September 26, 2008 catherinetownsend

The Independent/Sleeping Around


I always felt like a bit of a misfit in primary school, because I didn’t swoon over the fairy tales like the rest of the girls in my class. It always seemed to me that the heroines in the stories were allowed to find true love, but only after enduring a hell of a lot of pain. Cinderella was a domestic slave, Sleeping Beauty bled and Snow White had to endure the possibility of necrophilia by seven freaky dwarves so obsessed that they kept her on display in a glass coffin even after she got poisoned. Once poor Rapunzel finally met a nice guy, he had to climb her hair to get any action. Talk about an S&M relationship! As I grew up, I learned that the women in classical literature didn’t fare much better. I was always drawn to the tortured types like Heathcliff and Mr Rochester, despite the fact “loving” these men often equalled death or insanity.

Lately, my life has been mirroring storybooks. I just had a first date with Peter, a very nice and seemingly normal man. As if on cue, Charles, who dumped me because he “couldn’t do the commitment”, has now ridden back into my life in a white sports car rather than riding a horse bearing gifts.

Charles and I started out as friends, but he pulled a Prince Charming by telling me that he wanted to “look after me”. I should have known that this was trouble.

But he appealed to the little girl side of me who wants to be rescued, and despite trying to take things slowly I could feel myself getting in deeper.

Until the moment when I told him that I cared about him too, at which point he disappeared into the sunset without me.

This is the part that’s missing from the fairy tales. We dream about intense, all-encompassing love, but the reality is that the whirlwind, drama-filled courtships are usually very short-lived. It’s easy to throw the words “and they lived happily ever after” up on a screen, but damned hard to live up to.

How could I have fallen for the fantasy? I’ve always said that if Pretty Woman had a sequel, I’m willing to bet that it would feature Julia Roberts living on the street after Richard Gere got bored and promptly dumped her.

But they know just how to get you back, because we’ve all seen it in movies: by pulling a grand gesture.

Charles dramatically showed up at my birthday dinner with a present, and told me that he had to come because he was flying to New York the next day for three months. Peter was there, so I excused myself from the table and followed him outside. He handed me a box, and I opened a pair of Christian Louboutin heels. Inside, he’d tucked a return ticket to New York. “What is this for?” I asked him.

“I miss you,” he said. “And I thought that if you got lonely, we could hang out.”

For a split second, I was tempted. But I knew, even if he didn’t, that he only wanted me when he knew he couldn’t have me. I will always care about Charles, but I wanted reality, not another fairy tale.

I’ve realised that real love is about sticking around through day-to-day problems.

So I kissed him on the cheek and told him that I wouldn’t be needing the ticket. Then I went back inside the restaurant so that I could change into my new killer stilettos.

I may not have snagged the handsome prince just yet, but at least I got half of my own Cinderella story.

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