Why I’ve Given Up On the Fairytale

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. Continue reading

Just Fine With Just Me

I’m rather fond of my name – particularly my middle name, Aurora. It means “the dawn” and my parents found it rather amusing that I would be “AuROARing Tigar”, but the idea to scribble it on my birth certificate came from my dad. He claimed to have an Aunt Aurora on his mother’s side but later discovered he didn’t. So, I’m named after an aunt I don’t really have.

Never bothered me though, I was more excited as a child that I had a royal name – Sleeping Beauty’s official title is Princess Aurora, and therefore she instantly became my favorite. I knew all the songs, had a dress that switched from pink to blue, and wanted more than anything for my prince to come.

Funny thing is – probably up until I moved to New York, I still roughly knew the songs, had pink and blue dresses and still badly wanted my banker-doctor-lawyer prince to find me. To rescue me even from the exhaustion of going on yet another date with another guy who I ultimately wouldn’t be interested in or would be and it would be unrequited. Though I was barely 21 wen I packed up and left the South, I had been on what I thought were enough dates and just wanted to wake up from the deep sleep of loneliness I felt like I was in.

If I’m being honest, I didn’t shake that feeling of wanting happily ever after until I really starting focusing on this blog and this journey. And then I started meeting women I admired – women who were older than me and wildly successful and….single. It didn’t seem to faze them, though – they were focused on other things. Things that brought them tremendous happiness, things that they created for themselves, thing that made up a lifestyle they loved.

And it didn’t involve men. They weren’t against men, but dudes certainly weren’t necessary either. There was no need to be rescued. Evil stepmothers could be tamed with distance and financial independence. If they wanted to live in a whole other world, they could get there by taxi or train, no need for a magical rug that would probably need to be dry cleaned, anyway. They weren’t held captive under the ocean or a castle, and if they were under any spells, it was merely the curse of being beautiful, successful and independent.

They weren’t princess and neither am I. Sure there are some modern-day fairytales (enter Kate Middleton) but those are very few and far between. Even Ms. Duchess didn’t need to be rescued, she just happened to fall in love with someone who happened to be a prince. And these women who I’ve developed strong friendships with, some have since gained a plus-one but they haven’t lost themselves in the process. They have given me the confidence and the knowledge to stop looking for someone charming to free me from singleness. To never depend on a man for anything and to count his presence as a blessing if he’s a good one, or his absence also a a blessing if he’s a bad one. To realize that really, the best kind of happily ever after we can find has absolutely nothing to do with a guy.

In fact the best happy I’ve felt has always come from accomplishing something on my own. By finally getting that dream job (yes indeed!), by severing any dependence from my parents, and living in a city I love.  No man made those things a reality, I did. And should a man never come into my picture or Mr. Possibility bite the dust like the others, I know I’d still have something quite powerful to depend on. Something unstoppable and relentless. Something that took a long time to find, something that took hard work to develop, and something that brings me peace in the places I need it the most. Something that regardless of what happens or where my life goes or who I marry or don’t marry, what job I find or what job I lose, will always remain a constant.

Something that I’ve always loved, even if at times I couldn’t find confidence in it. Something that’s most simply – me. And if I happen to live happily-ever-after alone, then I’ll spend my life helping others, having incredible sex with lovers who won’t offer me a diamond, building an empire, adopting babies like I’m Angelina sans-Brad, and realizing that I’m just fine with just me.

Happily For Now

For the volunteer group I’m part of, we recently had the group of young, budding writers create their own fairytales. As expected, the boys’ stories were ripe with fights between worlds and superheroes rescuing the day, while the girls wrote about princesses, friendships, celebrities, and falling in love.

As I’m going around to the kids, supervising and encouraging them to keep going when they get stuck, a sweet little girl in pigtails and polka-dots looked up at me and said, “Lindsay, I’m done! Look!” She had almost filled a full page in her composition notebook and because we usually encourage them to write a few pages, I told her I wanted to read it when it was finished. She replied by saying, “But, I ended it with ‘And they lived happily ever after.’ There isn’t anything else! That’s the end!

Out of reflex and without hesitation, I bent down to her level and asked: “But what happens after they get married?” She blushed and answered: “They are happy! They have babies! That’s it!” Not willing to let another one be fooled by the delusions of forever-and-ever marital bliss, I sweetly challenged the 10 year old: “But don’t you think it is more like a beginning, not an ending? They just got married! Think of all the things they have left to do now.”

She looked at me funny and then smiled, “Well, I guess they have a party after they get married and then they have children and then those have children.” Hoping I made a little progress, I told her she should write at least five more sentences before it was time to read to the class. Looking like something was brewing upstairs, she nodded excitedly and continued to scribble. I walked around to the different tables, reading over stories, and answering questions, as all the volunteers and I attempted to keep control of 15 children who had far more energy than we do on a Friday afternoon. As I was supervising, the girl would come up and show me her progress, sentence-by-sentence. Each time I’d push her to write a little more and off she would go to squeeze in some more lines. When it was finally time to share their fairytales, she volunteered to go third and her story sounded like every other Disney-designed plot line, except for her last sentence:

“…and they all lived happily ever after, for now.”

Clapping for her and sharing unspoken sentiments, the other female volunteers and I exchanged knowing looks – this gal had it right: in today’s time, forever seems a tad suffocating and far-fetched. Doesn’t it?

But forever-and-ever-and-always as a child isn’t that scary; it is more comforting. After all, the stories we hear and the make believe we play all end when the prince drops to one knee, lovingly begs us to spend the rest of our life with him, and we say “I do.” We conclude happily ever after when we make a vow to another person, tying us to them in what we think (and hope) will be an everlasting partnership. But if we think about it – the wedding is just the start of the next segment of our lives, a chapter (or maybe the rest of the story) we’ll share with someone else. It isn’t a conclusion, it is an introductory sentence.

So why aren’t there fairytales about marriage?

About the reality of promising our loyalty and life to another person forever more? It is indeed a vast commitment that carries more weight than we understand until (or if) we get there. Why don’t we teach our children and our teenagers about what it really means to be an active, giving, and loving participant in a relationship? What it means to be a partner and what we should expect out of man? I have yet needed to be rescued from my “awful single existence” by a man in a tight-white getup, giddy-upping his way toward me – but I’ve dated some pretty incredible men. They aren’t always dreamy and they don’t come with a fortune or titles, but it has been the reality of who they are that’s turned me on the most.

I’m no expert in relationships – if I was, would I be writing this blog? – but I’ve learned a valuable lesson in the last few years that’s made me want to be less of a princess-in-waiting and more of a lady in transition: stop thinking in terms of forever and take people, especially men, as they are. Not all women but quite a few, never lose the rose-colored glasses we were handed as little girls playing house and wearing plastic sparkly crowns.

But the truth is, no man will be perfect and unless you’re Kate Middleton, he won’t be a prince either. Even when we wear the lace wedding gown and sport a diamond on our left hand, there is no promise that they will be standing next to us all of our dying days. We aren’t princesses and guys don’t hold a magical solution or power to free us from our unhappiness or our lonely nights. They are added additions that if we’re lucky, will develop our character and add a few interesting plots in our own story. They don’t make us and they aren’t the only part of our existence, and our lives don’t end if we decide to marry a special one.

They come and go, and one will come and stay, maybe forever, maybe for several years, and maybe just for a night. Regardless, the advice to take is from little Miss Polka Dot: enjoy what you have and be happy that he makes you happily ever after…

…for now.

Judge Me, Judge Me Not

Most children are raised to have a conscience. To grow into upstanding citizens who care about the Earth, their neighbors, the less-privileged, and those in need. We’re encouraged to expand our horizons and test our boundaries. To seek a higher education and to join the work force in an effort to contribute to the goodness of mankind. We’re told to develop our own perspectives, opinions, and tastes, and to have the strength to stand by them when faced with adversity. We should be kind and giving, humble, and forgiving, but also tough and independent, intelligent, and curious.

And when our tongue feels like dancing or our hands raise to whisper, we’re reminded secrets don’t make friends and we can’t judge someone because we’re not them. You can’t understand a stranger and at times, you can’t even understand the person you think you know the best  -so judge them not.

Right?

Like all of the lessons that are important to learn, being completely non-judgmental is a not so easy task. As much as I pride myself on being an open-minded, understanding, and rather gracious person – I know I’m guilty of thinking less of others. I’ve walked on the opposite side of the street because I felt unsafe due to a person dancing wildly and it made me uncomfortable. Was he threatening? No. Was he sober? Probably not. Did he say anything to me? Nope. But still, I felt the need to distance myself.

When a young woman in the laundry mat with a wide-eyed baby talks to me about how she hates the food stamps she’s on and how she wishes she could go to NYU like some of the other 18-year-olds she knows, I have to make an effort not to wonder about her parent’s influence or cursing them if they don’t help her. Do I know her background or will I ask? No, but I still find myself blaming her upbringing for her current circumstance. Maybe its nature vs. nurture or debating the idea that we are where we come from or we make our way as we go. Nevertheless, the judge in me I wish I didn’t have, always seems to find its way out.

Or at the bar when I rounded the dating circles, I was quick to rule out any guy who I wasn’t instantly attracted to, who wasn’t over 6’0″, who didn’t strike me as engaging or funny, or who was obviously and sloppily intoxicated. I’d judge them by characteristics they can’t change, like their height, and for being shy or difficult to talk to, when their reasons for being reserved may be due to something that happened or just the result of an off-day. How many men have I passed up because I just didn’t meet them at the right time on the right night? Or because I was only noticing their wrongs, instead of their opportunities to be right.

I’ve had to remind myself I don’t know the life of every person who walks this city or this planet, and without having a scope into their life, I can’t make an assumption or develop an opinion on who they are or why they do the things they do.

But then again, do I even know why I do the things I do? If I stop looking outside to see where I’m being judgmental and beating myself up for being even the slightest pigheaded, and look inside, I see that the person I’m the most critical of is myself.

Yesterday morning, going through my weekend errands of laundry, running, grocery shopping, and making a pit stop to measure my new room in my soon-to-be apartment, I caught myself breathing an air of negativity. Not only was I down on myself for a random breakout cluster that I don’t find attractive, but I was disappointed at my running time, crunching the numbers of my checking account, and realizing how unprepared I am to move and for Mr. Possibility‘s return this week. While I had accomplished many of the tasks I needed to this weekend, it somehow still didn’t feel like it was enough.  There is always more I can do, more effort I can put in, more money I could save, more people I could meet, more care I could take, and more life I could have lived.

Why am I so careful not to judge anyone else and yet so easily judge myself continuously?

Is it because I compare myself to others? To the girls with the legs and the clear skin, with the fancy job titles and the bank accounts I can’t imagine yet. The ones who wear designer clothes and have countless men waiting in line to be their soulmate. The ones who have it all, though all I know is very surface-level and based on first impressions, not conversations. Or is it because I know I’m judged by others? Because I can feel when someone is sizing me up in the subway, in jealously or because they don’t like what I wear or where I decide to stand. Or because I hear or I can read those who judge me by what I write about – who consider me less intelligent or immature because of the content of my blog. Though they forget (and maybe at times, I do too) a blog or a job do not define a person. Or those who make assumptions based on things they don’t know or things they don’t ask.

But judge me, judge me not – it doesn’t matter. The only critic I should be concerned with is the one I see staring back at me. And maybe that’s why being our own greatest fan is a lifetime task, a journey that will never end. Because while we walk past people on the street, developing conclusions we can’t support, and wondering if they are making calls about us we’d never claim, when the public is gone, the private begins.

And it is there, in those private moments, standing carelessly on one-leg, hair tossed messily on top of my head, applying mascara carefully while wearing a make-up stained towel, that I come face-to-face with the judge I am. The person who sees the flaws daily, who makes an effort to be a better person or be better looking with each service paid or mile ran. The person who notices the signs of stress and result of nights with too little sleep, wearing on my face that’s far too young to be wrinkled.

The person looking into the mirror, mirror on the wall, has to decide that it is me who is the fairest of all. Because without justice for myself, how can I be just to anyone else?

PS: Want to guest blog with Love Addict? Read how you can here.

All Hyped Up on Love

Though I may only be a 20-something, I’ve been through quite some pop culture and trends.

I grew up on everything from TGIF, Sister Sister, The Adventures of Mary Kate & Ashley, Full House, The Secret World of Alex Mac, Figure it Out, Clarissa Explains it All, and Rugrats to All That, Hey Arnold!, Saved by the Bell, and Boy Meets World. By some strike of fate or stupidity, my mother eventually allowed me to watch MTV and Friends (where I appropriately flooded her with questions), and some ex boyfriends introduced me to shows like Alf, long after they were off the air.

I convinced myself I could sing just like Mandy Moore – breathy and incredibly too dramatic and all. Outside, with that same recorder I used to interview people with, I’d belt out a Mariah Carey with the neighborhood kids, who at one point, all got together and formed a band, The Butterflies. I always wanted to ride places in my dad’s truck because it had one of those new CD players and if I was careful not to scratch them, I could listen to The Beatles, the Beach Boys, The Temptations, Elton John, Eric Clapton, and Jim Croce while we were driving around town. He’d always serenade me with “My Girl” and hearing it still makes me smile today, though I’m positive I prefer his voice over the original. With my belly button visible, I danced in front of the mirror to Britney Spears, I cried over a Backstreet Boys song when Mr. Curls didn’t show up to my seventh grade birthday party, and I lost my virginity to “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boys II Men.

Being an early bloomer who sprouted out of training bras and into the real ones the summer between fifth and sixth grade, I was amazed with my new curves and unsure of what to do with them. I did, however, notice the looks older boys gave me. So did my mother. I can’t count how many times she left me at home because I refused to change into something more age appropriate, and then I’d call her on her cell phone that was the size of my forearm, and beg her to come back and get me in my jeans and unflattering t-shirt. I wore the platform shoes like The Spice Girls, I braided my hair with a colored strand, I wore glitter on my eyes, and though I thought Abercrombie was cool, even at a young age, I realized how ridiculously overpriced it was. I also didn’t enjoy being choked to death by cologne ten steps before the store front.

I lived, breathed, and loved all of these hypes.

They came, they served a purpose, and they left. I was onto the next band, the next technology, the next style that would fade faster than I could begin to afford it. It took until junior year in college for me to stop caring so much about hypes or what’s hot and to focus more on what I wanted instead of what was new.

This week, to keep my spirits up and to lower my peeking stress level, I’ve been listening to 80’s music. I wasn’t alive in the early 80’s, but some of my youngest memories involve my mom dancing in hot shorts to Michael Jackson or Fine Young Cannibal’s “She Drives Me Crazy” while cleaning. Because my office is in the process of moving, we’re all packing up and my “You Make My Dreams Come True” Pandora station proved to be exactly what we needed. As the songs were playing, I’d notice how certain songs remind me of men I’ve loved or guys who have introduced me to a band I didn’t know. Some of the other women in the office would start singing and then proclaim who they were dating when that particular song came on. Somehow, the best of the 80’s translates into the best and the worse of men of the 80’s for those who lived through it – or discovered the music later on.

Listening to the stories while pouring what I owned into a large Staples cardboard box, I wondered if love is one continuous hype.

We’re sucked in early with fairytales and if we’re lucky, by watching our parents verbalize their admiration for one another. I didn’t really go through the “boys had cooties” phase, I was more concerned with my kindergarten boyfriend, but all of my friends were repulsed by the opposite sex (funny thing is, they’re all married now, and I’m happily not). Once that period comes to a close, we transition into middle school where holding hands and doodling our names with hearts and “forever-ever-and-ever-and-always” seems like the only important thing in the world. High school introduces us to sex, college we have a lot of sex, and in our 20’s we discover what great, incredible sex is, and wonder what we were thinking (or who we were doing) the years previous.

For most, it is one date after another, one relationship after another, one bed and then another, one romance and then ten more. The personalities change, along with the clothes and the mannerisms, but the men essentially are all the same, each time – we get ourselves all hyped up on love. And when it’s good, when it has promise, we’ll go as far to think we’ll never feel it again. That this feeling, whatever it is, is impossible with another man. We’ll get so dead-set on this hype that we’ll become depressed thinking he is the end-all-be-all and we’re doomed if this doesn’t work out…or worse yet, if we screw it up.

If that was the case, Buffy the Vampire Slayer would still be making shows. So would Dawson’s Creek. We’d all still be listening to LFO, eating Dunkaroos, and wearing those god-awful acid-wash jeans (keep in mind Williamsburg is excused from this analogy). We’d all carry mobile phones that don’t fit in our bags and our dial-up internet would greet us with “You’ve Got Mail!”

Things change, so do people. We fall in love and we fall out. We think he’s The One and then we want him to be the one who never comes back. We are addicted to our pair of skinny jeans until our bodies grow some curve, some place, and they don’t fit anymore. We buy into something until it becomes a commodity and we got for a cheaper alternative. Much of life is a hype – but the one thing that remains consistent is me. I’ve been through all the hypes, all the love, all the coming and the going, and I’m still who I am. I’ve adapted and learned, grown up and become a woman, and while I don’t forget the trends I trended through, I realize I’m always going to trend through something.

And if a particular style doesn’t look right on me or a musician doesn’t get me moving, or a man doesn’t hit the spots I need him to hit – I rest easy knowing the next hype is closer than I think.