Kiran Manral: Myth of the Happily Ever After to the Reality of Happily Right Now
What if The One is wandering around bereft in the wilderness of being unloved, waiting for us to make a clean break and come find them asks Kiran Manral
Once upon a time was the way my favorite stories always began. Once upon a time there was a young girl. She loved to read and what she loved to read the most were fairy tales with princesses and dragons and princes who rode up and rescued her from these fearsome dragons who not only had bad manners to lurk around when evidently unwanted and that too, with breath that could do with a gargle with a litre of Listerine, and a handy spray from a fire extinguisher. Then, when they were finally rescued, they walked off hand in hand into the sunset of the Happily Ever After, with turtle doves cooing in the background, and chubby little cupid, perched somewhere in the corner of the frame shooting his flower bedecked arrows into unwary hearts.
WHAT WE ARE TOLD
When she grew up, this young girl waited for her prince charming to arrive, no matter there seemed to be no dragons lurking in the drabness of suburbia to be saved from. When he finally did, she waited for the Happily Ever After she had been promised. The Happily Ever After though, was always just beyond the horizon of the here and now. This girl was most of us growing up. Hopefully, the young girls growing up together have a different fairy story.
there is no clear way to Happily Ever After, because there are no maps, no directions, no street signs, no compasses
We grew up believing the Happily Ever After is where every love story ended. It was a mythic land, this Happily Ever After, located somewhere in the neighborhood of Arcadia and Utopia, a fairy light lit realm characterized by no seven year itch, no pitched wars over toilet seats, no going to bed angry, no wondering whether you could plead temporary insanity if you gave in to that overpowering impulse to strangle the spouse with your bare hands, for whatever the current misdemeanour du jour.
It takes a few years into the marriage for most of us to realize that our path to the Happily Ever After ended when the seven rounds of the sacred fire were done with, or when the I dos were said and the rings exchanged or whatever it was we did to become spouses to each other. And there is no clear way to Happily Ever After, because there are no maps, no directions, no street signs, no compasses available to direct us there. Every couple needs to make their own maps, chart the topography of their own marriage, define the hills, the mountains, fault lines, the plains, the valleys, the arid deserts and the lava plateaus, and the cliffs, too, if they ever feel the need to jump off and careen into the fading echoes of the harsh words they’ve flung at each other.
We’re sold on the myth of a happiness so all encompassing that any deflection from the perfection seems intolerable.
I’ve been guilty of selling the myth of the Happily Ever After too, in the romance novels that I’ve written. The Happily Ever After is the never ending post coital orgasmic glow that never seems to fade, defying seven year itches, straying eyes and affections, and the very real and present danger of growing apart, which in troth is all too possible, given we are human beings, and we change from day to day. The concept of soul mates is another trope that the myth of the Happily Ever After feeds into. There’s always that niggling doubt, what if the person one has married is not The One. What if The One is wandering around bereft in the wilderness of being unloved, waiting for us to make a clean break and come find them. The what ifs and the what might have beens begin intruding on the Happily Ever After.
What if The One is wandering around bereft in the wilderness of being unloved, waiting for us to make a clean break and come find them
We’ve grown older and hopefully wiser now, and know that perhaps the Happily after is the place where our story actually begins. The challenges of searching for the mythic Happily Ever After through cold wars, and infidelities, through financial ups and downs, is what IS the Happily Ever After. But do we get told that? No. We’re sold on the myth of a happiness so all encompassing that any deflection from the perfection seems intolerable.
The greatest disservice that the Happily Ever After does for us is that it whitewashes the possibility of dissatisfaction, conflict and more, and thus makes us incapable of accepting and dealing with conflict resolution. Also, the fact that we invest all our hopes and our desires for ourselves in this one person who will give us the Happily Ever After that we see. Far too much of a burden on a single individual, as helpless as we are about dealing with unrealistic expectations, and as clueless at resolving them. Perhaps the problem is with the partner, we think, if he or she can’t provide the package of the Happily Ever After we’ve been sold with the wedding ring and the discounted honeymoon package, with two extra nights free.
But perhaps, even Mr Darcy and Prince charming didn’t come with the Happily Ever After guaranteed in gilt edged certificates. And perhaps, as Rilke said, all the dragons we needed rescuing from were as scared of us as we were of them, and all we needed to be told was that we could have probably rescued ourselves and them in the process.
Perhaps we need to change the Happily Ever Afters in all the narratives we have for young girls today into Happily right now. Teach them that there are no Happily Ever Afters, only the Happily right nows. And if we have enough of those, we could eventually someday, reach the shores of the mythic Happily Ever After. Perhaps even hand in hand with our partners.