Most women growing up in my generation were raised alongside Disney Princesses from the Classics: Aurora who was awakened by her Prince Charming, Belle who tamed and learned to love a Beast, the Mermaid who found love on land and the Princess from Agrabah who lost her heart to a street rat. All these stories had one thing in common: they found eventually found the love that they longed for (or usually, sang high-pitched songs for).
When I was young, I dreamt of the kind of love that Disney advertised. Not necessarily the white horse or the cape that came with the prince, but the version that would bring you flowers and chocolate, write poetry about you and never, ever break your heart.
I remember when I first started “dating,” my mother told me to find a man like my father: utterly selfless, unbelievably chivalrous, hardworking and kind—someone who would never leave my side even when he saw me at my worst. My father was there for my mother even through the ugliest side of cancer: the hair loss, the stench of sickness and blood and the weakness that came with all of it. I shuddered to think that I would never find a man like my father. I could see what social media advertised, and they just didn’t make men like him anymore. And really, did I want to date a man like my father?
And so I settled for men that I thought were close enough.
My first love was my high school sweetheart who knew all the right things to say—to all girls, apparently. The love that came after him was the opposite, but he did care about me, enough to leave me to grow. The love that came after that broke my heart because I was naïve enough to believe that I could and needed to change him. And I thought the love that came next would last forever, but apparently when you’re twenty, forever has an expiration date.
And so came the time when I’d had enough.
I no longer wanted to fall in love, and went to great lengths to make sure that I. Did. Not. Fall. In. Love. I dated, yes. I met one man after another and found faults with every one of them. I found reason after reason to say no, and showed them the worst of me to give them reason after reason to leave. I no longer believed that love could exist, simply because the kind of man my mother told me would last did not exist. That’s the weird thing about being in your mid-twenties, isn’t it? You feel like you could conquer the world alone and you refuse profusely to have a man by your side through the journey. You no longer believe that love will come your way, and so you focus on your health, your career and dancing the weekends away with your friends.
I had just started at a new company when I met him, and even as we became good friends, liking him romantically never crossed my mind. But I guess that’s the weird thing about life. Things come to you when you least expect them to—or more likely, when life knows you’re ready.
Like I said, we became fast friends, and soon after, partners-in-crime. We got along pretty well and effortlessly, and we eventually fell in love (try as I did to fight it in the beginning).
Our love story has no “wow” factor for anyone else but us, and it isn’t the kind of fairytale that people would talk about for generations to come. It is your ordinary boy meets girl, they become friends and they fall in love kind of thing—no fireworks, no unbelievably public and romantic declaration, no cutesy PDAs.
He actually despises the thought of giving a girl flowers just for the impracticality of it—he prefers gifts that could be used over and over again. Not sweet in the conventional way, but hey, I got a dress instead of flowers for Valentine’s Day, who am I to say what’s sweet? Surprises aren’t his thing, and neither are long passionate monologues of how he feels about me.
But he works his ass off for “a future with me,” he rushes to meet me for dinner almost every single night after work, he kisses me goodnight every evening, he got me a laptop for my birthday just so I can keep writing (I originally shared one with my dad, but I moved out), he’s seen me without make up and all sickly (he took an emergency leave from work to take me to the hospital when I wasn’t feeling well) and another time when I had a huge zit on my nose that just wouldn’t quit, he’s helped me clean my apartment bathroom (true love, right?), he lectures me on the money I should and shouldn’t be spending and he does everything I’ve written about that I didn’t really believe would come true this soon.
Our story is not “one for the books,” and no one will ever write songs about our love.
The little princess in me is disappointed that I didn’t get my fairytale, but the bigger, independent-woman-but-hopeless-romantic in me is strangling that little girl because she knows exactly what she’s got—not the fairytale, but quite possibly the happily ever after (feel free to comment on the inevitable heartbroken future posts if I prove myself wrong).
He isn’t perfect, but then, neither am I. He is every bit as ordinary as the next person, but the way he loves makes him extraordinary. Our love is simple and quite possibly commonplace, but it is true, honest and real.
He is not the man I once dreamt of—but perhaps he is better.
Because he is the man I did not even know I was praying for with all my heart—and what a weird world this is, isn’t it, that he came true for me all the same.
Or maybe, my mother, who passed away five years ago, knew that a man like him existed—a man who could love me as much as my father loved my mother. And watching over me, disgusted at seeing the horrors I made of my love life, she sent him my way to teach me that while Prince Charming doesn’t really exist, Boys-Next-Door-In-Shining-Blue-Jeans can love you even better—and make your wishes come true (or stay with you while you work on making your own dreams happen).