I’ve been watching Walt Disney animated movies ever since I can remember; they were part of the Growing Up Essentials Kit my grandmother imposed on me, which included Old Hollywood musicals like The Sound of Music, nursery rhymes about pennyworths of hot cross buns, and the works of Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and Aesop. To her, they were the only movies and stories worth watching and reading, and it’s an education I’m eternally grateful to her for giving me.
My earliest memory of watching Disney movies involves trying to catch the Seven Dwarves singing It’s home from work we go. And as I grew older, coming to understand beyond just the moving pictures and music because I could read the actual stories, I learned that many of these stories ended with a variant of that age-old phrase: “And they lived happily ever after.”
Like so many other girls growing up, I harbored dreams of finding my own version of happily ever after. To me, the formula seemed so simple: meet a boy, fall in love, and live happily ever after. When pitted against all my other dreams of becoming a teacher, lawyer, doctor, singer and actress, my dream of finding love didn’t seem all that difficult to achieve.
Until, at the ripe old age of 15, I finally woke up.
Now, more than ten years later, I look back at the relationships I’ve had, the mistakes I’ve made, and the lessons I’ve learnt, and occasionally I ask myself if happily ever after really does exist anymore. Or more accurately, if I actually still believe in it. I have been so consumed by unhealthy bitterness and cynicism that every now and then, like when my best friend starts to rant about how relationships and marriage don’t last because happily ever after doesn’t exist anymore and I have to wax optimistic on her in an attempt to stamp out her pessimism, I stop and listen to myself and wonder if I believe in half the things I tell her.
Because in this day and age, where sociologists have suggested that marriage should be a 7-year renewable contract, and where people have the option of changing partners at their fancy, it comes as no surprise that nobody believes in happily ever after anymore. But in retrospect, doesn’t happily ever after require some amount of working at to actually happen? If we are looking to cure the proverbial 7-year itch with a 7-year nuptial timeshare, and we know that at any point in our relationship we can choose to bail and hop on to the next boat, we would never feel the need to make any effort in the relationship, subsequently leading it to its (un)timely demise and reaffirming our belief that happily ever after is so once upon a time.
Wouldn’t that, then, mean that if happily ever after doesn’t exist for us, it’s most likely our faults, and we would have no call to snipe and gripe about not being able to find someone we can spend the rest of our lives with? What happened to having just a little bit of faith that if we try hard enough, and if we stop thinking about ourselves and what we want so much, we can hang on to our relationships, and perhaps even live happily ever after?
So yesterday, I came to the conclusion that no matter how proudly I claim to be cynical and realistic, I realize that deep down, I’m still a romantic at heart. I still believe that we are able to find someone with whom we can share a mutual feeling of love, respect and trust, if we just make that effort. So maybe that makes me a romantic realist. Or a realistic romantic.
But I will find my happily ever after. I can believe in that much now.