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Is It Time To Get Over Our Prince Charming Syndrome?

By: Hana Tilksew

Retro Dancing couple

I, like many other little girls, grew up on fairy tales. Truth be told, I was addicted to them for an embarrassingly long time. When I was in high school, my mom found an old storybook and assumed it belonged to my little sister. When I told her it was mine, she gave me a look that said a thousand words. Really? You’re still into this stuff?

In a way, we’re all “still into this stuff.” Any young woman who tells you she isn’t searching for Prince Charming would probably be lying. Sometimes, this Prince Charming is the idea of a perfect soulmate we’ve created in our heads: “the one.” Sometimes, Prince Charming is whatever job, achievement, or recognition we think will finally save us from the drudge of our existence. We spend our best and brightest years watching the clock tick past, thinking “If this one person or thing could come into my life, I would be happy.”

Years ago, I read a novel by Margaret Peterson Haddix called Just Ella. It picks up where the original tale of Cinderella left off. Whisked away from her evil stepmother at last and engaged to the prince, Ella slowly realizes that her fairy tale is actually a horror story. She has nothing in common with her fiancé, everyone in the castle hates her, and her new life as a princess is terribly restrictive. Spoiler alert: by the end of the book, she abandons royal life because it makes her miserable. Even though she finally got Prince Charming, he didn’t make her happy in a way that lasted.

How often have the rest of us gone through the same thing? I can’t even count how many times I’ve prayed “If this one thing works out, I’ll never be ungrateful again! I’ll be happy forever!” Then, once whatever I want comes to pass, I’m giddy for a bit before I crash back down to earth. I place all my hope into one outcome, and then when that thing doesn’t end up fixing the rest of my life, I return to a familiar misery.

But looking at it logically, this is a pointless mindset to have. Why would I expect one stroke of luck to fix my whole life? Why am I, like so many other girls, obsessed with the idea of being swept away from reality on a white horse? It’s a silly fantasy rooted in a serious internal struggle. Because once you realize that there’s no magic fix, no one fortune that can satisfy you forever, that means accepting that the only thing responsible for your happiness is your own perspective.

This realization is empowering because it places all the cards in your deck. It’s also scary, because sometimes, we just wish someone else would figure everything out for us. But eventually, any happiness you try to derive from outside yourself will fade. Landing your dream job is exciting until the workload becomes monotonous. Getting that degree is elating until you throw your cap in the air and wonder, what next? If you can’t learn to love life even when it’s uncertain or difficult, then true contentment will always evade you.

And if the Prince Charming you’re sitting around waiting for is a guy, you’re wasting your time. A boy is only human. He’s a sack of flesh, blood, and anxiety just like you are.

Expecting someone else to “fix” your life is an unfair burden to place on anyone. Yes, a boy should make your life easier and happier, or else there’s no point in keeping him around (I am not an advocate for struggle love). That being said, you can’t expect him to complete you. Besides, if you’re not a fully formed person on your own, you’ll only attract the wrong kind of guys. While hunting for Prince Charming, you might end up with Gaston instead (*shudders*).

“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you,” Neil Gaiman once wrote. No matter who you date or what you accomplish, the common denominator in each phase of your life is you. The person who has to fight on your behalf every single day is you. It’s an equally freeing and horrifying thought, I know. If there’s no Prince Charming, who will chase you down when the clock strikes midnight? Who will brave dragons for your sake? Who will give you the life you only dream about?

You will. You will.

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