I started reading A Wild Swan and Other Tales by Michael Cunningham and found myself absolutely enamored. What Cunningham has essentially done is taken well-known fairy tales and applied a lot of modern day reality. I describe it as a sardonic twist on the old-fashioned happy ending. Personally, I don’t mind that not every story ends like a Hollywood movie. And when it comes to reading, if I finish a book and the girl doesn’t end up with the guy or the dog dies anyway — I’m firmly planted in the reality. This isn’t to say I’m not left saying, “Seriously?!” I move on with the notion that the author knows things don’t always work out the way we wanted. And that my friends, is life.
I, like most people, grew up believing in the fairy tale endings. It goes something like this: I meet the man of my dreams, we get married, travel the world, have two kids — a boy and girl — and live in a huge estate by the ocean (and by estate I mean castle.) We’d live happily ever after, of course. I understand completely how that sounds now, but we’ve all done it. We’ve all watched a movie or read a book thinking, “That’s exactly how it’s going to be for me.” For the fortunate, it really does happen…well, maybe not the castle. As for the rest of us, our experiences have shown that it was all just a fantasy.
One of short stories Cunningham cleverly wrote is called "Poisoned." You know you’re reading about Snow White and The Prince who gave her the kiss of life. But, what happens after they get hitched? Life happens. Bills, work, mood swings, and worn-out jokes about that damn apple she just had to take a bite of. Also, it seems those little dwarf friends of Snow’s got a little too comfortable hanging around. Sounds like some in-laws I used to know. The good thing is that the dialogue between Snow and her man shows they are still in love and making it work despite the little obstacles of life.
SW: Tell me something you love about me.
P: Come on.
SW: Be specific.
P: Okay. I love the thing you do with your mouth when you’re concentrating. This little squinchy thing, sort of half biting your lip but not exactly, it’s just…squinchy, it’s totally involuntary, it’s so you.
I’ll take that answer over a fairy-tale version any day. It’s real and heart-felt — not some arbitrary response like “because you’re pretty.” We all get caught up in our expectations, having decided how life is going to play out.
I’m not saying that I don’t still sit and dream about how I want my life to be. It’s all very parallel to the fantasies I created when I was younger. The thing I’ve learned is that my daydreams have to be altered to fit my reality. I will share this, it’s true what they say when meeting your true love — the heavens open up, the sun shines brighter, and you instantly feel like you can’t breathe. The storybooks definitely got that part right. We may not be traveling the world right now or living in a house on the ocean — however, this doesn’t diminish any aspect of what I’ve always wanted. I have new dreams now, along with a new attitude when things don’t go exactly as planned. I have no doubt that’s what they meant by happily ever after.
I am a woman-child at heart; continuously evolving to find my place in life. I am a mother, a daughter, and a sister. I am a lover and a dreamer--an explorer and a traveler. But it's my passion for writing that allows me to explore my ingenuity. This is something that undoubtedly carries over to the many roles that make up the ever evolving woman I am.
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