A Middle-Aged Woman Laughs at a Fairy Tale (and at Real Life!)
By:  Mary Fran Bontempo

He gallops in astride a snorting white steed, swooping down to scoop up his true love, whisking her off to a life of romance, her every need met, to live happily ever after.

Ah, it’s the stuff of fairy tales. And despite the fact that more recent versions—Mulan, Enchanted, Shrek—have skewered the “woman as helpless” model, truth is, the fairy tale ideal still lurkes as a dream in the unspoken recesses of most women’s minds.

Really, who wouldn’t be captivated? Sure, we ladies enjoy being strong and powerful and all that, but who among us, when pressed, would deny nursing a secret desire to be swept away by a Prince Charming, loved and indulged with romance at every turn?

If you’ve been married or in a relationship for any length of time (say, anywhere from six months to twenty-nine and a half years—not that I’m speaking personally or anything), you know for a fact that the fairy tale is just that. Guys just aren’t cut out for all of that touchy-feely stuff.

Sure, they have their soft sides, when they come through the door bearing flowers and candy, but really, those days are programmed into them by relentless rounds of marketing, fully encouraged by the female gender, to commemorate pre-fab holidays—a.k.a. Valentine’s Day. Left to their own devices, the guys may love us, but the fact that a man’s idea of a romantic gift generally constitutes some sort of power tool or a 96 inch flat screen TV proves their inherent lack in the romance/coddling department.

Open declarations of love aren’t on the agenda either. Whereas the phrase “I love you” flows like honey off the tongues of women, men choke on it as though they’re being forced to gulp a bowlful of jalapeños, accompanied by the requisite sweating and hot flashes.

It’s not that they don’t feel the emotion. In our house, a family joke revolves around the fact that my husband, who adores his children, can’t force out the words “I love you” in response to their declarations of the same. Our daughters will say, “I love you, Dad,” and stare, waiting for his answer, which is invariably, “Thank you,” at which point they roll their eyes and walk away, sighing. (Don’t know where they get that from.) Yet, you’d be hard pressed to find a dad who thinks more about his kids, or does more to take care of them, filling up their cars with gas, sneaking a twenty into their purses, helping them with a rent or school loan payment.

And therein lies the point: If you want romance, fuggedaboudit. If you want love, just look a little closer. Last month, I walked into our back yard to find six pairs of flip flops pinned to the clothes line. “What in the world is that?” I asked. “Oh, your shoes and the girls’ were dirty, so I scrubbed and bleached them and hung them on the line,” my husband answered.

Yesterday, Dave and I enjoyed the luxury of a beach day. I stretched out on the sand and promptly fell asleep, awakening an hour later to Dave resettling himself in his beach chair. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I just noticed that you were all in the sun, so I moved the umbrella. I didn’t want you turning into a lobster,” he replied.

When we ride our bikes around Ocean City, Dave takes the lead when crossing streets, as brave a gesture as slaying any dragon during a summer at the shore. He scopes out the intersection, calling, “Okay” while checking on my progress over his shoulder as we both make our way across.

And of course, there’s the appearance of a hot cup of coffee for me whenever my husband comes home from an evening meeting. He knows I enjoy it and he stops, no matter how tired he is.

Does he gaze into my eyes and say, “I love you”? Nope. Not ever. Swooping me up and carrying me off into the sunset? Nah. Dave has a bad back.

I’ll never have the fairy tale, nor will most women. But we really don’t need it. If we’re lucky, and we pay attention, we’ll find that lots of us have our own version of Prince Charming. And though our prince may not say the words, “I love you” out loud, if we ladies take notice, we’ll still hear our guys loud and clear.

Do you have stories about your own real-life “Prince Charming?”  Click “comments” below, in red, and share!