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Thursday, July 4, 2013
Fairy Tale Material
Fairy tales are tricky things.
We tell ourselves that they’re just for young people, and that the rest of us have grown up enough to stop believing in them some time ago. But then years later, we dig into our secret hearts and find ourselves hoping that a man will ride in on his white horse and save us. Or we’ll finally find the secret makeover that will let us turn into a beautiful swan and enchant some handsome prince. Because that’s the way happily-ever-after is supposed to go.
Personally, I’m not what you’d call fairy-tale material. I’m short, painfully average-looking, not skinny, embarrassingly uncoordinated and only mildly clever. My courage and determination tends to come and go in fits and spurts. If I was very lucky, I might be hired as a Fairy Godmother (and probably fired for insubordination a few weeks later). More likely, I would be Serving Girl #3 during one of the random scenes in a tavern.
Because my brain lives to annoy me, I've known all of this for a long time. Even as I devoured stacks and stacks of fairy tale books, I knew my story wasn't in any of them. People like me didn't become heroes, and they certainly didn't become love interests. Brave, beautiful and clever people got those spots, and unless someone gave me a full brain/body transplant I wasn't going to be able to pull that off. Clearly, happily-ever-after wasn't meant for people like me. All I could hope for was a lifetime of scrubbing tables and hoping that a tragic inn fire wasn't going to be a major part of the real heroine’s plot.
But… what if there was a story for the rest of us? What if there were a thousand stories? Do gorgeous, talented people really deserve all the fairy tales? Aren't their perfect teeth enough of a consolation?
So I wrote. I took all my dreams, hopes, doubts and terrible sense of humor and I spun the kind of fairy tale I wished I could have heard as a teenager. And then I spun another one, because it would be the height of arrogance to think my happily-ever-after would suit someone else. And then another. And another.
You’re not supposed to think this hard about fairy tales. They’re not supposed to mean anything. But fairy tales are tricky things, and they worm their way into your brain and deep down into your soul until you believe them without meaning to. Until you find yourself imagining that office workers, interns, and even Serving Girl #3 deserve their own happily ever after, and they don’t have to make themselves any more beautiful or clever to do it. They’re fine just the way they are, and they’re perfectly capable of saving themselves.