Romance And Fairy Tale Syndrome

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“To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia.” – H.L. Mencken

From an early age, we are bombarded with messages of romance and fairytale endings. Disney has this down to a science. From Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to Snow White and Ariel, our heads are filled with the idea that someday our prince will come, there will be a “foot-popping” kiss, and we’ll live in happily-ever-after bliss. After many frogs kissed, we may start to wonder, “where is my prince?”

This snipe-hunt that begins at a young age is fueled by our innate need to procreate and pass on our genetic profile. We may find them at Match.com, Chemistry.com, our workplace, through friends, a book store, or at the bottom of a few empty wine glasses. But how do we know that they are The One? Romance can play us for fools, believing we have found the right person when, really, we are only seeing them through drug-laden glasses.

Birth control pills can mask a woman’s ability to detect certain genetic profiles, causing her to often choose mates unwisely. Endorphins and adrenaline can also lead to false-positive results. Traces of testosterone (a chemical Mickey, of sorts, that increases arousal) are found in a man’s saliva, and the longer the kiss, the more is passed on to the woman, increasing her arousal state and willingness to possibly go further. (Now those big, sloppy, dog-like kisses start to make sense!)

The reality is that romance isn’t easy, and fairy tales can be dark and twisted. We remember the way that first kiss felt, the way they smelled, romantic long distance relationships, and how they made our heart race at the mere sight of them. It’s intoxicating and something we’re eager to have. But once things settle and cool, the blinders come off. The smell isn’t always as pleasant, the distance becomes too much, and we may wonder, “what was I thinking?” We long for the passion of early love, but don’t always want to do the work to keep the fire. The prince turns back into the frog, the princess into the ugly step-sister.

Once in awhile, though, we find someone who reminds us why we should keep looking: The best friend who will make special hand-crafted cupcakes and search high and low to find special concert paraphernalia for us, the girl he’s interested in. The coworker who will fashion a rose out of popsicle sticks. The guy who will text a memory of something we did or a plan he has for us, just because he’s thinking of us. My parents, who, after 30+ years together, can still laugh together and remember why they fell in love, no matter where the years have taken them. The romance is something they work at to keep it fresh and alive.

So yet, despite bad break-ups, bad kisses, misgivings about the opposite sex, and science demystifying love, the hopeless romantic in me still smiles when a frog holds the door, offers his coat, brings flowers for no reason, and remembers the little details because, who knows… he could be my fairytale prince in disguise.

By the way…just how do those fairy tales really end (not the fanciful Disney versions)??? Cinderella is beaten and “rented out” by her stepmom before finding her prince. Sleeping Beauty is raped by a prince and bears him a child who sucks the poison out of her, where she then awakens and marries him. The prince – having never met her before – sees Snow White’s “dead” body and wants to take her back to his castle. While in the act of moving her, the apple becomes dislodged, and she is revived. (Talk about necrophilia.) And the Little Mermaid dies when her beloved prince marries another.

Why didn’t my mom teach me these versions? It could have saved me from a few toads that snuck in with my frogs.

Here’s to hoping cupid’s arrow was kind to you this love-filled season.

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