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

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.

I Could Have Been Cinderella

Once upon a Tuesday morning in Manhattan, I was greeted by the angry call of my alarm clock, demanding I rise earlier than any darling cares to do. Irritated that my sweet dreams in slumber town had been interrupted, I groggily tiptoed across the wood floor of my studio, and submerged in a steady stream of almost-too-hot water.

A stubbed toe and curse word later, I found myself riding the downtown train to the Southern part of the island I hardly visit. But when your job demands you arrive on Fulton Street in the wee hours of the A.M. to listen to bloggers and agents discuss the healthcare reform, you have no choice but to oblige. Maybe free coffee and breakfast help make the trip worth the long haul and the bright-and-early start time.

Like anyone who lives anywhere, I’ve found myself set into a routine of taking the same trains to the same places during the same hours of the day – with a few crazy weeks, here and there. And even if I don’t recognize the reoccurring faces, there is some sort of energy that remains static with repetition, or maybe I just get used to the route. Nevertheless, the trip to the business threshold of New York had far different inhabitants than the subway I usually take.

Mainly, there was a fresh plethora of beautiful men. And not just attractive, but ones without wedding bands. (A single gal has to look out for the married ladies, in case their man is tempted by her fruit, and she must remind him the only place his low-hangers are welcome.)

Though I noticed their Armani suits, Cartier watches, and Burberry briefcases, I was busily preparing for the event I was heading toward and had little-to-no-time to pull out The Look or place energy into smiling cleverly. And truth be told, since the start of this journey, I’ve relaxed a bit on the ogling and let the gentlemen (and the jerks) come my way, all by themselves. I mean, they are big boys, grown men, with jobs that triple (or more) my salary – surely they can approach a lady in a black mini blazer and pencil skirt. Right?

Yep, they sure can. Kind of anyways.

As I’m sitting, writing away, looking at notes, and planning what I could suggest to my publisher to add to the conversation, a guy of my type shifted in front of me. With a packed train, I watched his bag go right above my notebook and since it disturbed my flow, I quickly looked up to give the glare I never had until I moved to the city. But when I met his eyes, I let go of a little of the sleepiness-induced temper, and grinned. He did too. And he had dimples.

With only a few stops to go, I began to pack up, and kindly asked him to move over if he could at all in the crowded tiny cart. He obliged and replied, “Anything for you.” Catching on to his sarcasm, I thanked him and threw my bag over my shoulder. Not willing to put a move on him (as I would have six months ago), I waited for him to say something, since he obviously had an easy-in to a conversation with me.

“So where do you work?” He finally asked matter-of-factly. A little thrown off by his harshness, I let him know my position at the magazine, and the moment “editor” can out of my mouth – his face went from concerned and nervous, to smugly assured. “A writer, eh?” He said with a smirk as he cut his eyes across the train before looking back down at me. I nodded and shortly defended my job title – though I wasn’t sure why it was in question. “Well, I’m a senior vice president, at 30, at Blah Blah Blah Bank. When is your event over?” Confused by what my morning committment had anything to do with his job, I blankly said, “It ends at 11.”

Out of some sort of misguided and overly arrogant sense of self, he offered, “If you’re interested, I can have my secretary buzz you up and I can show you a good time you’d love to write about. ” Stunned he would have the nerve to make such a proposition to a woman he’s known a measly three minutes – not to mention, he didn’t even know I was a dating blogger, or my name, I dropped my jaw without even moving. Then the train stopped. I excused myself to get around him and confidently hurried away from him and up the stairway.

A few steps away from daylight and complete freedom from the businessman who thought he was more bad ass than what he really is  – I literally stepped right out of my high heel. I was in such a rush that it took three steps for me to stop, turn around, and realize I had actually lost one of my Jimmy’s. Flustered and fearing I would be late because I was so irritated with the dude – I went to reach for it and there he was.

Both of us seeing the undeniable irony of the moment, he smirked that annoying little smirk that for a split-second, seconds ago, I had been blinded by the accessorized dimples. As he was leaning to retrieve my shoe and probably go back to the office calling himself a prince, I snatched it up before he had a second to think. Placing it back on my hosed-foot, I sharply looked into his eyes and said, “No, really. That’s okay.”

Maybe I’ve stopped looking for happily ever after and perhaps I’m not even sure what “after’ indicates, anyways. But when given the opportunity to be banker’s princess, instead of being crowned worthy for an afternoon of delight, I would have rather talked healthcare for the rest of my career than dignify anything he said, jokingly or not, with any sort of recognition.

Walking to meet my boss and dive into a discussion that was surprisingly engaging, I thought about how many times I had imagined that exact moment. How many times during college I had been criticized (in the newsroom, go figure) for believing in fairytales. How at one point, my ringtone was sadly and embarrassingly “Someday My Prince Would Come.” How much I had wondered if, with my love for high heels, and a dreamy population of men who look like my image of a prince, I would indeed, have a completely idealistic interaction just like that.

And then when it happened, when I could have been Cinderella, I didn’t want this so-called Charming to come in on his white ride, or with his bulky bank account and sweep me away to a penthouse on Wall Street looking over the river. Instead, I’d rather steal his horse and make a run for it – once I made sure he gave my shoe back, that is.