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Fairy Tale Endings

Fairy Tale Endings
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Rerunning another one of my favorites

BY BETH PORTOLESE

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I first hear about some famous person cheating on their spouse I have a hard time believing it.  Take for example Arnold Schwarzenegger cheating on Maria with their housekeeper and fathering a child with her!  Oh and remember John Edwards having an affair and fathering a child with another woman a few years ago?  That one really got to me.  I just couldn’t or didn’t want to believe it! It isn’t that I don’t understand that this type of thing happens – it does all too often; it is just that I had bought into the story of their devoted marriage and struggle to come through the death of their son which brought them closer together and led them to have two more children. I bought into the scenes we saw when he was running for Vice-President of them celebrating their anniversary at Wendy’s every year….how delightful. I liked the fact that this very handsome and charming (or so I thought) man was still madly in love with his wife after all these years who, although attractive and intelligent, was overweight and looked all of her age. When the National Enquirer started reporting on his affair, baby mama, and child, I chalked it up to the sensational reporting of a ridiculous ‘newspaper’ that was out to bring a good guy down. Boy was I wrong! Edwards turned out to be just another in the long line of arrogant lying politicians (is there an epidemic?) who think they can get away with anything because of the public’s stupidity.  Even worse, he was doing this when his wife had cancer!

My disappointment in all of this illustrates that even though I consider myself a mature, jaded New York woman, apparently I still want to believe in fairy tales. The ones where the handsome prince will come, see all good qualities in the princess (even if she is in her 50s with the wrinkles to show for it) and want to live happily ever after with her. This fairy tale is ingrained in us through childhood and reaffirmed by our mothers telling us that men eventually go for the nice, intelligent girl (whatever her age) and looks and weight aren’t everything. This is why I’m a sucker for romantic movies like Pretty Woman. I mean after all, many street prostitutes meet millionaires who look like Richard Gere who eventually want to marry them. It could happen.

Let’s face it though, in real life fairy tales don’t exist. Even if a relationship appears that way at first, reality eventually sets in. It happened to me with a man I went out with a few years ago. We met and had an instant attraction. He wrote me lovely romantic emails about how much he cared for me and that I was too good to be true and fate had brought us together etc. At first I was quite skeptical about all this, but then….I actually got into it! I began to think that maybe this was my moment, my fairy tale ending. Maybe I just had to meet the right person in order to experience the romance that I secretly had always craved! The glow of this relationship lasted all of 2 months. After that I found out he had money problems, commitment problems and employment problems; not a fairy tale prince after all….just a good writer.

At what age do we give up on our fairy tale ending and accept that the prince as we have imagined him will not be coming? When do we realize that the handsome, articulate, intelligent, romantic man we long to meet will probably turn out to be a con artist who has an investment opportunity for us? I don’t know the answer to that but I do know that as we get older, they tell us that we need to adjust our expectations, that we need to realize that we can’t expect to be treated like a princess anymore. We have to accept less than we might feel we deserve because the reality is that we are older and these things just don’t happen at our age. To that I say….bull! We might have to accept that the prince might be a little less handsome, has packed on a few pounds and has some emotional baggage, but we do not have to accept that we will not be cherished and loved. A friend of mine, who got married for the first time at the age of 60, found her wonderful man when she was 49 and he treats her like the queen she is. He does not look like Prince Charming on the outside but on the inside that is exactly who he is, only nicer. The beauty of getting older is the realization that having someone who is a prince on the inside is far better than having someone who is a prince on the outside.

As the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger came to a conclusion, the fairy tale ended with him taking responsibility for fathering his child and Maria telling him to take a hike. This brings to mind another nice realization that comes with age. Perhaps we don’t need the prince after all in order to have a good life. When the prince becomes a nice to have and not a need to have, it opens up a whole new storyline for your life and the people you meet. It might not be a fairy tale or a romantic comedy but chances are it will work out much better.

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