit | Thu, 03/05/2009


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