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Killing Frogs

No, I don't mean "kissing frogs." That popular symbol within modern fairy-lore is a recent invention, one of the Disney-age sanitations of the gruesome German oral tradition.

I had an epiphany the other day while reading up for my next Voluntary Simplicity class... which starts in one hour, so I'd better make this brief. Our last reading assignment was a collection of articles on the post-Industrial Revolution, post-Depression American obsession with working long hours and defining ourselves by our employment. I was frustrated with the readings in that they talked about Americans being enslaved to our jobs because of social pressures and greed for material consumption, but nowhere in the literature was DEBT mentioned. Mr. G and I work four jobs just so we can pay hundreds of dollars a month in minimum student loan debt payments, so as not to have our wages garnished and our home taken away. BOGUS.

But I do get that if most people didn't feel the social pressures to move up the corporate ladder and gain status and material possessions, they could live happier, healthier lives. It seems that in our culture, employment has become as romanticized as, well, romance.

This paragraph from the article "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Domingues and Vicki Robin stood out to me:

Our jobs are...called upon to provide the exhilaration of romance and the
depths of love. It's as though we believed that there is a Job Charming out
there--like the Prince Charming in fairy tales--that will fill our needs and
inspire us to greatness. We've come to believe that, through this job, we would
somehow have it all: status, meaning, adventure, travel, luxury, respect, power,
tough challenges and fantastic rewards. All we need is to find Mr. or Ms.
Right--Mr. or Ms. Right Job. Perhaps what keeps some of us stuck in the
home/freeway/office loop is this very Job Charming illusion. We're like the
princess who keeps kissing toads, hoping one day to find herself hugging a
handsome prince. Our jobs are our toads.

This paragraph was ESPECIALLY poignant to me because, as a lover of fairy tales, I know that "Prince Charming" and the frog prince's kiss are recently born myths of modern Western romanticism. In the old German tales, the princess did not kiss the frog prince. She got pissed off at him and threw him against a wall, at which point he turned into a prince. Because in many of those old tales, it was not love or kissing but rather VIOLENCE which broke curses and turned enchanted princes into men. Foxes begged lovely ladies to stab them so they could be reborn as men.

The only tales involving magical transformations from animal to human that were not violent were self-induced. In many stories, a man (or woman, especially in Eastern European tales, which had less rigid gender roles) disguised him/herself as an animal and only revealed him/herself in human form when he/she felt he/she could trust his/her lover's affection.

I do believe that in many cases, you can attract more flies with honey and blah blah. Sometimes loving someone does transform them. Sometimes giving your all to a crappy job can make it better.

But ass kissing (I mean donkeys, of course--haven't you heard of Donkeyskin?) or toad kissing never got anybody anywhere in the old stories.

Destruction did. Violence. Death. A truly bad career is like an old-school enchantment. Sometimes it takes killing it, and risking losing everything, for the only true chance to be reborn as something better.

Or maybe I'm just cynical because I've started reading The Devil Wears Prada...

Anyway, I hate being a slave to debt, but I do appreciate very much that I enjoy my paid employment. But I'm seriously considering encouraging Mr. G to give his retail job the ax (partially, as in decreasing availability, or fully, as in "peace out") at some point so he can do something more than just dream about careers in physical therapy or medicine.

We've only got one life, folks. Don't waste it licking toadslime.

Unless you're into that kind of thing, of course. ;)

P.S. Another lesson from this chapter is that true leisure time and well-used vacations increase productivity sharply. This weekend, Mr. G and I are flying down to the Keys for some pie and vitamin D. We are terribly lucky to have parents (mine) who have the means and will to fly us down there and parents (his) who live in Florida and are a hoot to hang out with. See you all in mid-March!


Genie :*


  1. P.P.S. I have nothing against actual frogs or toads. Real frogs and toads are just lovely. Please do not throw them against a wall; that never really works.

  2. Hey! Hope you're enjoying your vacation! I just gave you an award on my blog =)


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