Sleeping Beauty. Clearly, not a Real Woman. Not just because she is a Princess. Not because she is flawlessly beautiful, with the body of a Barbie Doll. And not just because her curse is broken when she is kissed by a handsome prince, nor because they live happily ever after. All those factors add up to quite the fantasy. But no, what makes it even more obvious that she is not a Real Woman is because she is sleeping. Peacefully. Uninterrupted. For a lengthy period of time.
In our adult, mature lives, that peaceful full-length sleep cycle disappears faster than Maleficent can say “I curse thee”. And unless we opt for taking a magic potion, we R.W.’s can only dream of 8 – 10 solid hours of slumber. Reading about Disney’s many Princesses, we can envy Cinderella’s beauty, Jasmine’s spunk, Pocahontas’ bravery, and Rapunzel’s flowing locks… but Sleeping Beauty? Pure jealousy of her “tragic” curse – oh, the poor dear….she suffers so…by sleeping.
Virtually any of the R.W.’s in my life either suffer from sleep deprivation on a regular basis, or randomly. I don’t know any of them who sleep soundly every night for more than 5 – 6 hours at a time. Go ahead – next time you are with a group of your BFF’s, ask if any of them have slept through the night recently. Soon you will all realize that you may as well have called each other at 2am and discussed recent movies or swapped recipes, since you were all awake at the same time.
Some of the problem of course falls on external forces for which we have no control. First in line are children. If you have a child in your life between the age of 1 day to 18 years, you are routinely awakened by anything from food needs, to nightmares, to toilet issues, to waiting for them to come home safely late at night. But even those R.W.’s with no children are still affected by outside interruptions – pets, storms, snoring partners, you name it. Then there are the female biological issues like needy bladders (the only prayer of not having to get up to pee during the night is to go to bed completely dehydrated, having not consumed any liquids for at least 5 hours), night sweats, and restlessness.
If all we had to deal with were these outside influences, we’d be able to cope just fine. Our bodies are generally trained to come alert quickly to do what we need to do, then return to relaxation mode. But rather than let our bodies call the shots, we slip into the dreaded anxiety-ridden, sleep-disturbing, irrational next mode: we think. We lay there and our minds kick into warp speed. No matter how tired we feel, the brain of the R.W. just doesn’t care. We may re-live the activities of the day just passed, but more than likely, we are thinking about the day, or days, ahead. And we worry. Because at midnight, 2am, 3am, or 5am, these brains of ours take our thoughts and concerns and put them on mental steroids. The to-do lists that seem so attainable during daylight hours, or the family issues that seem manageable when the sun is up, or the work projects that are normally routine, all become overwhelming and monstrous in the dark.
So we lay there contemplating life, checking the clock every twenty minutes and adding to our stress by thinking “I have to get up in 3 hours, I need to sleep!”. We start to play games with ourselves… some of us may try to visualize serenity in an effort to turn off our concerns, some of us lay there getting angry and envious of our spouses who are off in dreamland, and some of us just give in, and get up to roam around the house, make lists, watch tv or read.
The truly astonishing part of all this, and yet another reason why R.W.’s are so amazing, is that no matter how much, or how little, sleep has been had, we get up and carry on our daily lives just like any other day. We put in our time at work, we take care of our families, we tackle our to do lists, and we look really good while we do it. Sure, we may sometimes feel like we are treading through mud, or like we could curl up and sleep on the floor at any moment – but we don’t let it stop us.
I’m not sure if this is because we just get used to our sleeplessness, or because we just have a rather unending supply of stamina. However I do know that the same is not true of the men in our lives if they miss out on sleep. I’m not sure which is worse, a tired man, or a hangry man. Either way, it isn’t pretty. I’d much rather hang out with the over-worked, tired, maid-duty pre-ball Cinderella than spend a day with a Prince Charming who hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep.
I’ve never seen the after-story for Sleeping Beauty. Perhaps after her long rest, she rode off into the sunset with Prince Philip, and she became more like the rest of us. She had a home to set up, a family to raise, maybe even a Princess-y job to do. And even more likely, there were some days when, just for a moment, she’d wish Maleficent would pay her a visit again so she could get another decent night’s sleep.
Welcome to the party, Beauty.