Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Once Upon A Time
All great love stories begin with Once Upon A Time. We are read them from our infancy, these fairy tales, these Happily Ever Afters. We know the characters inside and out, often better than we know our own friends. We grew up with Cinderella dreaming of a life away from sweeping the floors, Rapunzel escaping the tower, Sleeping Beauty waking from Malificent's evil spell. These princesses consumed our waking lives as little girls, covering our rooms in wall to wall pink and purple, wearing sparkly dresses any chance we got, and walking around in tiny tiaras demanding our parents address us by our royal names.
(I'm assuming you all did this and it wasn't just me?)
Disney films filled our worlds with magic, with the possibility that even on our worst date, even after we've been chased through the woods by a hunter trying to cut out our heart, a handsome prince would ride in, kiss us, and we'd be free from all the chains that previously bound us.
(Except in the case of Belle. She mostly sang about bread and freed the Beast from his awful fate. For both these reasons, the girl has my endless respect.)
So when ABC launched Once Upon A Time on Sunday nights, of course I was going to watch it. It's the back story behind all the characters you *thought* you knew and I'm hooked. Completely fascinated. The show is beautifully shot, the cast is stellar, but more than that, it's really thought provoking especially for a hopeless romantic like me.
This week's episode was about Snow White who is in love with Prince James (whom she affectionately dubs "Charming"). They met when she stole some jewels from him, he found her in the forest, he saved her from the Queen's henchmen, she saved him from some trolls, and basically, they totally fell for each other. Long story short, he is promised to King Midas's daughter from the neighboring kingdom so that his father gets lots of gold and the people there can survive. A LOT rests on James marrying the insufferable Abigail but he's smitten with Snow White. What's a prince to do?
Two days before the wedding, he writes to her saying something along the lines of "If you love me the way I love you, please come find me. I'll call the wedding off and be yours forever." She goes (duh!) and is caught by the king who threatens to kill James (not Snow White, he'll kill his own son) if she doesn't walk in there and tell James she doesn't love him, never has and never will. Unable to bear the thought of harm coming to her beloved on her account, she tells James she doesn't love him and walks away in tears.
Earlier that night, Snow White had saved Grumpy's life so he shows up with the other dwarves to take her home and protect her. Their conversation is as follows:
Snow White: The only thing that needed protecting is destroyed. My heart.
Grumpy: It will get better.
Snow: Yes. Yes it will. This will take all of my feelings, all of my pain and destroy them.
[Takes out magic potion to erase her love for Prince Charming, bought from Rumplestiltskin]
Snow: Why? You of all people should understand. You've lost love.
Grumpy: I don't want my pain erased. As wretched as it is, I need my pain. It makes me who I am. It makes me Grumpy.
Why am I telling you all this? What does it have to do with my dating life? The answer is EVERYTHING!
Let's think for a minute about love and relationships. People break up, we all know that. Unless you married the first and only person you ever dated (which is a very select percentage of the population), you have been through a break up. Depending how long you were together and how deep the level of your involvement was, the break up might have been amicable or it could have been pure torture. How attached are we to holding on to the pain we felt when that relationship ended? How invested are we in staying Grumpy?
A girlfriend of mine recently spent one Saturday night with a bottle of wine and facebook to delete every photo of her and her ex from the last four years. We are seriously debating a service that offers to do this for girls who've been hurt to avoid recalling the good times. Would you essentially pull an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to erase all the memories you had with that person if you could? Would you swallow Rumplestiltskin's magic potion to make the feelings you still have for an ex disappear?
Not to spoil the ending for you, but Snow White gives in at the end. She takes the tonic and instantly forgets that Charming is marrying another woman, that she ever loved him, she even forgets his name. She couldn't handle the pain of loving a man she couldn't have and I think we can all relate to her. Maybe your Prince Charming is with someone else, maybe he doesn't feel the same way for you that you do for him, maybe you still love a man you "shouldn't," maybe he's an ex that you just can't shake from your head or your heart. But how do we balance? How do we stop from carrying around all those feelings, holding on to the pain so tight that we become Grumpy???