What little girl doesn't know that all too familiar fairy tale scenario? Once upon a time, in a far away land filled with lush meadows, singing birds and burbling brooks, there lived a beautiful princess. A princess so beautiful and fair in fact, that the evil witch, ogre, or typical fairy tale bad guy is determined to have her locked away in a castle surrounded by moats, thick forests and huge monsters.
That's where Prince Charming comes in. This brave, valiant, dashing figure is determined to rescue the princess, with no regard for the danger it poses. He fearlessly climbs the mountain, sails the seven seas, fights the seven-headed serpent, slays the dragon, triumphs against the evil empire and rescues the princess, and the two of them mount his splendid stallion and gallop off to the prince's magnificent kingdom where everyone rejoices over the prince's safe return and welcomes the princess with open arms. The story ends with a splendid wedding to end all weddings and the prince and the princess live happily ever after.
Or do they?
These fairy tales of old (and some not so old) would have us believe that this is where the story ends. If we would only learn to stand up straight, learn the art of being demure, perfect our curtsy, sew, cook and sing like an angel, all the while perfecting our feminine wiles, we too can attract our Prince Charming and live happily ever after. All we have to do is pretend, pretend, and pretend. So... exactly how do we accomplish this?
I examined many books on the market designed to help women to attract Mr. Right. I researched lessons on how to make it past the first date, what to say and not to say, how to dress, and when and how to ration out the first kiss. Book after book were filled with instructions on how to be, and how not to be. The more I read and compared notes, the stronger the question became:
When is it okay to stop pretending?
Armed with the most popular how-to guides written by "relationship experts," I began my journey; not just for myself, but also for all women whose fate lies in finding the answer to these questions.
Countless times I've found myself sitting outdoors on a splendid afternoon, engaged in a conversation over lunch with some of my best girlfriends, swapping and sharing hopeless relationship stories. Stories, usually beginning something like: "Okay ladies, I just don't know what to do. I went on my first date with the guy I met last week. We met at that cute little coffee place and we talked for almost two hours straight, sharing stories, laughing at one another's jokes. The conversation really flowed, and the energy was really good. After we were done, he walked me to my car, kissed me on the cheek and said how much he'd enjoyed meeting me, and how he couldn't wait to see me again. Sigh... that was over two weeks ago, and he hasn't called me, returned my calls, emailed or texted me." Screech! Sound familiar?
For many women, including me, this story is all too familiar. In fact the entire scenario rings true; yet another heartfelt not-love-story. Always beginning with lots of hope and promise, and ending with a feeling that looms over you like a dark cloud about to rain down on your parade.
On such a miserable day, no friend, and not even on one of the most beautiful days of summer when you get to finally wear a pair of your most fabulous shoes, can make you feel better. Yes, you've been there. May still be there. So you have no problem sympathizing with the poor woman who's just revealed the dagger sticking in her heart.
And of course she's expecting you, her closest friends, to pull it out and then use all of your skills and strategies to logically advise her what her next step should be to heal this wounded heart. She's expecting you to reach into your Louis Vuitton bags and pull out "the cure to end all failed relationships" advice.
Once you start looking for relationship advice, it seems every one has some to offer. And only after you have been the receiver of some of the worst advice from your family, friends, loved ones, the mailman, the butcher and the baker, do you finally reach the point where enough is enough.
From an early age, we're bombarded with images of a perfect romance with a fairy tale ending. Our heads become filled with the idea that our knight in shining armor will come galloping in on his horse to rescue us, from the terrible ogre, but the truth is, no one is coming, we must learn to save ourselves...
Fairy tales do have a place in our society -- in magical stories set in imaginary places -- but the one place they don't belong is in our relationships, and certainly not as one of the standards we measure ourselves or our peers by. I wonder, what would life be like without fairy tales? Would it be sad and bleak or less disappointing?
Maybe the first step in finding our perfect partner and crafting our perfect life is accepting who we are and loving ourselves. Maybe finding happily ever after is not an ending; it's a journey.
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