My favorite storybook when I was a little girl was Cinderella. I always dreamed that one day I would meet Prince Charming and we would live happily ever after. I’m also a realist so I knew that I would have to alter my dreams to fit my reality. So I dreamed of meeting a man with all his teeth. I dreamed he would sweep me off my feet to live our lives together forever, and we would live high on the hill in our 2 bedroom ranch in the country.
I lucked out and found two separate men with all their teeth. I married them both, at separate times, of course. Neither time did I get my happily ever after. All my life I had read fairy tales, watched movies and been told by society that happily ever with Prince Charming was the dream of every lady. Yet, here I am at 40ish still without my Prince Charming. I thought I had found him, twice, but when I made the decision to stand on my own; I felt as if I were not living the life I was supposed to live.
When my marriages fell apart all I could ask myself was, “Why me? I couldn’t help but blame myself for not turning this fairy tale into a reality. All my life I had heard beautiful stories of great romance but for some reason, I have never been able to achieve this for myself. This made me ask, “Why not me?’ What was I doing so wrong that I didn’t deserve the fairy tale that so many other people got? Once I was single all I could ask myself was, “Why?” Why did I hold onto this outdated fairy tale for so long?
I continued to ask myself “Why” for years. Divorce is hard. Being single is not as glamorous as they make it look on the TV. The whole I get to do what I want when I want is great and all but it can get lonely. There are days when I come home and no one is there. The person, my person, who I would vent to, was not around. That person, even though I was mad at him most of the time, was still a presence in my life. I spend a lot of nights eating dinner alone. It’s nice that I can cook whatever I want but it is never fun to eat alone. All of the things that needed to be repaired are starting to pile up; there are so many things I don’t know how to do to maintain a home and my yard looks terrible because I am not a gardener. He was my partner in this way, he did the things I couldn’t and vice-versa. No matter how bad my marriages were when they ended, the entire idea of a happy family was shattered.
When the life I had dreamed of since I was just a little girl seemed as if it would never be a possibility for me, I was completely devastated. I had dealt with my first divorce and all the heartbreak that came with it, but I felt like I still had time to create my fairy tale with my second marriage. I stuck it out for as long as I possibly could. When I finally walked away, I not only had to deal with the feelings of heartbreak and failure that come with divorce; I also had to deal with the failure of achieving my happily ever after. And this time I was much older so time was running out, not to mention I am now disabled. Who would want me now?
Once I was single, again, I also had the pleasure of dealing with the stigma that others feel about my situation. I don’t know if it’s my perception or the expectations that society puts on women to be remarried but I have felt uneasy in many situations. There are certain people who go out of their way to make it known that singletons are not welcome, this stings. If I post a picture on social media then I must be trolling for a date, if I like a mans picture on social media then I must want a date with him. I’m 40ish so the desperation must be real, right? Can’t we all just be friends and like funny pictures or the cute pictures of the kids? No, apparently we cannot.
I tried venting to my married friends. I tried to talk about the things piling up because I didn’t know what I was doing, about being alone and on my own for the first time in so long. They would vent about their husbands not doing the dishes or leaving their clothes laying around. At least they had someone there to help them and to spend time with. My married friends didn’t get it. When I tried venting to my single friends they would tell me that what I really needed in my life was another man. I tried to explain that I didn’t want to settle for just anyone who would accept me, I still wanted happily ever after. My single friends didn’t get it. I got a therapist. My therapist listens to me vent about every little detail that is bringing me down. If I want to gripe about all 874 things that got on my nerves last Tuesday he listens, without telling me how lucky I am because his life is much worse. Problem solved.
I finally let go of the fairy tale. I reread some of those little books and rewatched those movies and decided they were lame anyway. I want to be responsible for my own happiness instead of waiting for someone to come along and “complete me.” When I took responsibility for my own happily ever after, my life took a new direction. I stopped doing what’s best for someone else and started doing what’s best for me. It took me a long time to get to a place in my life where I am comfortable being on my own. If I find another man with all his teeth, cool. If I don’t, cool.
Somewhere in all the venting, I realized that I once again needed to alter my dreams to fit my reality. Until I was comfortable by myself and happy by myself, I could not let the fairy tale go. I also accepted that being nostalgic and missing something that was a part of my life for so long wasn’t pathetic, it’s human. I let go of the childhood fantasy of what I thought I should have, I allow myself to remember what was good, and I am moving forward with what is. My happily ever after is entirely up to me, not an outdated fairy tale that glorifies romantic love as the key to happiness.
Are there any fairy tales or expectations from society that you felt pressure to live up to in your life? Share your story in the comments.
Photos by: Sherika Mathis Sims
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