Candace (played by Danielle Nicolet): You want the fairy tale!
Rae (played by Lucy Liu): No I don’t.
Candace: Yes, you do! You want Richard Gere climbing up the fire escape.
Rae: I’d have to be a hooker in order for that to work.
Candace: You want the 1930s. You want some guy who comes in off the street wearing a tuxedo and starts waltzing you around the room.
Rae: Is that what happened in the 30s? I just pictured soup lines.
Candace: You know if you wait for the fairy tale, nothing ever happens because it’s not real.
Rae: Then what’s real?
Candace: What’s real is — you make a list of everything you want, and you start shopping for it. You create an emotional budget, and you compromise where you have to, but you don’t go to the checkout until you have at least 80% of everything that is on that list.
Rae: I don’t even grocery shop like that.
– conversation in the Lifetime movie, Marry Me
Ahh, the fairy tale. Most of us have read or seen our fair share of them. We know how the lady and the prince/beast end up living happily ever after, and we’re given little princess books to read and enjoy. We’re called things like “my little princess,” and brought to places like Disney Land/World to admire the Tiana’s and the Belle’s, and dressed up as the different fairy tale women for Halloween.
At the same time though, many of us have also been told to never identify with these ladies. I know I was. Not explicitly, of course, but I did grow up believing that what Ariel and Cinderella experienced was nice and all, but as a real woman (and not a cartoon) – I should focus on being the best me I could be, create a great career for myself, strive to achieve high goals, and that the last thing my focus should be on was a man.
And certainly not for a man to “save me.”
My mom instilled that in me. Same with my grandmother, my aunts, my big “sisters,” etc… and my guess is that I’m not alone. My generation of women is the generation that came after the great Feminist movement, so the matriarchs in our lives never wanted us to depend on being saved by a man, like in the fairy tales. They wanted us to chart our own paths. Blaze our own trails. Light our own lighthouses.
They taught us to be independent and ambitious, to forget about the fairy tale – because it wasn’t real. It was a set-up for failure, and frankly, it made you seem like a weak woman. And because of them, I’m so happy to have grown up believing I could be anything I wanted. That I could be on the path to be an amazing writer and potential author and not have to worry about getting married at 21 just because that’s what you were supposed to do. But… honestly, I think somewhere along the lines we lost the beauty in the fairy tale as well.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying sit at home and wait for some man to fulfill your dreams. I would never, ever say that, but maybe it’s not so wrong to want a man as part of those dreams.
I’ve recently been thinking about this a lot as my friends and I have continued to engage in conversations about relationships. And I realized that I’d found myself sounding a lot like Rae, the main character in the movie, Marry Me (at least in my head). In one scene, her mom is going on and on about the practicality of relationships and she finally admits to wanting more than that.
Her mom: What is it you have in your dreams?
Rae: A man who is honest and kind and sexy and exciting and secure and rational and consistent and who will love me like crazy until the day he dies.
Mom tries to interrupt…
Rae: I’m not finished. I want the kind of relationship where we make each other better by pursuing our highest selves so that at the end of a lifetime, we can look back at what we’ve built, and we can pass that on to our children who will have learned lessons about love and friendship and companionship from two people who were willing to take the leap and trust that true love is real, and not just real but the most powerful thing in the world.
Mom: How long have you been like this?
Rae: All my life.
Mom: I wish I’d known; maybe we could’ve done something about it.
Rae: Well, it’s too late now, and I’m not willing to settle for less.
That’s what I want too! I want the revised version of the fairy tale – that passionate but also practical romance; the one that makes me want to shout on a mountain top of my love but also doesn’t consume either of us to the point that we forget about our individual goals; the love that pushes us both to do more, be better, give more, and also that makes me want to just come home and lay my head on his lap some nights. I want the guy who is just as comfortable laughing and drinking with me and my friends as he is meeting my dad, brother, grandfathers, and uncles. The dreamer who knows how to put his dreams into focus and move on them and who pushes me to keep doing the same, not because I need him to – but because that’s what good partners do. And yes, I want us to live happily ever after, even though we both know that happiness is not equivalent to riding off into the sunset, but it’s about choosing to remain happy with each other.
That is what I want. But I’ve been so, I don’t know, embarrassed(?) to say that before. To admit that I want more and not just admit to it, but stick to it! I’ve hinted at it with my friends but never actually came out and said it because, let’s face it, a woman saying all that sounds silly and impractical. It sounds like you’re waiting for something that can’t be achieved. Especially if you’re like me, and you’ve dated enough guys to have had some of them desire parts of those things with you, and yet, you don’t return their feelings. When that happens, people start to look at you differently. They wonder if she’ll “ever get it together” and “stop believing in nonsense.” And it makes you (well, it made me) push those feelings to the back.
And then, one of my fave bloggers wrote a post asking her readers what their specific fairy tale consisted of. It threw me initially, because not only did I not know anymore, I’d stopped believing it was okay to even think that way. I’d gotten caught up in the grocery store way of dating and had forgotten that that’s not what I want at all. I do want the fairy tale, my version of the fairy tale, and I hope no one takes my independent woman card for saying so.