If I were to write a fairy tale for young children, especially young girls it would go something like this. Once upon a time there was a young girl who lived in tiny beaten down shack. She didn’t have a lot of money and her parents were poor. She decided she was going to get out of her situation no matter what, so she worked hard and went to school. Despite the obstacles she started her own company and employed a bunch of other poor kids to come and work for her. It wasn’t always easy and she nearly lost everything several times but she kept working hard and survived. At some point she got married, and the guy was alright. She also had children and loved them with all of her might. She taught he kids to dream big, work hard and try to do right by their fellow-man. Her marriage didn’t work out and she got a divorce. She continued to live as happily as with her children and company. When she died she looked back at her greatest achievements – creating jobs for so many other poor kids, and her beautiful children. The end.
It could be easily rewritten where she’s an employee but takes great pride and satisfaction in her work. I could also re-write it where she doesn’t have kids, and gets fulfillment through helping others or by using her creativity. The example of fairy tales is a powerful one for me since I work with kids in my day job. I can’t help but see how much influence our myths, legends and pop culture have on young impressionable minds.
Why are we only told one story our entire lives? With a few exceptions there are few fairy tales or fables that do not include weddings as part of a happy ending. Why are weddings mostly absent in fairy tales geared towards boys? Why do so many of our fables END with a marriage followed by the phrase “Happily Ever After.” Every married or divorced person knows that a wedding is not the ending, it’s the start of a new chapter. A fairy Godmother does not descend from heaven and make everything magical on the day we say “I do.” In many ways everything gets harder, as the stakes get higher.
If our marriages end in divorce we are not lesser than our married counterparts. We all know dysfunctional and damaging marriages. Just because two people remain married doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a happy or healthy union.
The wedding industry is big business the US. With some estimates being as high as $51 billion dollars spent annually. Yet despite all the extravagance and hoopla fewer people are getting married. The media decries this trend as some sort of crumbling of our social fabric. Personally I think it’s a good thing. Marriage is not necessarily the end all, be all of happiness. Not everyone thrives in marriage and it’s much easier to walk away from a relationship that’s not legally binding.
When I was 27 I gave up my job, relocated to New York City and left my friends and career behind for a man I thought I would be with forever. From a young age, we’re encouraged that to sacrifice for love is not only acceptable but a nobel thing to do. Now it’s one thing to stay with a partner in a time of crisis, staying with them during a prolonged illness, or supporting them in a time of crisis. That is a beautiful thing and a testament to the human experience. Our bonds with each other can reach such depths that we do want to sacrifice for the ones we love. At the same time, the emotions I have for my family and friends are just as strong as what I could have for a romantic partner.
We need a new narrative. We need to stop telling the same story. Marriage isn’t the only recipe for happily ever after, and honestly happily after doesn’t exist. We live, we love and go through a lot in our lives and for most of us it’s nothing like a fairy tale. I’d rather have a life with ups and downs than some Disney fantasy anyway.
- Dating After Divorce in City of Sluts – (huffingtonpost.com)
- Dear Susan Patton Take your Advice and Shove it (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Dating After Divorce: Why is it So Difficult in your Late Thirties (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Dating in NYC: How to use the Internet to Catch a Partner Cheating (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Don’t Make Your Crazy Boyfriend Your Job (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Why Divorce is Much More than a Breakup (julietjeskeblog.com)
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