Staring down the barrel of my late-30s, I don’t pretend to have answers on this winding journey of love and life– but I do know that kind, brave, supportive, smart, and funny are the sexiest traits to me today
The first thing I did when my ex broke the news to me that our relationship was not in fact what I thought it to be, and well, that he’d engaged in some extracurricular activities that did not include dodge ball or pottery making, was YELL. The second thing I did was pretend everything was totally normal and carried on at all costs. And the third thing I did was call an attorney and get real. Really real.
Then, with time, I started to think back on other relationships and how each step, each lesson learned brought me hurling toward the day we said “I don’t.”
My Disney Prince Stage:
I started with the early ones I had with Ariel, Belle, and Cinderella. According to my primary Disney education, if I was perfectly pure, willing to give up my voice, frozen in a prone position, and/or could communicate with animals I was absolutely guaranteed a Prince. One who would love me from minute 3 of knowing me, kiss me on minute 5 and marry me on minute 22.
Unhappy endings were just not a thing, even with the untimely death of at least one parent or a devastating forest fire. So when I played dress up, house, and Barbies there was always a swooning Mommy (me) and a male counterpart (Ken, GI Joe or my BFF Becky whose turn it was to be the boy) ready to ride on in and rescue me/serenade me from below a balcony while I wore sparkly shoes and a Rainbow Brite wig. True love seemed like low hanging fruit if you just did the right things.
My Anne of Green Gables Stage:
As I grew a little older, the “right things” came out of the instruction manuals known as Anne of Green Gables, The Babysitters Club, Teen Bop, Sassy, and Seventeen. And I was a good study. I was quirky but not too weird, I laughed at all of their stupid jokes (be funny and open so he’ll notice you!), I stayed pen-pals long after camp ended trying to decode each letter that came back to me (was that a heart shaped bubble on top of the “i” squeeee!), I drank illicit beers and watched movies I hated, even though beer made me nauseous and I wasn’t entirely down with their sticky, gropey hands and weird pokey tongues. I created ALL OF THE SCENES that the instruction manuals told me to write so that I would be just right for them. No one ever told me how to know if they were right for ME.
My Mr. Big Stage:
Eventually, Disney and Seventeen turned into Buffy, 90210, Allie McBeal and Sex and the City. Again the rules told me that if I was just goofy, weird, stylish-but-not-trying-too-hard and skinny enough, true love or at least an awesome heart crushing romance would ensue– cause the hot vampire/furniture maker/Brandon Walsh would certainly fall for you. Except Carrie cheated on Aiden with Mr. Big and Dylan Walsh was absolutely the hottest guy on 90210.
Which brings me to the next phase of life: “TOO NICE” became a reason to dump men. In my head, I was so rooting for Aiden cause really Carrie, really? But in actuality, I saw Big in so many of the men I loved fiercely in my 20s. I started to eschew the princes of my childhood, who though vapid were likely well-meaning and instead look for the intense, dark stranger who needed ME to save him in some way. It was an interesting turn of events. And one that led to many a dramatic, swirling, bathroom floor level, heartbreak.
And Then I Won My Bad Boy:
And then the Biggest Big, the deepest, darkest one of all– said yes when I talked about forever. We know how that story ends.
What I’ve finally come to understand today is that those sweet but kinda mean, broken, and intense men were all just who they said they were. There were not layers to uncover. They were not onions. They were just actually not that into me. But they WERE into the devotion I showed them. And the doing of their laundry or paying for dinner, cause that was cool too.
And the instruction manuals– they’re mostly the same today! So as the Mom of small boys, do I tell them to be the Prince? The Mr. Big? Who are their role models? I certainly don’t want them learning that true love means giving anyone’s voice to the sea witch in return for a pair of legs.
Staring down the barrel of my late-30s, I don’t pretend to have answers on this winding journey of love and life– but I do know that kind, brave, supportive, smart, and funny are the sexiest traits to me today and the traits I hope to instill in my boys. Dark and broody was cool for a moment– but really, I want to live life in the bright, warm light.