Riding at a gallop, he advances from the hillside, his armor shining in the sunlight. Getting closer, your heart begins to flutter as he makes his way to the crowd and climbs down off his horse. Pulling up his visor, your eyes meet—your prince charming, your knight in shining armor. He steps in closer tossing his helmet aside. He’s done fighting. He’s done searching. He’s found you. He takes a few steps closer but something starts to happen. He gets fuzzy and seems out-of-reach. Another step closer and the walls begin to shake. Your daydream falls apart and you realize you’re not thirteen anymore. You try and forget this fairy tale life that you grew up with but a few years later, you realize you simply can’t: it’s too engrained. Part of each and every one of us will always expect the fairy tale life and everything that comes with it, but I think those stories our parents read us before bed have set us up for failure.
We fall for fairy tales at different stages of life. When we’re young, it’s so simple. An under-appreciated Cinderella loses her glass slipper and the prince returns it despite the fact that she isn’t really a princess (she’s his princess!).Rapunzel lets down her hair to the only suitor in the land. The handsome prince awakens Sleeping Beauty and the spell is broken. There’s hundreds more, but they all end with the final line: “And they all lived happily every after.” A few years later, just when we’ve forgotten about our bedtime stories, Nicholas Sparks creates Noah Calhoun in The Notebook and we’re left fantasizing about a boy falling so deeply in love that he writes to her every single day and then builds a house for a woman he may never see again (while she is engaged to another too-good-to-be-true military veteran). Allie is left to choose between the two and we are left to search for our new knight in shining armor, our lead actor, our Noah Calhoun.
As we get older the stories seem slightly more realistic but still too good to be true. While we’re single, we’re stuck watching these guilty pleasures over and over because for that instant, we feel like we’re living the fantasy. While we’re replicating these movie actresses and Disney Princesses, we realize that there is a division between smart and pretty. “We can’t do both,” according to Mary Fraser, (Ph. D. in Psychology). So, we’re convinced these dreams are impossible but we dream them all the same and we have these vivid movie scenes and fairy tale stories baked into our memories. Eventually we realize sitting in the top of an ivory tower probably isn’t the best place to find a man. We picture our first kiss, our first accidentally-touch-hands-while-reaching-for-same…whatever and our first true love. The more we picture a certain instance, the less it will turn out exactly the way we picture it. Reality gets distorted. All those moments we’ve watched a hundred times and thought about a million times more have set a bar so high it would take an entire film crew to create the man of our dreams. Reality doesn’t stand a chance and these fairy tales set us up for a wild goose chase.
So we start dating and end up with a lot of great meals and a lot of mediocre conversations. There’s a string of not-so-Prince-Charmings that come along one after another like a locomotive of bad dates. Somewhere along the line, we meet a man worth giving a shot. Granted, he isn’t covered in armor, but he’s got a nice smile and hint of charm. Somewhere along the line, he treats you like a fairy tale—even if only on occasion—and he’s the one.
I’ve been married for twelve years, my husband treats me like a princess and I absolutely love it. We’re not perfect and we have our problems (Mrs. Workaholic & Mr. Hypochondriac), but we make it work and we enjoy spoiling one another when we get the chance. My husband takes charge of situations and protects our family without the aid of armor and shield. He fills my car with gas, drives me to doctor’s appointments and does a million other things to make the impossible possible. During the day, I manage my business, but when I come home, I come to the arms of a man who loves me. But the main thing that keeps me on a pedestal is returning the favor. I love spending time with him and I treat him like the tall, dark and handsome prince he is.
If your future prince shows up on foot rather than a horse-drawn carriage, don’t think of it as settling. I feel women expect too many aspects of the fairy tale life. There is a happy medium between fairy tales and reality and the right man can help you live it! Honestly, I wouldn’t even want to be a princess all day. How would I get anything done sitting around being catered to? I’ll be the princess after work, but only because I get to come home to my prince.
Fairy tales are an important part of childhood but I think their real function is to help our kids find the right morals of the story. We can help our daughters know what a realistic prince looks like and teach our sons to be the right kind of knight in shining armor. G. K. Chesterton described fairy tales morals best, “Fairy tales do not tell children dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be beaten.”
Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, Tokii CEO & Founder
A business and brand maverick, skilled in building start-ups and building brand management teams in North America, Asia and Europe.