It’s how every Fairy Tale ends…
And so… they lived Happily Ever After.
It normally comes, does it not, when the Princess has been scooped up by the Prince. Rescued, snogged in her sleep and kept in a castle, albeit no longer guarded by a dragon but ‘kept’ nonetheless. I’m not the first to question the benefits of reading these stories to children at bedtime, but I’m also guilty of indulging in ‘Happily Ever After’. Fairy tales, rom-coms, 19th century literature, all yield to my engrained love of everlasting romantic love. I’ll look beyond the patriarchal prejudice and the exhausted stereotypes because at the end of the story two people fall madly, deeply, truly in love. It’s the same reason that we watch Love Island, aside from the fighting, we want to see people falling in love. As a consequence we too want to fall in love. To find a frog that may turn into a prince, to stand in the rain as our unrequited love finally opens up their heart, or to find someone that is as open and honest as Tommy Fury.
Love makes the world go round. Walking through London on Pride weekend reminds you what kind of effect love can have. It can move laws and ancient paradigms. To ask for an end to love, an end to the account of love, would be a potential risk of loosing Happily Ever After in this form. But, I am worryingly aware of how my 20 year old self sought love as though it were a lifeline. As though it were a missing limb and in not having it my quality of life would be affected.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason other that fulfilment in other aspects of my life, I no longer feel this yearning. I no longer feel that my life-line, my story or my Happily Ever After need include a dreamy love interest. I would never ‘end up alone’ anyway. The fear pushed on us of the cats and the studio apartment of a spinster is ludicrous. I’m sure that most single people have more time than anyone to have and nourish friendships. For Cinderella and Snow White, marriage is a reward. An end-goal. For most of us, it’s unspoken that we would want to fall in love and ‘settle down.’ I don’t dispute this. I don’t question the desire to go through life with another person as your support, a pair of arms to catch you when life knocks you down.
What I dispute is the idea that it is odd, particularly as a woman, to get to a certain age and to still be single. To assume that the only happiness left for a woman after thirty, is for the Prince to take her to the castle. I worry that this fear, this societal pressure could force any number of women to pick the wrong Prince. To close ones eyes, outstretch a pointed finger, spin as fast as you can and land on any old dick-head; just to avoid suffering the loss of Happily Ever After.
As we all know, relationships are hard. Happily Ever After will never come if you settle. If you panic-buy at the Prince or Princess directory. You’re really fucked then. If divorce rates are so high, if people cheat incessantly just because they can, if your partner drives you up the wall and you spend most of your time pondering their eligibility – isn’t your Happily Ever After, for the meantime, on your own. A single entity enjoying what the world has to offer rather than panicking about what people might think, or what the wicked step-mother may do if you don’t achieve marital status.
I crave the narrative of the woman who falls in love with herself. The woman who chooses to be single, without any hint toward it being due to her success, her sexuality or her strength. I want this narrative to be shown as a choice. A woman who for what ever reason, unbeknown to herself perhaps, has decided to be single. It’s actually not even about being single. It’s about refusing to feel obliged to NOT be single anymore. Eradicate the pressure. Without this, I suddenly feel excited to be around couples. I no longer feel a bitter jealousy and panic that this should be me. I just feel happy for them, I appreciate love for what it is, I appreciate the romantic comedy in life but I feel no obligation what so ever to par take. I will of course, if I really fancy someone. I will, no doubt, if I fall head over heels. I most definitely won’t, just for the sake of it. Just as a precautionary measure against becoming Miss Havisham.
When Barbara, at the family gathering leans over to me and says ‘so, have you got a lovely young man in your life then?’ This is what I’m thinking…
Numbero Uno Barbaro, what if I’m gay? Must be so annoying when people assume your sexuality and get it wrong! Although, I’m sure Barbaro would love this little piece of gossip for her Book Club on Thursday night. It would wash the smoked salmon and cream cheese canapes down like no white wine ever could!
Secondly, If I did Barbara, he’d probably be here. Or I’d have spoken about him at least three times already so please, use the head that does the Daily Mail crossword SO well and refrain from asking stupid questions.
Suddenly, I’m thinking about how horrific this question is going to get with age. I’m 22 and she’s shocked that I’m single. I’m worried now, that when Barbs asks me this question in 2029 she may drop dead on the spot. I’m also worried that by then, another decade of single living, I may have grown so weary of her obsession with my lack of a partner that I may just hit her, square in the nose.
Number four. I’m worried about the example that this sets. About the excuses one has to make, about the sudden hot flush and embarrassment that ensues when you have to explain why you’re single. ‘I don’t know Barbara, maybe I think men are a waste of time, maybe I’ve got more important things to be doing, maybe I’ve completed tinder OR MAYBE it just hasn’t happened yet and I’m not in the business of popping down to my local and asking any Tom, Dick or Harry to get down on one knee.’
Of course I smile, and politely say ‘No, happily single actually Babs, fancy another glass?’
My call to action on this – stop obsessing over falling in love. When it happens, it will be as lovely as the movies. Whilst it isn’t happening, give the love you’re ready to give to another to yourself. There’s no point yearning for something which doesn’t yet exist. We all know these things happen at the most peculiar of times; if it happens to be when I’m 25 so be it. If I’m 50, fabulous. If I miss it completely, it’s not as if I’ve never loved.
Que sera sera x