A couple that I know of recently got engaged and they announced their engagement in the only way our generation deems worthy: an online photo of the ring with the hashtags, “SheSaidYes” “SoonToBeMrs” and “MyPrinceCharming.” I’ve rolled my eyes so many times at encountering this noxious trope on my newsfeeds I think my eye sockets are permanently chafed. (And please, for the love of Christ, do not get me started on baby pictures…)
Yes, I’m firing blatant shots at the culture of Wedding which our society worships but the reason may surprise you: I used to be the very same woman who cataloged her entire relationship on Facebook and Instagram. Yours truly once made public posts about her “perfect” love life, as if it were a vital collection in the annals of human history. But there was a much darker, much more insidious truth beneath the gleam of a glass smartphone, and it made everything I posted nothing but a gilded lie.
I was a perpetrator of journalling my relationship for all the world to see with my first serious boyfriend. Everything about us on paper was perfect, and we had an unrivaled meet-cute. He was my then-best friend’s older brother, and I’d known both of them since childhood. I’d grown up thinking he was cute, and after college we reconnected. He asked me on a date, and that was, well, it. We were together for a total of 4 years. We traveled, adventured, I became a part of his family, and we were oh so adorable on Facebook.
In reality, it was much different.
I was a staunch feminist; he was confused about his role as man in society. I loved sex; he was torn between sex and his love for his Catholicism. I wanted to make a lot of money; he thought capitalism was evil, and therefore refused to get a high-paying job. I used birth control; he wanted me to go without.
We eventually got engaged, and I was still determined to forge a Happy Ending no matter what. He proposed to me in his jalopy of a Honda Civic one sweltering afternoon by handing me a ring, and saying, “I don’t know what to say.” Two months after, he ended up taking a gig with a band that traveled the Renaissance festival circuits, as he was a very accomplished bagpiper. Due to his rare skillset, he was offered a nice chunk of cash to play festivals across the country, and it was on such travels where he cheated on me. This happened frequently over the course of a month, and the tryst was with a 6-foot-two circus performer, inside a Mata Hari-themed Airstream trailer in the backwoods of Texas.
You truly can’t make this shit up.
The following summer we were invited to Europe with his family, and I saw this as an opportunity to solidify our relationship and put the painful past behind us for good. I also hoped my boyfriend would re-do his botched proposal, since I thought I at least deserved that much. He’d received counsel on how to propose again from his sister, his mom, and my other best friend, but he ignored all advice. What’s more, he decided to cart the ring around inside a balled-up paper towel instead of its box, and while we were in France it accidentally got thrown away. Someone in our party mistook that wad of paper for trash, and a mad search ensued. Eventually, his sister dredged up the ring from beneath slimy banana peels and coffee grounds in the garbage of our Paris flat, and, fuming, my boyfriend handed me the ring for a second time.
I quickly posted the photo to social media. My entire social circle flocked to the scene and peppered me with congratulatory remarks; I had just achieved a “dream” proposal, and I captioned it as such online. I could breathe again knowing I was validated and my relationship was, in fact, “worth it.”
As you can guess our romantic problems corroded our union and we never did get married. He’s now married to someone else and even has his first child on the way. Yet, we both spent years of our lives chasing the nonsense that is Happily Ever After. We looked great online, but it cost us both quite a large sum of time and youth.
I’ve since been haunted by why we are so fixated upon the idea that a relationship and marriage are the pinnacles of life’s achievements. Relationships are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, however, when it’s clearly the mission to post anything and everything about your Significant Other so the world knows you’ve leveled up in the game of life, there’s something wrong.
As someone who knows the truth behind those hashtags, the bottom line is there’s no prince or princess coming to rescue you, not now, not in the future, and certainly not in the form of online braggadocio. We should aim to fall in love so we can be with someone who enhances us, not someone who saves us from ourselves. No relationship is or should be a fairy tale, because that’s simply not real life.
Also, can we please come up with a better tagline for engagements than “I can’t wait to marry my best friend!”? It’s offensively cliché, and honestly, really fucking dumb.