Cinderella. Snow White. Rapunzel. The Princess with the pea. These women managed to beat the odds and bagged the perfect husband in the process.
Or as far as I know, they did. When I was a kid, I read and reread their popular sagas of romance and rescue. But the stories didn’t give too much detail past the rescue stage. The rest of their lives was summed up in a single phrase: “and they all lived happily ever after.”
As a modern day princess with her own prince charming, I am working on my happily ever after. Mike and I met four years ago at a family barbecue; his aunt is a friend of my mom’s. He is a sweet, patient man who was willing to woo a woman whose past searches for a prince left her jaded. We’ve been living together for the past year and a half, and we have been blessed with a daughter.
Did the princesses truly have a happily ever after? Dealing with the everyday challenges of a relationship is much harder than it seems in that simple phrase crafted by the brothers Grimm. Mike and I have had several instances that I call growing experiences; these are the times when we have to find a way to merge our expectations with actualities. Here are just a few examples of what I mean.
What’s that on the floor?
I am a neat freak, and Mike is not. It annoys me to no end. There was a period of time when I found dirty socks all over the place. I fussed. I stomped. The socks disappeared and were replaced with dirty dishes and empty take-out cups. My prince is patient with my annoyance as he relocates and redefines his clutter in various parts of our home.
How would have Rapunzel handled this? Would the disorder be lost in her long locks, or would the witch who imprisoned the princess make a comeback as a clutter specialist? She would use her magic wand to clean house.
Are we alone?
I work days, and Mike works nights. Toss an active toddler into those hectic schedules, and couple time is nearly extinct. We are still struggling for a solution. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve fallen asleep while he was talking or mumbled my apologies as he tried to slip over to my side of the bed.
What did Snow White do about this? Did her prince keep a mental clipboard that kept track of her “I’m too tireds” or “I have a headaches?” (By the way, I have never used that as an excuse.) Or did taking care of seven dwarfs provide valuable insights into time management? Perhaps focusing on one relationship is a breeze after keeping house for seven men.
Where’s my hero?
A male friend of mine once said that every man sends a “representative” out on dates during the first few months of dating. It take at least four to six months, he says, for the real person to show up.
If that is the case, did the fairy tale ladies really know who they were marrying? Those chicks fell head over heels at first sight. The longest premarital relationship was Cinderella’s, I think. At least she took a few turns with him on the dance floor before he put out an A.P.B for her feet. Saving the day after the first or second meeting sets a pretty high bar; I wonder if the men could continue to meet expectations.
Mike’s representative made a strong showing with flowers and love notes for about a year. A string of gift-giving mishaps have created a dry spell. Backordered items, lost greeting cards, and calendar mix-ups are just a few examples of the romantic boo-boos I have seen lately.
About a month ago, the main pipe in the house clogged, and smelly water poured into the basement. Mike rented a giant contraption from the local hardware store and spent the day flushing the line. After eight hours of banging and cussing, he emerged from the basement stinky, tired, and victorious. I kissed my prince as he headed to the shower. I offered him a backrub, but he was too tired to accept it. Romance may be hit or miss, but I definitely had a hero.
As Mike snored heavily that night, I thought again about the princesses and their fairy tales. I’ll never know if they really had a happily ever after, but I do know they had an amazing journey trying to get there. And the journey is half the fun.