Saturday, November 1, 2008

How to Live Happily Ever After

Last night, Cinderalla came to my house. She was in good company with Wonder Woman and a black kitty cat. Later that evening, I'm pretty sure I saw Snow White - but it could have been Sleeping Beauty. It was pretty dark.

With all these adorable children dressed up as their favorite Disney characters for Halloween, it got me thinking about the appeal of "happily ever after." Who doesn't like a story that ends with the girl swept off her feet by the man of her dreams? I'm not a feminist, by any stretch of the definition of the term, but I have to admit that I'm worried about setting up my own daughter to believe that happily ever after is founded on getting married to a handsome prince.

In my book, happily ever after is the way a woman lives when she is financially secure in her own right. This does not mean that there are no handsome princes out there - however, the smart woman is one who can take care of herself, no matter what happens to Prince Charming! There are so many ways to do this - from getting an education (complete high school or get a GED at least), to establishing your own credit record, and sticking to a household budget. No one is going to wave a magic wand and give you a castle to live in, rent-free! While you're out there building up your credit, learn to use your voice too! Speak up when something is not going your way, and you'll get treated better in the long run. One of my favorite thoughts (don't know who gets attribution) is that "we teach people how to treat us." Keep that in mind and you'll be a stronger, happier person.

Am I some kind of nut to suggest that you can live happily ever after just by finishing school and setting a budget? Yes and no. Life will have its ups and downs. Children will get sick. Loved ones will die. Prince Charming may argue with you endlessly about the cost of coloring your hair while he goes off to golf on the weekends. It is an ongoing process - living happily ever after. It requires constant management by YOU, of YOU. Sometimes the glass will definitely appear half-empty, but its up to you to look deep for the joyful experiences and relationships you have to turn that perception around.

I also have to remind myself that even grown-up movies are but fairy tales. The silver screen can make me feel disillusioned by my own life. The last movie I saw, "Nights in Rodanthe," had me drooling over Richard Gere and silently cursing my husband for not having a romantic bone in his body. Living happily ever after means being able to put things into perspective, I guess. Those characters on screen are truly make-believe, and we're only given a tiny glimpse into their fake lives. With mortgages to pay, carpools to run, and toilets to scrub, no wonder my spouse and I don't dash off to the beach for a carefree weekend of love-making. And if we did, we'd probably be arguing about finances most of the way. Who wants to watch such reality when they go to the movies?

It is just a fantasy to believe that we, as women, will be entirely taken care of by a devoted, doting partner. Yes, that is the cold, hard fact. Happily ever after demands more than that. It requires personal growth, independence, and healthy boundaries. As long as you are secure the person that you are - you don't need Prince Charming to "complete you." But he can still be a cute accessory.....

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