Aaron is back! Aaron is back!

Well, as I’m writing this, he’s not back. But he will be by the time this is published, so I’m celebrating in advance! I have missed my husband SO much. I don’t get him for long, though…he’s leaving again far too soon, missing our first wedding anniversary, Christmas, his birthday, New Year’s Eve, plus the entire glorious month of January. Oh, wait, I see how this goes…he gets to go to some tropical destination while the rest of us freeze in misery. Well played, Coast Guard. Well played. Except I’ll have our little puppy to snuggle with, so no need to worry about little ole me. I’ll be thoroughly warm and entertained by the cutest ball of fluff in all of the world. One more week until we bring her home! It’s been almost as painful waiting to get her as it has been waiting for Aaron to get home from deployment. Almost.

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In other news, I went to an absolutely stunning wedding last weekend for one of my pageant sistahs. She was actually my very first friend in the Miss America Organization, and asked me to sing during the ceremony, along with another dear friend of hers (and mine) from Pageant Land. I was super nervous because I knew almost everyone at this wedding. Half of them were pageant people, and half of them were friends of my ex since I made the *wise* choice to date her old roommate. FUN! I obviously refused to make eye contact with anyone in the audience out of sheer fear while I was singing, but once that was over, I actually had a blast catching up with people. Plus the bride and groom were absolutely glowing, and the entire event was like a magical Pinterest princess fairytale, so it was truly an honor to be part of it. I love seeing people I love so in love and so happy!

While watching the elated couple elegantly climb into their white-horse-drawn-carriage (I kid you not), I started thinking about fairytales. What is it, exactly, that makes the “tale as old as time” so enchanting? Why does Prince Charming sweeping a “nobody” off her feet resonate with everyone over the years, even as we’ve become a more feminist society in modern times? Despite the constant reminder that women aren’t weak or in need of being “saved,” little girls and adults alike swoon at a good love story, preferably with a royal twist. I mean, do you remember the worldwide obsession with Princess Kate and Prince William’s royal wedding in 2011?

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You see, while many all fairytales include some sort of love story, what makes those love stories so intriguing is how all of us can relate to the princesses they feature. Maybe little girls don’t see past the tiaras and pretty dresses, but as we grow up, we still cherish these stories– and it goes far beyond the desire to fall in love with the man (or woman) of our dreams.

Think about Belle. She had no interest in marrying Gaston. She stayed true to her love of books and imagination in spite of her whole village labeling her “odd.” She gave up her freedom to save her father. She was not a damsel in distress at all. She was quirky, smart, independent, and selfless. Her ability to remain genuine was the key to why she eventually found the perfect man for her– someone who was just as “different” as she was.

Think about Cinderella. She wasn’t pining over the prince. No, she simply wanted a night to dress up and enjoy life, free from oppression. Every other girl at the ball was focused on dancing with the prince, but she was just happy to be out of the house. The most special part of that love story was Prince Charming loving her no matter how “lowly” her social standing. He loved her for her.

Think about Jasmine. Or Pocahontas. Or Mulan. None of them were out looking for a man. They were living lives full of strength and adventure and selflessness. Jasmine ran away from her cushy life because she refused to be betrothed to a man she didn’t want. Pocahontas, too, refused an engagement to the bravest warrior in the tribe, who didn’t match her free spirited nature. Mulan didn’t care about dressing up like all the other women– she wanted to save her father and fight for her country.

It was because of these princess’ independent, brave spirits that they found love. The greatest happily ever after at the end of each movie isn’t really about the happy couples riding off into the sunset. It’s that each woman stood up for herself or someone she loved, went on an adventure, made the most of it, and ended up so much happier than when she was stifled by society and expectations. And that’s why these movies steal our hearts.

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Maybe I’m too optimistic about the underlying lessons in Disney movies, but I really don’t find anything offensive about the most beloved Disney princesses. Even Nala was portrayed as strong and capable, pinning Simba when they were cubs, and ultimately putting him in his place when he was being a coward as an adult. Disney princesses are strong, kind, smart, and never willing to settle for a man who doesn’t deserve them. I think that’s pretty rad.

Ultimately, the princes they did end up with all loved them for who they were– not for their looks or money or popularity. Isn’t that the biggest mistake people make when they’re single? Trying to be something they’re not, in hopes of attracting the perfect guy? But why? How silly! We want someone to love us for exactly who we are– not a shiny robot version of ourselves. The Beast loved that Belle was obsessed with reading. Aladdin loved Jasmine’s sassiness. Prince Charming didn’t care about Cinderella’s status, he just appreciated their connection.

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Remember that time that I wrote about how competing with other women for the attention of a man makes absolutely no sense? That is the same thing I’m getting at here. The only way to be truly happy in a relationship is to be loved for the person you are at your core, and to love that person in the same manner. And 99% of the time, the other component is being confident, independent, and passionate to begin with, before you ever get into the relationship. First of all, those traits are attractive, but moreso, they allow you to live a life with a true “happily ever after,” key word: Happily.

“Happily” might include a significant other, but it definitely includes a full, meaningful, and exciting existence. Which could mean the satisfaction of knowing you fought for what you believe in (Pocahontas), sacrificed yourself or your comforts for a loved one (Mulan and Belle), or that you always made the most of difficult circumstances (Cinderella). Those life choices are what leads to the happily ever after– the rest is just a cherry on top.

A prince simply represents all the good and happiness that comes with living your best life. For some of us, we’ll get to experience our own prince in the flesh (I sure love mine!), while others will find just as much happiness without that symbolic representation of “happily ever after.” Just remember, getting into the horse drawn carriage is only the beginning, because the love of a couple is just a piece of happily ever after. The rest is up to the choices you make and the kind of life you choose to live.

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P.S.– Can you tell that I’m in a professional production of Beauty & the Beast, opening tonight? That should explain a lot of my Disney rants lately, as I mentioned in my most recent podcast.