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The How of Happily Ever After

Updated on November 7, 2011

The How of Happily Ever After

At the end of all of those stories comes the “happily ever after”

We spend our lives searching for the sequel

Going through the dark woods and thorny gardens in search of the answer to how

Because they never tell you that part

Details abound in every line of every fairy tale and nursery rhyme

The shine of the gossamer threads of the princess’s dress is bright

The exact shiny red color of the poison apple seems real enough to draw our lips in

We know the number of breadcrumbs in the forest that were desperately left as a trail

We can understand each step of how to get to the end of the story

But when we get there, all we find is the single, vague line

“And they lived happily ever after”

But how?

What they don’t tell you is how every character that you learned to love

Must spend the rest of life achingly figuring out

What it means to live happily ever after

They don’t tell you that Cinderella constantly battles a seething anger

Which inexplicably arises every time that her prince fails to pick up the slack

Of household chores

Or pick up the babies that never seem to stop crying

She struggles to compare this life to the old days slaving away for her stepmother

And she knows that it is better now

But she is angry anyway and she doesn’t know what to do with that

They don’t tell you that Snow White ages and insecurities abound

She’s not the fairest in the land anymore and she knows that’s the cycle of life

But she can’t help hating the crows’ feet around her eyes

And sometimes she sips her coffee and looks at the list of names in her cell phone

And she wonders if there is something wrong with her

Since she can only make friends with dwarves and animals

She wants to feel beautiful again

Or at least to experience the drama of witches and kisses

But she doesn’t quite know how to do that in her happily ever after

So she rinses out her coffee cup and continues with her day

Little boy blue still falls asleep on the job

Little Miss Muffet hasn’t stopped being afraid of spiders

Hansel and Gretel have incestuous fantasies because of the horror that once bound them

The three little pigs are still trying to rebuild their homes

And the truth is that the two are rather angry that they lost things

And their brother didn’t

Little Red Riding Hood can’t stand the sight of picnic baskets

Rapunzel gets a panic attack every time that she has to go to a salon to get her hair cut

The London Bridge keeps falling down

And Jill picked herself up off of the bottom of that hill

But she never quite got over the fact that Jack left her there

And she still doesn’t quite trust men

The truth is that they’re all doing a lot better than they were doing before

They struggled through their difficult circumstances and they prevailed

There is even happiness sometimes

But what they don’t tell you is that

Happily ever after

Is hard work

After the initial excitement of being rescued is over and safety has taken its place

The fears and traumas set in

Co-dependency and rescue fantasies and addictions are inevitable

Imbalances of power in relationships, insecurities in the mirror

Sometimes Sleeping Beauty gets so tired of trying to live happily ever after

That she just wants to get back into that bed and go to sleep

But they get up and go on

Figuring out each day how to move through the past

How to live in the present

And what it means to be

happily ever after


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  • khae_g profile image

    khae_g 6 years ago from Vienna, Austria

    this is mixed up fantasy with reality! my psychology teacher once said that there is a reason why a fairy tale always ends up with a happy ending and it's simply because those little kids should always think that everything will always be ok. Children create positive thinking with this 'happily ever after' and they won't live in fear and worries. Adults on the other hand have found out that there is no constant happYness ever after...

  • Venus Cow profile image

    Shirley Yanez 6 years ago from UK

    Love this. The truth may not be so pretty but totally addictive and vital if we want to be happy for real.

  • PiaC profile image

    PiaC 6 years ago from Oakland, CA

    This is lovely Kathryn! I'd never considered looking at the fairy tale characters and wondering how they aged!

  • allthingstasty profile image

    allthingstasty 6 years ago

    good article. movies and stories tend to make them seem so happy and most likely they dont tell the hardships or struggles . Like romantic comedies. No guy is going to do the stuff you see in some of them . they get our hopes up.