My sophomore year of college, I walked into the newspaper office where I served as an editor, and my phone lit up with a call. Those were the days when we made our ringtones songs, and in the 19-year-old naivety that thought frat boys could turn into gentlemen, I selected ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’ as my tune.
Disgusted (rightfully), the editor-in-chief of the paper scolded me for selecting such a ridiculous song to play in public and teasingly, encouraged me to pick something a little less sexist. At the time, I was thoroughly embarrassed in front of our staff (and okay – my feelings were a little hurt, too) – but I shook it off and kept typing away at my computer.
I never forgot it though.
Seven years – many of them single – and what feels like a lifetime of dates later, you could say that I’m still on the lookout for that so-called prince. I don’t know if it’s the astonishingly terrible dating pool that I’m swimming around in or the fact that with age comes maturity, but as much as I’m a hopeful romantic, I’m not a believer in once-upon-a-time.
The truth is I’ve given up on the fairy tale…because I want my own story.
I didn’t know it then, but I’ve never needed someone to come along and take me away from my current life. I’ve always needed a partner who can challenge and fascinate me with both his intellect and his humor, his compassion, and his sexuality. Someone who can be part of my life, without being all of it.
I’ve never looked for a happy ending because I’ve never gone into a relationship considering how the last page of our story would read, but instead, I’ve always wondered how our love tale would begin. When would our happy beginning, finally, after all those dates and all of that disappointment, start? When would we get to build our life together instead of celebrating one single day?
I’ve never needed someone to take care of me or whisk me away to some magical place where dreams come true and I have no responsibility, rationale, respect or freedom. Instead I’ve always fantasized about how the life I’ve built for myself would feel when I was able to share it with someone I love. Someone who would contribute to my life and to his own, to the world he can’t see and the world he creates with his actions and his choices.
I’ve thought I needed the romance and the thrills, the riches and the allure of passion, but what I want is something much simpler and unique. I want a man who can remember the little things – like how I take my coffee – and can be just as comfortable with me on the couch as we are when we’re sipping red wine to pass the time on the town.
I always hated men who try to steal my independence or can’t understand it, ones who can’t handle a woman who stands up for herself without needing a man to support her, so why would I want a prince to come and claim me? Instead, I want a guy who is strong enough to stand by my side, no matter the storm or the shine.
As a single woman, especially one who is quite perpetual about it, I’ve been called picky. And I’ve been rationalized as someone who is waiting for some soulmate or Prince Charming, who has these lovely illustrations of what love looks like, instead of what it really feels like. I’ve been accused of holding out for something that doesn’t exist and pushing away good-enough men because my eye is on some ridiculous, unreasonable prize.
But what I’m actually doing as a woman (single, taken, or otherwise) is working on my own story. It’s about a flourishing writing career, lots of impactful travel, walks in the park with my pup, attempting to master a yoga handstand, pretending to be a pro-boxer, NYC brunches, beautiful friendships, struggle, achievement, victories, sadness, red wine, Gchat conversations, Instagram filters and yes, one day, love.
But it’s not going to be a fairytale when it happens – it’s going to be part of my story.
A story where I don’t need to be rescued. Where I don’t have to settle with someone to be secure, but choose a partner who thinks my independent strength is sexy. One where marriage isn’t summed up three words of happily ever after, but is a lifetime of rises and falls, plot twists and tough love. One where we choose each other, not because ‘I Do’ means the end of all worries and trouble, but instead it’s the start of working together toward happiness.
It might have taken me a few decades to see fairy tales for what they are – magical feel-good stories that remind us that love is possible; not quite an accurate description of what a relationship really is. But, I don’t think I’m cynical because I don’t believe in them anymore. Perhaps it makes me more hopeful because what I wish for doesn’t require glass slippers or magic carpet rides, a beastly man or a locket with my voice in it.
Instead I just wish for happiness in life. And in love.
I’m not waiting for my prince to come (I really never was, sorry 19-year-old self). Instead, I’m doing what I hope my future husband is doing, too: living his own story. The plot lines will meet someday, but until then, I hope we are happily apart until well, we’re not.
This post was originally published on eHarmony.