So-True-Love Tuesday (& Wednesday & the next day &…)

Steve and I have been preparing some slide shows for the wedding reception, so we’ve had the joy (and occasional agony) of going back through years of photos. Despite my general skepticism regarding things like pre-determined plans and fated soulmates, it’s been hard to resist the idea that, at the very least, Steve and I have been traveling parallel paths all these years—paths that, once they finally intersected, would naturally funnel into a single trail we’d keep walking together.

Happy baby days…

Smiling with our big brothers…

Posing for the requisite Olan Mills family portrait…

We each cherished holidays with the next generation…

and loved our furry friends…

We spent time in the woods…

And on the water…

We rode…

And we ran…

And we found our happy places…

And then, at last, we found each other:

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magnifico photography

I’m not one to believe in some automatic “happily ever after” either—talk about a gloss on the good (and the hard) stuff.  But I believe in us, and our commitment to create a happy life together.

I’m so grateful our paths crossed, and I can’t wait to join hands and travel forward together.

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Invitation: Traditional-Fairy-Tale-Takedown Challenge

As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s almost impossible to escape the standard romantic narrative that presumes we all aspire to march two-by-two into happy (and usually heterosexual) committed couple-dom. But so many of us whose feet don’t fit the standard glass slipper are living amazing lives we love, and those stories need to be told, too!

Your challenge: write your own alternative fairy tale, one that describes your current awesome life or hints at the fairy tale life to which you aspire.

Guidelines:

  • Your fairy tale should open with (what else?) “Once upon a time” and be 6 to 7 lines long, loosely following the models of the “world’s shortest fairy tale” and other examples, below. Unconventional tales most welcome, but more conventional ones are too, if that’s your happy place. No need to include a proposal, unless it’s part of your story.
  • The challenge remains open from February 10th-20th; post and link or submit within that window.
  • To participate, post your fairy tale on your own blog and link it back to this post, post it in a comment below, or send it directly to me at 40somethingfirsttimebride@gmail.com.
  •  All entries PG, please. 🙂
  • Tag #fairytaletakedown if you wish (I’m still kinda figuring the hashtag thing out.)

In early March, I’ll feature some of my and my readers’ favorite fairy tales in a follow-up post. Please visit the blogs of those who submit, and like and comment on your faves! Any non-bloggers, indicate how you’d like to be identified in the post should your fairy tale be included in the March feature.

The inspiration for the challenge

Back in October, I questioned the privileging of a single model for happily ever after, and its counterpart as featured in the following meme:

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You can read the original full post here, but here’s what I had to say (with a few updates) that’s relevant to this challenge:

“The meme made me laugh—and think. It works specifically because we’re familiar with its counterpart, the fairy tale wherein the girl says “yes,” they marry, and presumably live happily ever after. In the male version, the “happily ever after” is spelled out in detail, though in traditional fairy tales it’s not. The conventional version, if it were spelled out, might look like this:

Once upon a time, a man asked a woman, “Will you marry me?”
The woman said, YES! And they lived happily ever after
and settled into a lovely house with a big yard
and had one boy and one girl and a well-trained dog
and the man made lots of money while she cooked perfect dinners
and they held hands every day until the day they died.

Of course, even for women who desire marriage or partnership, not everyone’s happily ever after includes 2.5 kids and a mortgage. The assumption that marriage per se is every woman’s dream—the assumption the original meme’s humor depends upon—is, if not sexist, at least shortsighted. A good marriage built on true companionship is something I want (even though it scares me in some ways). But I resist the easy equation of single male = happy and married female = happy as a default setting; it seems especially problematic in a world where not everyone has the legal right to marry even when they wish to. There are alternatives to both of the above tales. My  own life, prior to Steve’s presence in it, looked a bit like this (yes, I was proposed to once before, but that’s a story for another day):

Once upon a time, a man asked a woman, “Will you marry me?”
The woman said, NO!  And she lived happily ever after
and moved to Virginia and traveled at every opportunity
read incredible books and drank good wine and tea
and spent money on journals, artwork, and clothes
had a raspberry-pink sofa and loved her four cats
and farted whenever she wanted.

The last line is not a typo. You think women who live alone don’t enjoy the freedom to fart with abandon (or put off shaving, or let the dishes pile up in the sink…)? Now, there’s a fairy tale.

Here’s another, a composite fairy tale based on some awesome women I know:

Once upon a time, a man asked a woman, “Will you marry me?”
The woman said, NO! And she lived happily ever after
and traveled to Africa and met fascinating people
took up running and drank cosmos and craft beer
and spent money on marathons and beautiful shoes
bought a sewing machine and fostered rescue dogs
and (just guessing here, friends) farted whenever she wanted.

The upshot? One person’s sweetened-up Disney fairy tale is another person’s gloomy Brothers Grimm version. And (this is not news): there is no “happily ever after,” at least none that applies universally—nor, I would hazard, only one that is possible in any one person’s life. I wrote about the “infinite variety of paths” we might travel as we wind our way through the world, and, for each of us, I believe, there is more than one route to happiness. Mine is starting to look a little something like this:

Once upon a time, a man asked a woman, “Will you marry me?”
The woman said, YES! And they lived happily ever after
and traveled together to oceans and mountains
and talked and read books and gave each other plenty of space
and spent money on wedding stuff and shopped for a house
and wondered when to introduce her cats to his dog
who farted whenever he wanted.”


Submit your alternative fairy tales!