Not So Happily Ever After
Fictional romances have a curious effect on me. I get so drawn into the story that I find myself feeling quite the way the main character does, whether I’m conscious of it or not. It’s not the same as with other fiction; whether the writing is good, juvenile, or just plain bad, a romance will drag me into the heart of the story no matter what. (It’s probably why I read all 4 Twilight books, despite hating them to my core.) This is doubly so if there’s lots of sadness. I’ve actually had to put a book down when it got to the point that I couldn’t see the words through my blurred tears – and this is a book which, by any general definition, was written terribly. Romance and true love and heartbreak twang on my heart strings, and I think I’ve finally figured out why.
Growing up, I wanted a storybook romance. I read – A LOT – and I wanted to be romanced and wooed and made to feel perfect like the girls in my stories did. These stories made me believe that everyone, once in their life, if they’ve treated the Fates with proper respect, would be awarded a sudden, heart stopping, storybook romance. I dated a fair amount of men, looking for this romance. It wasn’t easy, either; I had criteria, you see. This man, this romance, had to make me feel. We had to have passion, and desperation, and anger, and an all-encompassing arousal for each other. We had to fight, scream, cry, and then be able to fall into bed to make up for it all after. I wanted something that caused me to tingle all over. I wanted the feeling of falling apart when I wasn’t with this man, and I wanted to break him apart at times, and I wanted to scream at the universe in fear, in sorrow, and in joy, all because of this one man and what he did to me. I wanted that once-in-a-lifetime love.
When I was 23, I found him.
We dated for two years – let’s call him Charming – and it was sordid from the start. I made some bad decisions, I treated some people disrespectfully, but in the end, we ended up together, Charming and I. I felt like I’d never been happier. He made me feel things I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Thinking about him made me tingle, hearing his voice made me smile, and when we fell into bed together, it was as if worlds were colliding and we were at the center of it all. It was everything I’d wanted on my story romance list of criteria. We were passionate in all things: loving, fighting, fucking. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with my Charming.
The problem with fairytales, something I hadn’t learned thus far, is they weren’t always nice and ended in happily ever after. Sometimes they were gritty and upsetting and grim. (HAH!) Charming gave me this, too. He gave me a deep insecurity in myself, that sex was all I was good for and all he wanted me for – since he never took me out, and sex was all that we did. He gave me a broken heart on many occasions, occasions when I would have to force my legs to walk away from him and he would physically cling to me to keep me from leaving. It was definitely abusive, as I didn’t realize years ago that many of my criteria were. We would scream at each other, and though he never once hit me or even tried (he’d be in jail if he had), he did get violent – usually at the inanimate objects around him. One time is ingrained in my memory – we would usually fight from the confines of his bedroom, but there was one day he screamed at me in front of his mother. I stood there, shocked and embarrassed, knowing that I hadn’t done anything other than antagonize (only a little) but still feeling like there was something I should have done to calm him down. Even later, lying in bed, panting after our make-up sex, I felt the tinge of embarrassment. What would his mother think of me now?
Charming wasn’t perfect, and neither was I. We punished each other when we felt we had been wronged. We argued and antagonized. But while he made me miserable, he also made me deliriously happy. We shared lots of firsts, and though he never talked in detail about what he wanted from his future, I never once doubted that he wanted me in it. In a word, our relationship was one of extremes.
After two years of feeling like I was riding an emotional roller coaster, I sat him down and called it off. I cried, he cried; I explained that I needed some time to be with myself, that we wanted different things out of life, and that fundamentally, while I loved him, I wasn’t happy. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I gave up my childhood dream, after all. But I know it was right.
This is why romance novels get to me, though; I’ve had the chance to experience this once-in-a-lifetime, outlook-changing love. I’ve had it. And I had the strength to walk away.
If you hadn’t guessed, Fiance isn’t Charming. Charming and I are still very good friends – I consider him in the exclusive Best club – but we never got back together after that day (not officially, anyway). A few months later, I met the Fiance, and my romantic ideal changed.
My true lifelong romance is much more commonplace than all that. Its normal, and comfortable. Fiance and I fight, but we never scream. We make love, we don’t fuck. And when we do fall into bed together, it’s a much different feeling than with Charming. With the Fiance, I feel cherished. It’s not something that was on my Storybook Romance list, but it should have been. Fiance and I do things like pay the bills, go to the dump, other various errands around town – but the day is always made special when he looks at me for no reason at all and tells me he loves me. Charming never did this. My romance with my Fiance is much more than storybook – it’s lifelong. It’s fitting. It’s pretty perfect – but I’ll never forget my fairytale.