‘Happily ever after’ idea, impossible

Romantic stories of old make for great escape, but no place to put hope


While watching “Cinderella Story” again, I came to realize why years after we’ve “outgrown” bedtime stories, both men and women still enjoy the bewitching parable of the poor, badly treated cinder girl and her princely love.

Surely, it’s not because Hillary Duff is an amazing actress or Brandy’s musical rendezvous rendition will be more amazing than Drew Barrymore’s historically flawed fairy tale. It might seem shallow, but we are attracted to this tall tale because it is precisely what we want.

We want to be the object of desire. We want Prince Charming to search for us, whether through courtiers or bright yellow fliers. We want to be sought.

Ask the nerdy guy in your class and I’m sure he’ll say that more than getting a new Wii, he wants someone to want him.

Ask Blake Mitchell. He would be nothing without the flocks of girls swarming him post-Clemson win. Ask the quiet girl in the front row or the pretty face talking on her cell phone.

But what Cinderelly never tells us is what happens after Prince Charming has found the owner of the “rather remarkable shoe” or the misplaced cell phone. Nope, the story ends with happily ever after.

If we’ve established anything in our adult relationships, it’s that, for the most part, happily ever after can be a bigger challenge than dealing with those ugly stepsisters.

Being the object of someone’s desire can be pretty amazing. You might start to lose that low self-esteem – or for those more confident, it might ensure your sense of self-righteousness. You might start to feel pretty good about yourself.

Maybe Cinderella and Prince Charming do get to ride off into that picture-perfect sunset, but that’s just the temporary ending.

Somewhere down the line, probably in the morning, Charming will wake up to find Cindy’s face has melted into a mess of breakouts and sunburns.

Her hair gets a little fussy sometimes if she doesn’t spritz it with the Fairy Godmother conditioner.

Likewise, Cindy might wake up to find dear old Charming has uncontrollable snores.

Suddenly the mystery that once made the tale so magical isn’t anything more than dwindling disenchantment.

What Charming and Cindy need to realize when desperately seeking the owner of that shoe or flocking to the Prince’s Ball is that maybe the beautiful face on the other end isn’t going to be as shiny as the shoe, but just as fragile.

She won’t always wear the ball gown; sometimes she’ll be covered in soot. And Charming won’t always be a gentleman; sometimes there’s a big game on television.

But if our hero opened his eyes long before falling in love at first sight, he might have realized that the reality of Ella can be more beautiful, more meaningful and more enchanting than some simplistic ending in a children’s book.


(Originally written 12.7.2006)


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