“You’ll Be The Prince and I’ll Be The Princess”

Who would have thought Taylor Swift would lead me to such profound soul-searching? Certainly not I, when I was purchasing the CD for my two young daughters. I was merely guessing that my little music-lovers would be enchanted by the wholesome-girl image and sweet lyrics about teenage love.

I certainly didn’t imagine that pressing play on Taylor’s most beloved hit would result in me, a 38 year old woman, sobbing like a school girl at a stoplight. To my daughter’s concerned cries of “What’s wrong, Mommy?” I only said that I was tired and emotional. Not a lie, yet certainly a half-truth.

I was a child who read fairy tales about princesses who after many challenges, found their one true love, then lived happily ever after in a state of bliss. Then I was a teenager, reading more adult versions of the same thing: Men and women who somehow, after all the fates conspire against them, find themselves in each others arms at last. In the end, it is insinuated that all will be right with the world, finally, now that love has prevailed. Since I’ve been an adult, the trend has continued. Albeit, sometimes with vampires, werewolves and the occasional S&M tendency thrown in for good measure. What can I say, tastes change!

All of that conditioning: Fairy tales, love stories, love songs, romantic movies…well, it all adds up to a mind-fuck of epic proportions when it comes to love. Especially now that I am a 38 year old single mother of two.

When I married my husband, I loved him. It wasn’t earth-shattering by any means. It was the sort of warm glow between two really good friends, who both happen to be virgins, who really would like to know what the big deal is about sex. There were moments throughout the years, after shared experiences and history and two children, when that love was intense. It was never, ever fairy tale love. It didn’t curl my toes. It didn’t give me butterflies. If the expectation of marriage hadn’t been so strong in my mind; if I hadn’t grown up in a culture that led me to believe marriage was my loftiest goal, if the circumference of my life hadn’t been so small…would we have married? I never really stopped to ask myself if I was marrying him for the right reasons, because I was too young and too sheltered to have the right questions. He was suitable and I really liked him. It resulted in well over a decade of my life and two amazing children, for which I am grateful. Yet a very girlish part of me felt cheated; where were the butterflies and romance and passion?

I have felt that feeling exactly once. It was a disastrous love affair that left me sick with longing, stripped of the person I knew myself to be. It was never anything other than doomed and when it was over, I was a shell only, with too many other complicating factors woven through to even begin to sort out where the love affair ended and everything else began. It sounds dramatic, but it is completely true to say I barely escaped that experience with my life intact. Is it fair to blame it on the love, when there were so many other circumstances at play? I don’t know, but it is still my only experience with love that consuming. It was heady, intoxicating and terrifying in the power that it wielded over me.

I’ve come close to that feeling once before, with a man I would continue to allow back into my life time and time again, despite the ways in which he betrayed my trust and heart. Much less the ways in which I betrayed my own innate knowledge of the fact I shouldn’t have stayed.

The others whom I’ve loved, it has taken more time. My most recent ex was the one with whom I felt I came the closest to achieving something real, without sacrificing the butterflies. Things built slowly for me, yet by the end I truly, truly loved him. Sadly, he didn’t seem to feel the same. Or I met him at a time in his life when things weren’t meant to be; it’s still hazy in my mind if it was “us” or the timing. Perhaps I’ll never know definitively.

Now, the romantic idealizations I’ve consumed my entire life are warring with my life experiences. I know there is no fairy tale, but understand all too well there has to be more than liking and complacency. Now I’m dating a man who is great in so many ways: Solid, dependable, generous, kind. Yet I just don’t feel the love for him which I know should be growing. I try to picture our life together and I simply can’t place myself there indefinitely. Doesn’t he deserve to have someone who feels like he is their most perfect fit? Don’t I? I know I have to end things and I feel sick over it. I don’t want to hurt him and I don’t want to be alone, but neither he nor I deserve to settle for complacency. It took me four months to know, but now that I do, I can’t put it off. It’s not fair to either of us.

So now I’m back to single again. I don’t want to waste so much of my life weeding through the online profiles and endless emails, but stepping back and doing nothing feels like settling for being alone. No one is going to knock on my door and ask me out. I’m NOT 19 and in college anymore. That’s the thing…my odds have narrowed and my window for opportunity is smaller. I have a full-time job, 2 kids, a house and responsibilities. I am not unfettered and I’m not as “out there” as I might have been at 19. Except…I wasn’t even “out there” at 19. I chose from my limited pool of approved boys…and other than my children, whom I will never regret, I obviously chose wrong. Now, at 38, with a life bound by obligations, how can I ever expect to meet someone if I withdraw from the dating pool? I’m too tired to go back out there right away and terrified not to.

If hearing Taylor Swift sing about a “Love Story” is enough to reduce me to tears, what does that say about my state of mind? Am I still yearning for some fairy tale, despite my strong assertions that I’m not? Am I merely sad and regretful that I’ll never experience that now, 12 years of marriage, 2 kids and 1 divorce later? Especially now, when I don’t really even believe it exists? Or maybe I’m just scared I missed my chance?

I still miss my ex. I miss our conversations and his insights. I miss his smile and hearing him laugh. I miss the look he gets in his eye when he somehow thinks he’s managing to be naughty. I miss our friendship. The question has been posed: Can we be friends? To which I still am uncertain of the answer. There are impediments to us being a couple, on his side and now, truthfully, on my own. Yet feelings still exist. Could we navigate the pitfalls of having a relationship, without having a “relationship”? As usual, I have no idea. Somewhere between advice, logic, rationalization and the voice of my inner self the answer lies. Which mean, of course, it might as well lie at the bottom of the ocean. It’s a lot to swim through for a clear view!

Meanwhile, a breakup is looming and I’m heartsick about it. If only Taylor Swift could write the ending for all our love stories. Life would be simpler and sweeter. I wouldn’t feel the need to weep at stoplights from regret and longing and fear of what I’ll never have–if it even exists. It would all boil down to  a simple Taylor concept:

“It’s a love story, baby just say yes.”

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