The True Happily Ever After
Two days before my birthday, heading to a bonfire on the beach, the words “happily ever after” somehow slipped into my consciousness, as the random universe does. They are used to end every fairy tale when the princess gets her prince and they ride off into the sunset together. It’s where supposedly everything was made right in this messed-up world so life could go on normally… as least as normal as it does when your story is required to end with a happily ever after.
Going by myself to Catalina on my actual birthday, I would watch couples holding hands roaming around the shore of Avalon. Some were obviously happy and in love, leaning in with big smiles and sunglasses. Others were aloof, forcing the trappings of coupledom. I watched one girl jump over her boyfriend like an anxious puppy, until his tense shoulders seemed to give up and he grabbed her hand.
In my past two and a half years of single life, I watched my friends couple up as I vigilantly remained unattached. For some, it was amazing to see them in love with their partners. Their bodies relaxed, smiles grew wider and hearts would just open like bright, big flower buds to everyone around them. But for every case like that, there were those who seemed to disappear. Their bright personalities dimmed in the face of their deepest desires, their minds blinding them and fears amplified in the desperation to keep a person by their side. And this, supposedly, is happily ever after.
We forget that when we get the ubiquitous ending, it doesn’t come with the epilogue. We see joy and reunion. It doesn’t show Cinderella and Prince Charming going to couples’ counseling due to Mr. Charming’s unnatural obsession with women’s shoes. It’s just supposed to be, and the world around you tells you that you should be happy with whatever you got because, hey, at least you’re not alone.
That idea of riding off into the sunset on a prince’s silver horse heading up to his fancy castle is something we have been watching on movie screens and have been tucked into bed at night with. We’ve been conditioned to want it, right down to poofy ball gowns and fairytale weddings. Couple that with the natural fear of being alone and you have a dangerous cocktail for bad decisions.
I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t been guilty at one point in this (myself included), and that’s because most of the time we don’t do this consciously. We don’t realize we are throwing our friends into the hell fires in the hopes that we will have someone to come home to at the end of the day. The things we love most in our lives and our uniqueness fall to the wayside often so we can be one with another. And then, when we let go of the person who’s been weighing us down, we come back to the world and remember what it’s like to be ourselves, then wonder why we were so willing to let go of it so quickly. The truth is we were all seeking happily ever after, and we’re willing to do anything to have it. Even give up our own identities.
When I analyze that phrase, I realize that lifetime love is something we have attached as a society to it. The words don’t necessarily say it. There’s also nothing in there that says we necessarily will have love always or that things will be perfect 100 percent of the time. It’s just that the happy will outweigh it overall — possibly the healthiest approach. I think that happily ever after should come with an ellipsis, because the way modern society sees the phrase it’s how the story ends, when in truth stories never end. Every tale bleeds into one another to become the tapestry that is our every day lives and then, if we’re really lucky, they’ll become a part of other people’s quilts.
Two and a half years ago, I rebelled against what was supposed to be my happily ever after. There were things in my life much more precious to me to keep and protect, things that would have never happened before. So I ran into a forest of uncertainty, away from the wicked prince who was already beginning to destroy me.
I lost beautiful things along the way: A precious home that fell into dark decay and crawling insects. A community that I was a pillar of but could never reclaim from my past life. A boy who was one of my best friends who I realized I loved desperately, but had to stay away from me and my then-destructive ways. They are all back there in the deep dark forest, tangled in the thorns where I also left the pains of my past and discovered what type of woman I really was when venturing the road by myself. Although there were people along it who would join me and be my friends and loved ones, most of this journey was a solitary one. It had to be.
That evening two nights before my birthday, I was driving down Culver Boulevard through the wetlands on the way to Dockweiler. The sun was glowing as the marine layer was kicking in, bathing my car in a silvery yellow light. My big sunglasses were on over my smiling red lips, my body swathed in a long dress. The windows were down, “The Walker” by Fitz and the Tantrums was playing (my current happy song) and the wind was blowing through my hair. I was riding my noble steed into the sunset by myself. Happily.
This isn’t forever; nothing ever is. We shift and change and our endings come and then we begin again. Soon enough, a boy will come into my life and be not a prince but my wonderful partner. I am looking forward to seeing him, getting to know him, making him laugh and smile and watching him bring out my biggest grin and best heart. But until then, I am living my own happily ever after for me. The end.